The irony is that our politicians have been all these years conspiring against their own people
An old scorpion sad and sulking on the bank of a river, keen to cross, suddenly caught sight of a frog basking in summer sun. A glimmer of hope lit its eyes. Why not to ask the frog for a ride across the river, scorpion thought. Frog could swim carrying scorpion on its back and help it go to other side of the river. Scorpion with humble gait approached frog and after exchanging pleasantries requested for a ride across the river. Frog said, " Do you take me for a fool ! How do you expect me to take you on my back when I know well that you will sting me?". Scorpion replied, " I am not stupid ! Don’t I know that if I sting you, both of us will be doomed and that it would not be in my interest and safety to sting you." Frog, convinced with the logic allowed scorpion to ride on its back and set out for the opposite shore. Halfway through the river, scorpion stung the frog. Writhing in pain and gasping for air, frog turned to scorpion and asked," Why did you sting me? Don’t you know both of us will drown!?" Scorpion replied , " I do, but I cannot help, it is in my nature."
The story of scorpion and frog is from the Panchtantra compiled in third century B.C. by a courtier and translated from Sanskrit to English in 1570 A.D. It tells us that people and for that matter all creatures and nowadays even political parties are true to their nature whatever external influences. Frog convinced by the logic of scorpion agrees to take it on its back. Scorpion true to its nature stings the frog, though trusted and treated by it with kindness, and by doing so meets its end – hara kiri, without a doubt.
The fable colours theme of 1992 thriller ‘The Crying Game’ written and directed by Neil Jordan. The focus is on issues of race, gender, nationality, the stage is rural Northern Ireland and the characters are IRA volunteers, a soldier and his girlfriend. Judy, a British soldier lured by Jude a female IRA volunteer is held prisoner by the group. Fergus, IRA member is asked to be on vigil lest Judy escapes. Judy while in captivity narrates the scorpion and frog storey to Fergus in the context of good and bad people. Fergus allows him to escape but Judy while fleeing is accidentally run over by a British armoured carrier. Fergus tormented by sense of guilt abandons the group and ultimately gets himself arrested to save Dil, girlfriend of Judy whom he had promised to protect. The fable echoes at every turn as the events unfold and becomes more or less a metaphor for the movie as a whole. The film with the title borrowed from 1964 song composed by Geof Stephens and released by Dave Berry has amongst other reason because of its theme won BAFTA award and adjudged one of the best films of all time.
Scorpion and frog story is come across, day in and day out in human relations at all levels and at all the places. Everyone of us comes in contact with a scorpion now and then, is bitten unless one opts out before the sting. Possibly nothing can better explain the fable than the political drama enacted in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, re-enacted in 2015, finally reaching an anti-climax in June 2018 with BJP withdrawing support to PDP-BJP government and imposition of Governor’s rule. Is not the drama in essence scorpion and frog story. Though there may be some disagreement on the identity of the characters in the story – who acted as scorpion and who suffered like frog. Whether it was a case of scorpion persuading frog to carry it or other way round – frog volunteering to give scorpion a ride, conscious that it was born with the blessings of scorpion, and like questions may also trigger some debate.
Be that as it may, Mehbooba Mufti after withdrawal of support to her government by the BJP and its consequent fall has been indulging in a ‘Crying Game’. Her first reaction was that ‘muscular policy’ will not work in Jammu and Kashmir and that her priority was to protect ‘Article 370’. The effort is to claim martyrdom and make people believe that she lost power because she was not ready to adopt a muscular policy forced on her by the coalition partner and that she had a tough time defending autonomy against its onslaught – the reason for the collapse. Faced with rebellion in the party, Mehbooba Mufti has taken the ‘Crying Game’ to a new level by claiming that consequences of New Delhi breaking her party would be disastrous for it and promote militancy implying that her party is the most popular party and its fragmentation will alienate the people and push them to militancy.
Mehbooba ji has to blame none but herself and coterie around her for the political quagmire in which she finds herself. How closer to truth was Ms Mufti when on November 23, 2014 she in an interview to Hindu said "PDP shall have no truck with BJP" and that "BJP aims to disempower Kashmir." But a few weeks later we saw her aligning with the same party because the decision to align was reportedly taken in July 2014 and Hamlet’s indecision "to be or not to be" in December 2014 was only a drama to hoodwink people. An opportunity came her way to do a rethink with demise of her father. If not ready to learn from betrayals of 1953, 1976 and 1984 – last two engineered by her father, Mehbooba Ji should have taken lesson from the treatment given to her father by the coalition partner post March 2015. Be it small matters like shifting of a maternity ward from G.B Pant Hospital to Lal Ded Hospital and the Tawi Lake issue, or bigger issue like release of funds for the flood victims of 2014 , Mufti Sahib was insulted by coalition party leaders younger in age to his years in politics. The worst came when Mufti Saheb was snubbed by Prime Minister Modi in a public meeting in November 2015 at Srinagar and literally asked to mind his own business. Mufti Saheb apart from his patience and perseverance, commanded wide respect for his etiquette and manners. He never humiliated anyone by his words or conduct and didn’t deserve to be humiliated. Repeated insults at the hands of coalition partner and pain inflicted by PDP cabinet colleagues, God knows at whose behest, by picking up an unnecessary quarrel with thousands of Government teachers across the State or levying tax on copter service to Vaishno Devi and like decisions, left him with a look of gloom in later part of 2015, that went unnoticed by his daughter. The worst was yet to come. Mufti Saheb was taken ill, shifted to Delhi and lied on sick bed for two weeks a few hundred yards from the Prime Minister house.. Prime Minister Modi didn’t find time to visit the ailing octogenarian leader and the Chief Minister in office to enquire about his health or to visit Srinagar after Mufti Saheb lost the battle of life, to condole his death and sympathise with the bereaved. He, though travelled all the way to Chandigarh to enquire about health of Chief Minister Punjab diagnosed with flue. The events should have ignited "daughters pride" and dissuaded Mehbooba ji from repeating the failed experiment and defect before she was stung. She, however, blinded by pursuit for power and under influence of her coterie with individual agendas to pursue, re-enacted the bonhomie and is now writhing in pain.
