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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 41, New Delhi, September 28, 2019

Persisting Query, Elusive Answer

Saturday 28 September 2019, by SC


The ripple-effect of PM Narendra Modi’s speech before a 50,000-crowd of mostly Indian-Americans in Houston is still being experienced in this country. There have been several thought-provoking write-ups and articles in various publications but few can match the analytical essence of what the contributing editor of The Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, wrote in the daily the other day. Dissecting Modi’s rhetorical speech he succinctly observed:

“We can contest the facts, point the stark variation between a tottering economy and his high blown rhetoric, we can be suspicious of his invocation of diversity. But he understands that the power of the image and the gesture far outlives the mundaneness of reality: What are the real sufferings of the few compare to vicarious thrills of the many? The abiding image of India’s power that will matter politically.... will be the Indian Prime Minister leading in taking the American President’s hand and making him do a round in a homage to the power of the Indian community. We may decry this as illusory politics. But we still do not have a political vocabulary to disrupt this spectacle.”

But then are we not totally ignoring or minimising the manifold day-to-day problems and oppression faced by the majority in Kashmir (which we regard as an inviolable part of this country)? Those difficulties have been heightened in the reports by several fact-finding teams visiting the Kashmir Valley of late—the latest being the one released recently (that has been carried on pages 20 to 22 of this issue)—and these give eye-witness accounts of what is happening in that region following the clampdown since August 5. The basic point to note is: regardless of what Modi has claimed in the US before American leaders and the public, in general, the conditions in Kashmir have not in the least normalised till date—if at all those have worsened.

Modi’s affirmations apart, the situation on the Indo-Pakistan front has deteriorated and given the PM’s public declarations is bound to do so in the days ahead. This is a major source of anxiety for all cohabitants in our subcontinent. The braggadocio of our leaders in power is totally divorced from the feelings and sentiments of the public at large, including those in our country. This is where public intervention to resist the onset of conflict is the crying need of the hour especially when the strong-arm methods of the Indian state are failing to suppress the Kashmiri populace with every passing day.

Meanwhile, the scenario within the country is fast deteriorating. Besides the alarming economic crisis, take the case of allegations against Chinmayanand, the former Union Minister and BJP leader accused of sexual assaults on the law student in Shahjahanpur. Now the girl herself has been arrested on charges of extortion. The SIT arrested her from her residence in the extortion case while her father asserted yesterday that his daughter was taken into custody in a bid to pressurise her and her family to stop pursuing the rape case against Chinmayanand. He also insisted that the police had little evidence against her and the entire exercise was to “save” Chinmayanand. This once again exposes the face of both the rape accused and the BJP.

In the wake of all these developments (including the ongoing repression in Kashmir) we are once again constrained to ask as we did in these columns last week: where are we heading? But then the question continues to cry in the wilderness since no answer is forthcoming.

September 26 S.C.

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