Sorry, General

What’s happening currently in Kashmir is that the ruling party in New Delhi seems to have stopped looking at the political aspect of the problem

Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 10 2018 9:13PM | Updated Date: Nov 10 2018 9:13PM
Sorry, GeneralRepresentational Pic

All’s well, I tell myself, in the Kashmir valley. Its unseasonal snowfall of a few days ago may have slightly dampened the spirit but the joy of the summer capital getting a new youthful Mayor somehow made up for the unwelcome early snow.

Unwelcome, because the valley is said to be blessed (cursed, if you will) not just by mother nature but also by the surfeit of saints, savants who have periodically appeared on the scene and sung soliloquies to tell us whatever will be, will be. Their warnings, conveyed through writings or passed on  from one tongue to another continue to ring in the air at many peerwaries and rishi abodes, enough to keep us warned of the fragility of it all, a caution or a warning one moment, an exhortation or a promise, the next. The young mayor, his future unfolded weeks before the first of the few ballots for the Srinagar civic body, were cast or counted, cut an impressive figure the day he was shown visiting the derelict Srinagar City, probably trying to see for himself the surrounding squalor. That’s if he hadn’t forgotten the messages he conveyed during his days as the National Conference spokesman on all major Indian TV networks. Mr Junaid Mattoo is an articulate person and, from what one gathered when his name was mentioned as the Mayor-presumptive, concerned about the wellbeing of the city. With a whole lot  of anonymous city fathers, most “elected”, with a fistful of ballots, if at all, Mattoo, working under the benign wings of the BJP and its local man of the moment, Mr Sajjad Lone, should be able to make the summer capital worthy of its stature. Funds should be no difficulty, given that Mr Modi’s model cities programme ( running into thousands of crores ) is still very much on the table. Srinagar does indeed need a lot done to shake off its grimy, dusty (far too many cars on the roads without roads to travel on, No Parking, a citywide accepted norm).  Time to be too optimistic. Indeed a time for reflection with the Panchayat elections just underway. Given the backdrop of local bodies poll (whose success/excess continues to be zestfully celebrated by the BJP leaders and the rank and file, one can stay assured that the Panchayat polls will be peaceful. After all we are not a particularly ambitious people to expect 70 or 80 percent turnover. After all we have already made good with zero to single-digit outcomes in the valley against the much higher (40 and above) polling in the BJP stronghold of Jammu. You can never tell what New Delhi’s next move would be. Would it be a fresh poll to the suspended State Assembly or reviving the suspended Assembly next. The advantage in both cases lies with the BJP. It could go for  fresh elections to the Assembly for a repeat of the  polls of the kind held these past few weeks or wean a few valley MLAs to the BJP to install a “democratic government” in the State  and, led by, who else but  “valley’s own Sajad Lone, the BJP supported MLA from Handwara,  Minister in the dismissed government and all set to step into  Mehbooba’s worn out shoes. While on the subject it would be remiss on my part not to mention what I may have perhaps made some uncharitable references to the Army top brass. May be some of the references were perhaps warranted but in the heat of battle it is likely that a wizened war correspondent like yours faithfully (yes, I was an accredited war correspondent in India’s three major wars like, say, you had Frank Moraes, Hafiz Jallandhari, Faiz Sahab, Mankekar, Prem Bhatia and my two former Editors during World War) get distracted. My perception of War coverage was that of the late Ernie Pyle, seeing the war through a worm’s eye: how it effected the ordinary soldiers and how each attack brought total devastation of entire communities, of towns and villages alike. The situation during insurgencies or separatist movements however the situation is ambivalent. Can New Delhi justify the reign of terror let loose the North East for “decades, even before the Bharatiya Janata Party was born. For how many years did the police, the Army and BSF etc., fight the Nagas, the Tripurans etc, the North East as a whole? Bad as these were, they were always localized, even when the presence of “the foreign hand” was considered a given; and communications lines were never blocked.  Containment, sometimes cruelly achieved, was perhaps seen as the watchword then. What’s happening currently in Kashmir is that the ruling party in New Delhi seems to have stopped looking at the political  aspect of the problem. Now it seems to have been turned into bipartisan Indian issue, an issue between the forces of Hindutva and the one which the country inherited from its founding fathers, a secular democracy.  Scoring points over Pakistan or striving our very best always to put that country into the dock too will not help. Unfortunately, the political leadership (BJP) appears to have chosen not to look beyond its fanatic’s nose. And I don’t have to tell you that in the kind of wars they fight, fair play has no room. Shockingly and perhaps for the first time in the military history of India top commanders are persuaded by their political masters to go about beating war drums. Kargils and the surgical strikes are but a minor footnote in  the glorious history of the Indian Army. But sadly the most responsible leaders of the Government in New Delhi have of late sought to use the military to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. We have seen this happening more often in Jammu and Kashmir, beating the war drums whenever politically expedient. Gen Bipin Rawat does  not need my or any politicians’ endorsement as an outstanding soldier. He commands a proud Army and should in the best traditions of his force keep the pretenders out. A pointless note to end on: will the BJP and its erudite gallery of grey eminences stop bringing in the Army into the Kashmir discourse at the drop of every RSS black cap. True, in a democracy like ours civilian authority always has the final say.   But how do you deal with a civilian authority that refers each time to the socio-cultural  text-book, telling us exactly who is a Hindu… anyone who lives in Hindustan, yes even a Mussalman is a Hindu. A pause. We are all Bharatiyas.

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