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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 40 New Delhi September 24, 2016

Intifada in Kashmir

Saturday 24 September 2016

by Mustafa Khan

The Kashmir problem cannot be addressed unless you address Pakistan, says Dr Madhav Godbole.1 The Kashmir problem is a quandary but new grounds seem to be broken. Sitaram Yechury, who called on Geelani but could not meet him, said that Pakistan should be included in any dialogue on Kashmir. It went unnoticed by the BJP and even the Congress. Geelani called Pakistan a friend and well-wisher. Either the public opinion is not educated enough to know the delicate situation or the kind of nationalism, that verges on chauvinism and vigilantism victimising the minority Muslims, has taken deep roots and reconstructing society, that includes Kashmiris, is dismissed out of hand. It is all on account of the forbidden word: Pakistan.

However, there is a new territory far from India whom India befriended and sympathised with but forgot: Palestine. Since Advani/Vajpayee welcomed into India in the disguise of a Hindu Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan in the late 1990s, there is a chemistry of change that has increasingly coloured perception and policy. The fall-out was the 1994 declaration that Kashmir is an integral part of India and those on the cusp of gaining power would offer the sky to Kashmirs but not aazadi. This comes to mind on the 67th day of continued protest— on the day of Idul Azha. The Israelis would occasionally lift embargo on food meant for the Gaza strip or elsewhere but the “Indian” Kashmir Valley intifada is deterministically more horrifying what with pellet guns spewing horrible wounds and death and shutting down sale of animals for the festival and not allowing food otherwise into the ten districts under the harshest curfew. Even the biscuits which some Samaritans managed to smuggle in could hardly reach or be enough to a couple of neighborhoods.

The Palestinian intifada had begun in 1987 against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land seized in war. The West Bank and Gaza were fully covered by the Western media even at the worst of times. But the intifada in the Valley is without even that. Chief Minister Narendra Modi had warned the media in 2002 to cover the Gujarat pogroms at the risk of their life. He went further and ominously and insidiously reminded them the fate of Daniel Pearl. Today it is grimmer and the situation bleaker.

Now, if you look at the photo sent by S. Irfan to the PTI and which is also shown on rediff.com, you would know that the protester is not dressed like Palestinians. He is just like any mainland Indian in his dress and boots. Any Indian, whether Hindu or Muslim, looks like him. He has nothing to share with any pathan suit-wearing Pakistani. His dress is the specialty of a festival like Eid or Diwali. But the quaint is in the right arm that is lowered after releasing the stone hurled at the security forces confronting them. In a mechanical reaction the left arm is fully stretched back. The time of action and reaction was enough to take him on the crossed hair and pull the trigger. He is not even hooded or masked. On the day of the special morning prayer he has jettisoned the usual cover on his face because he has taken the risk to endanger his life but not to fail to register his protest and anger. What with morning prayer and all there was no time to go to prayer and also subsequently prepare for any camou-flage. So the protest has come from within the hearts and minds of the protestors and was not funded by anyone and was spontaneous as transfer of money or food is beyond even the remotest thought. There was no transfer of animals or money for the whole period of protest since July 8 to September 13. Even net or phone connection was off. How Irfan shot and sent the photo is also difficult to guess. So grounded in the locale is the protest.

Similarly contextualised is the figure of the native Mohammad Imran Parry riddled with pellets: The victims of oppression and suppression or terrorism cannot choose their attackers. In Kashmir’s case it is the opposite. The victims choose to confront the security forces knowing fully well that they would be the easy target. They confront the police and Army from a close distance. You can choose your friends, though. India chose Israel, and now the US. These could not have the option like the Syrian child from Aleppo.

