Reversing Catch and Kill
BREAKING VIEWS BY NAEEM AKHTAR
P Chidambaram had just to look right while crossing Safakadal on his way back to detect that the only stones left in the city are the tombstones in expanding mazaars or the millstones of suspicion that every child of accession to India wears round the neck in Kashmir
Some one could thoughtfully have bugged him to actually know what was going through the mind of Home Minister P Chidambaram while motoring through the more infamous quarters of Raja Parvar Sen’s city of the sun that is considered by historians the second most ancient living city in South Asia after- not Chinnai- but Varanasi. It could be curiosity, adventure or a sense of relief that took him on the Neil Armstrong type exploration to an area where perhaps the last major Indian dignitary of that status had set foot on was Morarji Desai. Desai went to the epicentre of ‘problematic Kashmir’ way back in 1977 as a guest of the then Janta Party leader Moulvi Muhammad Farooq to a rousing reception at the Mirwaiz Manzil that was filled not just with the best cuisine but traditional ladies welcome song which etched on memories for its catch line ‘Pakistanuk Ghazi Aau’.
Morarji then as Chidambaram now, were both on the same odyssey to make Kashmiris forget Kashmir. How one wishes they saw there efforts bear fruit. Many generations would have been spared the agony of violence, torture, deprivation, suspicion by the state and continued despondency.
But one can guess what crossed the mind of India’s most well read and articulate Home Minister in decades while going through the desolate lanes of a once bustling city centre that Kashmiris used to call with pride Shehr-e-khaas. However one thing is sure that he must have been looking more intently at the people going about their daily chores of survival more than the elegant but crumbling houses, shops or the filthiest third world roads around. The people who were globally defamed and are now established as an entirely new species in the anthropological order of the world, the stone pelters must have provided a visual relief to the Home Minister having seen no missiles in their hands. He must have felt somewhat unburdened of the huge intelligence literature that would be passing his desk everyday describing the strategic, tactical, political aspects of Kashmir and prescribing antidotes like CBMs mirchi bomb, pellet guns, laser guns, sadbhavana, police public meets, tournaments et al. The LeT, paid agent, ISI, drug addict, criminal all must have suddenly, even though for a brief while only, left the mindscape of the Home Minister of Gandhi’s India to have a breath of fresh air let into the thinking processes of the security establishment. He had just to look right while crossing Safakadal on his way back to detect that the only stones left in the city are the tombstones in expanding mazaars or the millstones of suspicion that every child of accession to India wears round the neck in Kashmir.
P Chidambaram visited the valley at a time when the Kashmir problem is solved without actually having had to do anything. Was that the unique solution in his mind that he had been talking right through 2009 and up to the Sept last year so eloquently? He obviously knew and understood the place better than all of us including the old wily Pundit of Mattan, M L Fotedar who took a dig in his recent controversial remarks both at PC’s knowledge of Kashmir and understanding. No Home Minister could have achieved such a drastic turn around in the situation as PC did in less than a year. It of course is a dream run for him and the government he supports in the state as a coalition partner and hand holds more than a regent ever did in royal, colonial South Asia.
Tourists are back as the traditional indicator to measure summer heat in Kashmir. There is no room available in any hotel anywhere north of Banihal. Hurriyat sponsored strike calls are few with still fewer takers. Schools, colleges and offices are working normally. There has been no stone pelting, as normal demonstrations in Kashmir are now officially condemned and crushed as whether the protesters are housewives demanding water or teachers pleading for salaries. People are busy with constructions, weddings, mouloods and wazwans with most money going into festivities than any productive venture. Panchayat elections have witnessed Kashmir’s own records of participation beaten many fold. Even the world records seem threatened if the trend continues. Why on earth does anyone mention Kashmir as a problem rather than the most stunning resolution that Indian democracy has brought about?
But one is not aware of how Chidambaram viewed the situation or analysed it. Given his reputation for sharp understanding of issues he might have had a different itinerary than utilizing his time in Kashmir listening to same presentations that he has the benefit of having almost as frequently as idli, dosa or sambhar in Delhi. But one can be sure that he is taking a unique view of issues here if his ‘district level’ security review of Amarnath arrangements at Pahalgam provides a clue to his mind. In the season of empowerment noises and with the autonomy (accession, no integration) champion chief minister of the special status state in attendance at the district level meeting the Home Minister of India had clearly taken governance to a new level of micromanagement. And Pahalgam must have looked in awe as the premier tourist spot is literally governed through court orders, out of the purview of a democratically elected government (for good reason though).
The din and cacophony of anti corruption voices in the national capital had obviously kept the Home Minister busy for most of the summer. He obviously has had enough of it. Here he must not have liked to inquire about the state of corruption at all as the chief minister has made it clear with his statesmanlike offer: you prove the allegations of corruption against anyone, I will take action. And obviously the state will report zero cases of corruption as the cart of proof is placed before the investigation horse. The state that settled the Lokpal debate way back in 2003 with a decent piece of legislation has pushed the institution in limbo because we are not able to find a legal luminary with a backbone soft enough to look like a tamed reptile that would bite only at the bidding of its charmer.
Most certainly the Home Minister was concerned about the people who are in prison for varying periods but same reason. ‘Kashmir is buried as a problem, don’t try to resurrect it. The only narrative acceptable to the government is the one that is guided, nuanced and managed by the government itself. Dialogue only with those who believe there are no issues.’ The message is clear to every Kashmiri as Syed Ali Geelani last summer’s maligned hero is moulding his politics in an entirely non political alignment and the rest are in disarray. The Home Minister had obviously no use for going into the scare caused among an entire generation of youth who are either registered or prospective offenders. The only reference therefore was to Geelani’s ‘exaggerated’ figure of prisoners. No need to talk of releasing them. No need to feel bad about holding even one person without trial under a law the like of which India has not experienced even during the colonial rule. And none of these detainees is accused of more than having thrown a stone or being a drug addict (the newest twist in the tale).
That this is the case when we have a Home Minister who contributed significantly to the discourse that is slowly but steadily decriminalising Muslims as a group in India causes more despair to Kashmir than hope. A man who allowed truth to come out in favour of Muslims in the long list of bombings that were routinely ‘traced’ to ‘Islamic terror’ actually carried forward the brilliant investigation done by Hemant Karkare who gave an entirely new dimension to terror, its perpetrators and victims too sounds different when it comes to Kashmir. Chidambaram is surely the author of the new Bill on communal violence which has started a much needed discourse on atrocities against Muslims irrespective of how it fares in Parliament. But he obviously has no answers to why Indian democracy should maintain Kashmir as a dark basement of deprivation if not a Guantanamo prison. A place that could be India’s show window of multicultural success instead of what it actually is; a black spot that has to be hidden from not just the world but quite retrogressively now after two decades of ‘solution’ even from Jethmalanis, Naulakhas and Arundhati Roys.
Surely Chidambaram is a student of history as much as contemporary world. Some one somewhere is going to record how success in delivering a peaceful summer in Kashmir was achieved by reversing the Catch and Kill policy of the last decade of previous century. If only to replace it by Kill and Catch; killing innocents on the street and catching those who sought justice. And harassing the rest into silence. If PC had the cultural upbringing of Manmohan Singh one could have quoted to him the famous Faiz Ahmed Faiz line; Sang o Khisht Muqayyid hain aur sag Azad.
From the contemporary world Mr Chidambaram is sure to know that Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt attracted the most tourists in third world; more than our democratic republic of continental dimensions ever did. But that could not prevent the Arab spring.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 25 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 25 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 26 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST
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