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Mainstream, VOL LV No 28 New Delhi July 1, 2017

The ‘New’ Idea of India

WHERE PLURALITY IS PASSÉ AND POLARISED POLITY IS THE NEW MANTRA

Saturday 1 July 2017

by M.A. Sofi

How does one describe a political formation, a party, an outfit whose single most purpose of being in politics is to win elections, never mind the tools and methods being employed in fulfilment of this goal as its raison d’etre? With its gaze now firmly fixed on 2019, the party at the helm seems to be pulling no punches in ensuring a repeat of the UP miracle at the hustings, using all the tricks in the trade to that end. The effortless ease with which it has been using the communal card ever since its initial forays into electoral politics decades ago redounds to its credit as a cabal of politicians who have perfected themselves in the art of duplicity and chicanery.

Its uncommon ability to exploit and ‘milk’ the faultlines in the matrix of social/religious/caste-based groups in India to advance its divisive agenda is already beginning to find expression in the manner the largest religious minority in the country is being sidelined, demonised and subjected to persecution, both at the physical as well as the economic front. The latest tool in its kitty, as conceived by its spin doctors, is the ever-on-the-boil Kashmir which is now being presented by them to the country and rest of the world as a place being inhabited by uncouth, uncivilised brutes who have no use for good sense, education, development etc. and who are merely being used by the neighbour next door as pawns in fulfilment of the latter’s ‘holy’ mission of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts’.

In propagating and perpetuating what is out and out a myth about Kashmir as the ‘divine truth’, the credit must surely go to the assorted TV channels who have meekly acquiesced in to the strong arm tactics by the ruling establish-ment. How else would one account for the fate of those celebrated TV anchors who had the temerity to also bring in a modicum of ‘hard reality’ of the Kashmir problem to the table involving its historical context, with the latest act of witch-hunt involving the CBI raid at the house and office premises of Prannoy Roy of the NDTV? Now with the arrival of the institution of Army on the political chessboard of India, the nation bids fair to be in for a long haul of internal strife which is going to be witnessed in the form of inter-religious and inter-caste tensions on the one hand and an escalation of violence in Kashmir on the other. That may not be dismissed as the prediction of prophets of doom, but ought to be located in the subtext of an open and candid interaction the Chief of Army Staff had recently with the press. The dangerous portends lurking behind these public pronouncements should be unmistakably clear.

The Army Chief’s utterances involving the situation in Kashmir betray the understanding of one who has come to occupy this most coveted position in the Indian military establish-ment for none of his faults, literally! The chief merit that has caused the political establishment to supersede him over others is obviously his proximity to the Sangh Parivar and its divisive ideology-inspired government at the Centre. Out of a whole lot of things, a couple of noises he has made during this interaction on the situation in Kashmir merit a brief mention. While on the one hand, he says that it is ‘dirty war’ in Kashmir which has to be fought by employing innovative methods, in the same breath he goes on to say that the Army has to conduct itself in a manner that should inspire fear of its fire-power in the people.

He doesn’t seem to understand the far-reaching implications of these utterances which—it doesn’t take rocket science to understand—can and will lead to a further escalation of tension and mayhem in the Valley, much of course to the comfort of those who wish the present situation to continue to remain on the boil, till at least they harvest it at the hustings in 2019, and even after. As I have said in these columns on a few occasions in the past, whipping up communal frenzy and raising the pitch on Kashmir have been among the most dependable ploys being employed by the saffron brigade and its avatars in the present ruling establishment to garner votes in the name of religion which unfortunately continues to sell in the country called India.

Back to what are doomed to turn out to be ‘foot-in-the-mouth’ comments by the Army Chief as stated above. Firstly, the ‘dirty’ war that he is talking about, he must understand, has been made that much dirtier by the dirty tricks he and his men have been playing in Kashmir over a long period of time without remorse or compunction. He doesn’t seem to understand that war is always dirty, regardless of whether it is fought on the borders or against the hapless civilians living in civilian areas, what he and his masters would never tire of claiming being part of its own territory. He may not know it but those who are on the receiving end of this gratuitous state-aided violence know it better that there cannot be anything dirtier, more vicious and loathsome than war. Secondly, he is being extremely disingenuous while claiming that ‘the Army should inspire awe and fear in the camp of the adversaries and at the same time people should be afraid of you’. He goes on to say that the common man, who is not indulging in violence, should be protected and left out of the harm’s way while the Army is on its ‘awe-inspiring’ mission.