PM Narsimha Rao had craftily chosen Moshe Dayan and had also chosen to go silent on the Babri demolition and further chosen to ignore Rajesh Pilot who came nearest to the hearts and minds of many Kashmiris. He had seen red in the Assistant Secretary of the US State Department Robin Raphael’s questioning the finality of J&K’s accession to India coinciding with PM Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan’s remark that Kashmir was an “unfinished business of partition”. It was this Machiavellian move of Rao that was the undoing of the earliest solution we could have had. Rao struck again. He used his Home Minister, S.B. Chavan, to undermine Rajesh Pilot by dampening his enthusiasm and slowing down the progress he was making before putting an end to it. Much later Pilot died in a plane crash in 2000. The Prime Minister did not want any solution and offering the sky was a smoke-screen.

If Rao was so secretive and hence sinister in his design, Modi, who took the rein of the government on May 16, 2014, was overtly against Muslims and made no bones of what was up in his sleeves. He was a pracharak or guide of the RSS and would be just that even if the heavens fell down. He disregarded the unsolicited advice of Muftil Mohammad Sayeed on November 24, 2014 to hold a dialogue which is the only way to solve the Kashmir problem and end hostility with Pakistan. He was prepared for neither of them because of his ideology. What followed Sayeed’s utterance was, in his own words, a ‘waste of time’. In his standard RSS tactics he enacted the inanity of the charade of wasting time: prevarication. Being not a statesman like Vajpayee, but a demagogue, Modi exacerbated the matter by becoming more voluble and uttering too much on terrorism forgetting that 2002 too was terror and blaming Pakistan for bombarding Balo-chistan, Baltistan, Gigit and also part of Kashmir in Pakistan’s control. In contrast Vajpayee chose his words trying and succeeding in his utterances turning brevity into wit: “A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest. Let no one in Pakistan be in doubt. India sincerely wishes Pakistan well.” “Pakistan was unfortunate but the wound has healed. One can choose one’s friends, but neighbours are permanent.” The difference between the pracharak and the orator is clear. The latter could jettison the ideology for realpolitik, the former could not. A highly practical solution was at hand much earlier. “There was nobody in Delhi more sympathetic to Kashmiris or to their cause, in the Government of India, than Rajesh Pilot.”2

Vajpayee had asked Modi to do his rajdharm, the duty of a ruler. Modi had replied pat tongue in cheek that he was just doing that. Today he would say the same. It has roots in mythology. Lord Krishna had asked Arjuna to do his duty and in war kill the enemy even if they were part of the overall familial society. So the 2002 pogroms were just that. This time around the victims are the same and more would fall victims of the pellet guns. Only the provenance has changed from Gujarat to Kashmir.

In contrast stand the restructuring of the society and community, the two circles, which are essential for democracy and amity as well as integrity of the country. However, when Modi speaks of Mother India he excludes Muslims who love their biological mothers and still love the country of their birth. The RSS ideology is committed to nation-building: one language, one religion and one region. This could hardly be the society for a democratic and secular India.

As Maulana Azad made it clear, there are two circles, one of the community to which you belong and the larger circle concentric—to it is the Indian nation or society. The extremists among the BJP and Shiv Sena’s ruling alliance do not view Indian Muslims as part of India as a matter of realistically speaking. They target them occasionally and one such occasion was in the midst of the Kashmir turmoil on July 24, 2016 when Uddhav Thackeray, like his father Bal Thackeray, advocated “Hindu nation” to fight terror. He was speaking in Kashmir’s context and said: “There is no other option but to declare the country a Hindu nation. There is enough of secularism.”3 This is not the way to reconstruct society or community. Nor will the Kashmir problem be solved by means of law and order operation.

1. http://www.rediff.com/news/interview/in-kashmir-were-in-a-tunnel-with-no-light-at-the-end/20160908.htm? pos=3&src=NL20160911&trackid=7MGeiBNRi Og Hpji U22XIw0UhYgsPCBFedrAsNDfdS8Q=&isnlp =0&isnlsp=0

2. AS Dulat. Kashmir, the Vajpayee Years, India: Harper Collins, 2015. pp. 18, 179-180.

3. The Asian Age, July 25, 2016.