Hate. it was there for all to see. In full play. And in the unlikeliest place on the face of earth. Yes, hate hit a country otherwise known for its spirit of tolerance and daring of the kind that draws thousands from lands afar in search of adventure sport. But hate, as you know, needs no limits for it to spread, root and branch all over the place that succumbs to it. Hate it was that hit New Zealand, the far away Island nation. It chose the garb of deadly anti-Muslim violence of the kind unknown and least expected in the country. The goons struck at the Muslim Friday prayers in Christ Church, known in our part of the world as home of Newzeland cricket. Four gunmen including one woman, were arrested at the time of writing, armed with automatic weapons.
New Zealand unused to this kind of violence, had more than its share of violent deaths and the seriously injured. More than ever, for its leaders to scream enough is enough. The Police Chief of the country, sharing the sense of horror of his Prime Minister, wondered loudly “and there were IED laden vehicles parked outside the two city mosques”, one, the largest of Christ Church, and the other smaller in comparison. The Bangladesh cricket team scheduled to play a match in the cricketing city on Saturday barely escaped the carnage, thanks to the team’s press conference at the nearby stadium which went ten minutes over the time.
The New Zealand Muslim federation chief was as stunned as the Christian Prime Minister, the man saying “we don’t have this kind of history”. What kind of history, I asked myself, and the answers came in a flood. Hate and intolerance, came at the top of the list. Yes, the kind of hate which our own poll campaign has brought out upfront throughout the length and breadth of the country, from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari , from Aizwal in the North East to the Rann of Kutch (Gujarat). The ruling BJP in Delhi might perhaps have sorted out its differences (temporarily only, you can be sure) with the Christians in the NE but others on the party’s hate list shan’t be spared. The cownicks, the ghar wapsi men, the mandirmen, they are always round the corner seeking their pound of flesh! Our option, it seems is back to the dark ages.
After four boring nights’ stay in yet another hospital, I ended up the fifth, most disgustingly at home, thanks to my stupid decision to turn to the TV box and of all channels to one from Jammu. For full hour almost, a huge man, filing up the entire screen, spewed nothing but venom against his pet hate, Kashmir, the so-called Janat-e-Benazair of his sarcastic description. One particularly nasty clip was repeated thrice within half the hour, all berating Kashmir and the people living there. He was kind enough to promise more the next day. Mercifully, for me, because I got the channel blocked from next morn, I wont have to suffer the ignominy of watching it again…And not one word about the farce that the elections in the State are threatening to be.
With my communication links down for the day and night I couldn’t confirm what the Election Commission’s final call in Kashmir is or will be. But, if true, a seven-day poll in one Parliamentary constituency, Anantnag, leaves me cold and bewildered. At the rate, you might as well depute poll staff there with instructions to go house to house, ballot-box in hand. Time will be on the boxwalla’s side. As we know there will be no dearth of the Forces to see the job done.
The BJP may even otherwise pull it off here, given the reality of a substantial number of absentee Kashmiri Pandit “migrant” votes which should be available to it. Rigging, impersonation and even more “sophisticated” packing of ballots into boxes near closing time. Once, years ago I recall in Ganderbal polling centre, my arrival there announced over a mike: BBC kaa aadmi aya hai sab theek se baitho; this was said in Kashmiri, without realizing that I was a Kashmiri and Kashmiri-speaking correspondent from Delhi My “fair and lovely” skin had misled them, the cigar clenched between my teeth convincing them I could only be the BBC’s man. (It was Farooq Abdullah’s constituency and the man with me was a Mr. Masoodi, a lawyer, probably. And suddenly there was hushed silence, the hookah gone and officers stuck in their chairs, chatting made way to turning over of voters lists. On another occasion in Pattan probably the Electoral Officer at a major centre was harassed out of his wits by the Provincial Commissioner who insisted on his ensuring the defeat of an Opposition candidate. The Chief Minister insists that he loses, the boss insisted, but the adamant man threatened to go on a fast-unto death at the booth itself and was finally declared a winner.
I don’t know the reason why the State Governor should insist on parliamentary and Assembly polls to be held separately but straws in the wind suggest the BJP wants to stage or at least attempt to stage a mini coup in the Parliamentary polls followed by Assembly polls which too, some BJP men in Valley hope, may cause the mainstream parties to boycott the assembly poll, giving the party candidates a walkover of sorts, however dubious..Makes sense when you think of what awaits Ananatnag. Of the State political parties (the valley-based ones) the less said the better. They are fighting their own ghosts. One way to keep the BJP and the non-performing oldies out, is for young, qualified Kashmiris – from the Central Services would ideally do- to come together and contest all the seats including the Assembly as well.
I am hopeful but unsure what the wonderkid Shah Faesal,t he IAS topper who resigned his commission, to join the political mainstream, has up his sleeves. Ideally it is bright, upright younger men like him, who should stake a claim to both the parliamentary and assembly seats. They may not have the financial resources but they will have popular support and youth power to back them. The youth like Faesal and many others like him could well steer the State out of its present turmoil. They can make up for lack of time by their uniqueness, and, frankly, the sheer novelty of well placed young men daring to topple the time -serving old guard which has failed to deliver. Time for Faesal and his ilk to take up the cudgels on behalf of the people and for fair play.