The Vajpayee slogan of “Kashmiryat, jamhooriat and Insaniyat” has since become the great operation hoodwink
If Prime Minister Modi did indeed mean some of the things he said in praise of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of better loved Prime Ministers of India, after his demise on Wednesday there shouldn’t be much of a problem for him to work out ways fulfillng some of the tasks which Vajpayee himself had tried hard to address. And in the end without much success. Issues which have stared the nation in the eye . Governments of different hues have come and gone but the problems bequeathed to us by history, look back ever so defiantly, daring the powers that be. Vajpayee to his credit did accept the challenge on one front, choosing to meet it head on: his country’s relations with neighboring Pakistan. “You can choose your friends but not your neighbors,” that’s the home truth that was his stock-in-hand as he started luring neighbor Pakistan.Vajpayee took the initiative as soon as he saw himself in a position to influence Indo-Pak relations as Morarji Desai’s first post-Indira Janata Government and soon thereafter when Vajpayee himself became the Prime Minister and later and chose to play a high stakes open–sesame, first with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and subsequently with Gen. Pervez Musharraf who by then had sent Sharif into exile to Saudi Arabia and installed himself as the military dictator. Vajpayee had opted to move with unaccustomed sincerity, to address some of the problems that had turned India and Pakistan into eternal foes after the dawn of independence in the sub-continent. I did join his party to Pakistan when FM Vajpayee went there in search of normalization; he did visit the Iqbal and Ranjit Singh Mausoleum in Lahore, received publications containing contributions by men like Ali Sardar Jafrri, Jagan Nath Azad and other eminent Indian scholars on Iqbaliat on the centenary celebration of the late Pakistani poet-philosopher. And Vajpayee, himself a poet of no mean caliber, typically told the Pak officials that he could not read the Urdu script yet did manage to recite Iqbal’s “Khudi ko kar buland itna….” Adding rather humorously that Iqbal was “our gift from Kashmir to you”. Vajpayee, lest you forget, knew that it was not possible to find a solution to Kashmir without stabilizing India’s relations with Pakistan.He subsequently decided to undertake the 1999 bus yatra to Lahore, a very emotional experience for the busload of Indian celebrities, actors, poets, et al. What followed was the Kargil and the end of yet another chapter in the lurid Kashmir tale. Threads picked up again by Musharraf during his visit to Agra for yet another summit of sorts— which, incidentally has had to my mind the seeds of a possible easing of tensions. That, though, must remain in the past tense. An issue close to Vajpayee’s heart was Kashmir. His offer to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to find a solution through Kashmiryat, Jamhooriat and Insaniyat” resonated with many, even among the valley leadership. But with Vajpayee gone and one of his more rabid successors in power the Vajpayee slogan of “Kashmiryat, jamhooriat and Insaniyat” has since become the great operation hoodwink. Mr. Modi repeated it this independence day during his cursory reference to Kashmir, much the same way as his Interior Minister Rajnath Singh keeps harping on operation clean-up, with the Army Chief chipping in with far more belligerence. A pity this, for if only Mr Modi opts to get off his high horse of Indian (read Hindu) nationalism for a while he may be ale to break some ice with Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Imran Khan who at the moment, at least appears to be on the right side of the Rawalpindi HQ. Starting with the positive, Modi after a lapse of some three years did choose to recall at Red Fort last late Prime Minister Vajpayee’s reference to “Kashmiryat, Jamhooriat and Insaniyat” as a touchstone for resolving the Kashmir issue to the satisfaction of all. Modi had mentioned it once earlier too but forgot it soon thereafter. Did Modi’s recalling the Vajpayee admonition indicate a rethink. Frankly I don’t see that happening given the sound and fury that the mention of Kashmir generates in the parivar ranks, a well-crafted exercise blessed by the saffronites and their appetite for anti-valley trivia and well orchestrated by the RSS hordes, in States where they are in power and where they aspire to. To return to Mr. Modi’s fulsome praise for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it was well-crafted for an occasion like the death of a popular party senior but what sticks out in my memory from the non-stop TV coverage of the passing away of the former Prime Minister are the TV clips, nearly two decades old, showing Mr Vajpayee publicly upbraiding then Chief Minister Modi for the-Muslim riots in Gujarat that left several thousand Muslims dead, their homes and entire colonies burnt down. Vajpayee, with the public address system on, loudly shared his personal anguish over Modi’s failure to observe Raj Dharma which did not permit of hate, putting communities one against the other. Having known from the discreet distance of a reporter, socializing apart, Vajpayee could convey his disapproval of things even without raising his voice; he would merely recite a couplets cautioning against deceit and hate. Vajpayee as one has known over the past 60 years and viewing some of the repeat shots now the whole of the last 48 hours, these two days of the funeral, perorations on Indian I did notice one where Vajpayee asks for Modi’s resignation as the Chief Minister of Gujarat after the riots but was persuaded not to insist because the killing of the 2000 plus Muslims in Ahmedabad was a kind of a quid pro quo by the saffronites over the “burning” in a railway compartment by Muslims of returning Gujrati swayamsewaks from a ‘kar sewa” (voluntary work) somewhere else.
In conclusion, a word for the saffron family, its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in particular. With the departure from the scene of sobering influences stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee do not play your kind of intolerant, muscular politics. It will only harm the Indian nation, Hindus, Muslim, Christians all. And all the blame will pile up at your doorstep. And do, if only as a tribute to your departed leader, pick up the threads of negotiations in Kashmir, You do not solve the problem by harping on Jammu, Ladakh and the Srinagar Valley, the last one a first-time nomenclature for the sprawling Kashmir valley. Yes, Mr. Modi did make it a point to mention Jammu, Ladakh and Srinagar valley, in that order, at his independence day rally. Sounds more like a coded message.