The Patriot Games

Antonin Artaud could not have done better. The timing was so immaculate and surreal.

Celebrating the 50th year of our independence, Atal Behari Vajpayee erased in one stroke the legacy of the national movement and its modernist aftermath: Panch Shila, non-alignment, non-violence and the dream of a world of alternatives. It was a killing of the fathers that Freud would have been intrigued about.

The props were simple. A man pretending to be prime minister. The national flag as backdrop. Vajpayee announced that "India today carried out three underground nuclear tests at Pokhran at 3.45 pm." A quick terse announcement. A political statement to be followed by a technical briefing. One correspondent even felt it was like an American press conference. As American as apple pie and Hiroshima.

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Himal Southasian