Come on Gen Sahb, tell me who is this Farooq Ahmed Dar who you had volubly endorsed to be strapped to a jeep as a human shield by rewarding his tormentor, this Army Major Gogoi, who has, in the process, committed the most heinous violation of all norms of decency and civilised behaviour as guaranteed under law? You know it full well that in the midst of an over-the-board unwillingness of the people to stay away from the sham of polls which were being conducted at that point in time, this boy had taken the risk of going all the way to cast his vote which you and your masters would have tom-tomed as a ‘will of the people of Kashmir to restore credibility to the farce that you call elections’. More pertinently, your own sources should have informed you that he was not part of a mob of stone-throwers who, according to credible sources, were too few to have caused serious threat to the law and order in the area and thus to have warranted such an unconscionable and abominable treatment being meted out to this man.

Truth, you know, has only one version whereas falsehood, which gets lost in the maze of cooked-up versions, finds no legs to stand upon. Which is why you have a litany of theories being invented by your lackeys, including your subordinate news channels, justifying this dastardly act by variously quoting the number of ‘blood-thirsty’ stone-pelters varying from 200 to 1200 in that area. As another example of your fancy for falsehood, you aver that the turmoil in the Valley is restricted to five districts only while in the same breath you say you are face to face with a war-like situation in Kashmir. How do you reconcile these two dichotomous possibilities in your assessment of the situation in Kashmir?

You are getting it completely wrong, Gen Sahb, as is the President of the political party you are representing in the Army, who now pins it down to a fraction—three-and-a-half districts, to be precise! You and your comrades-in-arms are acting not necessarily like actors, but as jokers in what has been turned into a theatre of the absurd. When falsehood is the chief asset to be preserved, propagated and promoted, why bother with such inanities as to check on facts and figures before airing them to the unsuspecting viewers?

As if all that you have said is not enough, you make no bones of your visceral hatred for a certain section of ‘your’ society when you make the most outrageous pronouncement yet: ‘I wish the stone-pelters were using weapons instead of stones!’ The obvious implication of this very pernicious streak of thought is that you wish to have ‘reasons’ to immortalise yourself by doing a Gen Dyer of the Jallianwala Bagh infamy in Kashmir and thus seal your name in the annals of history as.. I don’t know what. These are the standards the chief cop of a country sets for himself, for the Army he is towering over and for the country that is supposed to take pride in such a ‘great army’.

Let me emphasise it one more time that it is possible and even probable that such ploys may indeed yield short-term gains for you, in terms of those who look up to you to ‘boost their morale’ and for the country whose rulers look upon you to do the dirty work that you have now set yourself upon doing at their behest in Kashmir. But that in the long run the country stands to lose every which way is beyond a shred of doubt, what with resorting to tactics which are divisive and solely aimed at ‘teaching certain sections of the society a lesson’ for the sin of asking for something as routine as the right to live their lives peacefully. These are the ineluctable lessons of history which just can’t be wished away, however one might wish otherwise.

The way politics is being conducted and the institutions run in the country bespeak the small-mindedness of small-time politicians and their cohorts for whom performance at the ballot has been the Holy Grail to get to at any cost. This is their idea of a ‘new India’ where the shortest path to the ballot is being charted through the trajectory of the bullet. If their performance over the last three years in office is anything to go by, there is precious little to show for growth in the economy, employment and development on various fronts in the country. Hence the need for keeping the minorities on a tight leash and for the Kashmir pot boiling as the strategies which sadly have been working—and shall continue to work—in a country which incidentally boasts of its citizens being among the most intelligent races on the planet.

Why can’t these educated Indians raise their voice and see through this plot of the politicians dividing the country on caste/communal consi-derations that would only push the country into chaos and anarchy?

Finally, and more importantly, let those who are being tormented and persecuted for their religious/political beliefs not spoil their cause by bringing in religious extremism on the table which is not only bad but also politically incorrect to espouse, even as their tormentor would use that as a ruse to justify its brutalities upon them. That’s why their aggressor is doing everything in its power to ensure that the ongoing struggle in Kashmir is seen as a sort of ‘jehad’ for the establishment of a caliphate in the region.

Let them beware and focus solely on the restoration of civil liberty, human rights and dignity through peaceful means which have been squarely denied to them over the past seven long decades and which alone ought to be the motivation for their struggle against injustice and oppression.

M.A. Sofi is an Emeritus Professor, Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Srinagar. He can be contacted at e-mail: aminsofi[at]gmail.com

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62