Now the "crying game". Mehbooba Mufti is out to create an impression that she lost power because she did not subscribe to "muscular policy" presumably dictated by BJP. When making such a preposterous claim she forgets about four thousand young men most of them children, partially or totally blinded in her rule by pellets showered on those protesting human rights violations. The brutality attracted headlines like "An Epidemic of Dead Eyes" and "Pellet Raj" from News Papers and Journals of repute. More than two hundred civilians killed and thirty thousand maimed, disabled and injured by pellets and bullets in her rule also seem to be off her mind. Mehbooba ji does not remember hundreds including octogenarians and juveniles slapped detention orders and detained without trial hundreds of miles away from their homes, denying them access to families and friends. No where in recent history has been the "detention without trial" used with such frequency – more than 1100 detentions in 1130 days or one detention per day. The former Chief Minister makes the claim oblivious to the fact that in her reign descending on a neighbourhood during dead of the night, breaking doors and windows and ransacking everything – from vehicles to computers, televisions to household goods, and thrashing every one spotted, was used a new tool of oppression by the security forces and more than ninety thousand houses ransacked and property worth millions damaged. Mehbooba Mufti actually did not follow a muscular but a monstrous policy during her rule. Her " toffee and milk" rebuke and "skull caps" taunt of her senior leader, will haunt our generations for decades to come. She conveniently forgets how while she was in power, freedom of expression was stifled, press gagged and publication of daily Kashmir Reader banned. The posterity will remember her regime as one amongst the most repressive regimes of last few centuries.
The claim that she did not allow BJP to tinker with autonomy and guarded Article 370 against all odds, is a cruel joke and belied by the events of last three years. The truth is that autonomy has been demolished brick by brick during her rule. She to begin with, left the State flag a symbol of honour and identity, undefended and gave its coalition partner a real walkover. The next attack came in shape of Minor Minerals Order that allowed non State Subjects to operate mines and extract minerals in the State. The attack surprisingly was thwarted not by Ms. Mufti and her party but her Coalition partner after it realised that Jammu interest was to be worst hit by the Order and mine operators from Punjab would swarm into mineral rich Kathua and monopolise extraction of minor minerals to the exclusion of Jammu businessmen. She and her party thereafter became equal partners in execution of fundamental agenda of her coalition partner. The Indian society, it is no secret, is vertically divided into those who advocate diversity, pluralism and respect for dissent and those who want to paint entire society in one colour in the name of so called unity. One tax, one selection, one election, one language and many such "ones" are tools employed by the second group to achieve its agenda. Mehbooba Mufti, notwithstanding AoA, projected by her party as a unique document second only to Treaty of Versailles, during her rule allowed full use of all these tools and by doing so demolished whatever little was left of autonomy. She though reminded time and again that as 42nd Constitutional Amendment was not extended to Jammu and Kashmir " medical education" was within exclusive domain of State; that NEET therefore was not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and its application would impinge upon State autonomy, went ahead with NEET thereby eroding the autonomy. The biggest blow to the autonomy at her hands was application of GST. She bulldozed through her way ignoring voices of caution and applied GST denuding Jammu and Kashmir of its fiscal and political autonomy. Shockingly she got support in the name of "change in narrative" from the people expected to fiercely and fearlessly oppose any assault on autonomy. They trivialised an issue of pivotal importance into a "traders issue" confusing people and helping her sail through. They may gag the present but cannot silence the future. They are to stand in the dock and answer posterity. The BJP leaders were genuinely excited by the facilitating role played by Mehbooba Mufti in realising their long cherished dream of total integration. Mr Jaitely not able to conceal his excitement, told a BJP rally organised to remember Shyama Prasad Mukerji " Jammu and Kashmir becoming a part of the GST system was politically significant as it signalled integration of the State with the rest of the Country"; that "GST was culmination of process where Mukerjee had spoken about complete integration of J&K with India" and that " Mukerjee had started the campaign for complete integration of J&K in India. Another big move in this direction started yesterday when J&K Assembly passed a Resolution to adopt GST. It has political significance." The next gift to this group from her was grant of "Domicile Certificate" to West Pakistan refugees. The "Domicile Certificate" is a forerunner of Permanent Resident status and ultimately right to vote in Assembly elections and change in demography. Mehbooba Mufti and her coterie have no idea of the colossal damage done to our future generations. She now narrates her woes, discloses what she had to go through by joining hands with BJP and how she had to swallow proverbial " goblet of poison". She so easily forgets her own words " jo manga wo diya, jo mangana hai who apse hi mangna hai" addressed to Mr Modi.
No crying game please. It is time for introspection – for one and all. The irony is that our politicians have been all these years conspiring against their own people. When Late Bal Thakery and Jaya Lalita were leading campaign against NEET from front, Mehbooba ji was not ready to hear a word though she had a better case against NEET. When Mamta Ji and others were up in arms against GST labelling it an anti federal measure Mehbooba Mufti was busy organising crackdown on people voicing opposition to GST, though she was cautioned that it would deal a death blow to our autonomy. We could not save Late Afzal Guru from gallows before his turn and ensure that rights of his family were respected while Badals and Jayalalita mustered courage to stop execution of convicts from their States. The political class must know that big compromises do not guarantee long term benefits.
tan hama dag dag shudh
pamba kuja kuja neham
(The author is a Former Judge of J&K High Court and Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India)