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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 29, July 6, 2013

VVIP Trips to Uttarakhand and Kashmir

Sunday 7 July 2013, by Humra Quraishi



No, sir, aerial surveys won’t do in the Uttarakhand region. You cannot view disasters from that far away, safe positioning! You got to be right there amongst your people to try and reach out to them.

It’s disgusting how the VVIPs are touring the devastated region in that detached sort of way at this stage when thousands have been killed and ruined. And it’s more than disgusting to know that even now these political creatures are making aerial surveys. As representatives of the people they ought to be right there and should be seen ferrying essentials, supplying food and medicines or helping in the rescue operations.

But they opt to be sitting far away in those safe environs and just about coming up with those routine bogus speeches. Maybe, the same speeches are used and re-used at all given occasions. Maybe, these speeches have been scribbled by professional speech-writers, relaying the right dose of sorrow and pain together with those political frills, complete with those regional tilts.

And now taking you towards another region, the Kashmir Valley, where another set of VVIPS are travelling. In fact, on their two-day visit to the Valley one was hoping that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi would visit the families of those sitting ruined in those recent earthquakes that had hit the Kishtwar/Doda region. Seemingly no speeches were written for that interaction. Also, no utterances by the two leaders of the day, on the recently re-opened case of those mass rapes that had taken place in Kunan Poshpora, that particular village of Kashmir, where women were raped in 1991 but till date camouflages are being thrown on that tragedy. Today the villagers of Kunan Poshpora are no longer sitting scared of the backlash and the aftermath that could be unleashed on them by the establishment. Vocal and somewhat confident, they are talking of how those rapes were completely hushed up by the government and its agencies.

Also, a complete quiet even on the rape and murder of the two Shopian women—Aasiya Jan and Niloufer Jan. The two young women were murdered in 2009 but till date there is no justice. The culprits have not been arrested. And no hue and cry over the cover-ups. In fact, I recall during the summer of 2010 when the family members of these two women had to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was on one of those two-day visits to the Valley, they were not just halted but even detained in a police station located in the very heart of Srinagar city. Released only after the VVIP had left the Valley. And this is not just one lone case. In fact, when top political leaders go from here to there, from New Delhi to Srinagar, the naïve apolitical expect that they be heard. But they are left not just unheard but left out. Kept far away.

At times I wonder why can’t these announcements of special packages be made from New Delhi. Why should these so-called leaders travel all the way when they cannot meet or interact or hear the commoner …in fact, for the average citizen these high-sounding packages mean very little. Big packages and whatever they seem to promise rarely reach out, those supposed benefits seldom benefit the masses.

Surely those announcements could be made from their big-bodied office here in New Delhi? Or, the other alternative could be that these announcements be made during the severe winter in December, when it’s snowing and most are sitting indoors. But, then, winter blues and those accompanying phobias could stand in the way of these top-ranking politicians!

In fact, each time there is an announcement of a VVIP from New Delhi arriving in the Valley, gloom spreads out. Yes, gloom. For then the average citizen sits indoors—there are official restrictions on public movements, on the very flow of traffic and the security bandobast reaches suffocating levels. I had myself experienced and witnessed this ‘curfewed’ situation when Manmohan Singh was in the Valley in June 2010.

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