The Defence Minister is in urgent need of some solid defences against his overflowing froth. From day one of his assumption of office there are enough leaks in his mouth to signal fright and apprehension. Either he has lost his marbles or he is intentionally playing verbal games in the true tradition of some of the virulent forms of right-wing politics of India, of which he is a loose part. With his easygoing and unfastened statements, matched in their shoddiness with the ill-organised garments on his rube-figure, it is awful that he is currently holding such a sensitive portfolio in the Modi durbar.
Going by his designation he is supposed to defend the country but from most of his unfortunate statements, he appears to be out there to offend; to incite disorder and violence rather than instil order and tranquillity. By all means a country has to defend her interests against attacks from foes but does it have to incite problems by positioning a person who fits more in the myths of the yore than in the volatile contemporary geo-politics. Not long back he invoked Hanuman in the background of the surgical strikes against Pakistan, even before that he affirmed that only a thorn can remove a thorn, barely trying to conceal the need for covert actions in neighbouring countries. Lately, he spoke about the Nuclear Weapons; while India does have a Cold Start Doctrine, and a no-first-use nuclear policy, he suggested that the latter can be done away with when required. These are alarming statements which were unheard of India before the advent of the Moditva on the stage. The most recent one is even more shocking and one which betrays a mindset rooted in a narrow and hidebound perception than an assessment based on empirical information.
Following the melodramatic announcement by the Indian Prime Minister that 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes will be withdrawn and new 2000 rupee notes will be introduced, Mr. Parrikat has come out with another moniker statement. He has linked the demonetisation with the boiling Kashmir. The demonetization may or may not have reaped benefits elsewhere in India, Parrikar is certain that the policy decision has harvested an intended conclusion in Kashmir.
When the cow of demonetisation has fallen barren in the rest of India, he feels it is easier to milk it in the vulnerable Kashmir. Or it is important to milk out imaginary benefits from Kashmir where nation, nationalism and national interest will come to his assistance if anyone dares to question his assumption. He has said that stone pelting in Kashmir has come down because of demonetisation. The implicit supposition is that the stone pelters in Kashmir are pushed into their actions through black money. Let us assume any Indian politician will question him on this; the quick response will be the easily available tag of anti-national, a tag which is cheaper than dirt in the new India uncovered by Modi. Therefore it is safe for him to seek to connect demonetisation with the diminishing episode of stone pelting. But is that a correct estimation of the situation?
Truth be told, the incidents of stone pelting have come down ever since the current agitation erupted in early July with the death of Burhan Wani. However, does this fall in pelting stones have anything to do with the withdrawal of old notes and minting of new ones, and the calibration of ATM machines? The logic of this linkage, again, goes back to the old habit of instinctively attributing everything that is happening in Kashmir to the foreign hand. The foreign hand supplies money through illegal channels and thus supports the men and women in Kashmir who are creating trouble for India. Nothing can be farther from truth. The abiding problem for India in Kashmir is that the issue is not being taken head on, and resolving the matter without bringing the outside factor. The ongoing uprising is mostly prevalent in the rural areas; how rational is it to assume that village after village was supplied with cash to incite the hurtling of stones against Indian paramilitary forces. With the density of stone pelting it would take flooding Kashmir with cash to support the Defence Minister's statement. Even the foregoing corps commander of army, while distancing his forces from the agitation, had asked for a political dialogue to engage the volatile population, hinted that the masses on a whole are involved, which his forces should not be asked to control. The cause of the decline in stone pelting is not the maligned demonetisation policy but the comprehensive crackdown on the population. It is a silence born of weariness and fatigue not a result of the sudden transformation of heart. This is a pause before a tragic return of chaos and destruction, of life and property.
He is trying to convert what has turned out to be an embarrassing failure in the rest of India, into a success in Kashmir. His statement has the potential to force some people in Kashmir to prove the opposite. And thus spiral the situation from darkness to dreadful abyss. The people are already peering into a bleak prospect, with this statement the feeling one gets is that of a universe unhinged from all sense and balance. Instead of speaking in this irresponsible manner, he had better speak of opening channels of communication and dialogue, without seeking to draw benefit from an ongoing tragedy. Such utterances choke any possibilities of a way out from the ongoing roil and boil of the situation. They deprive people of the creation of an environment in which they can find a path out of the miseries to their lives; they further drive the people living close to the border into desperation, and make soldiers of both countries fight each other to their death so that nationalistic egos of some people on top are puffed up to content. The problem with people like Parrikar, on either side of the border, the ruling elite who are secure in their respective glass houses (and financial harvests preserved abroad), is that they do not have to live the consequences of their speech and action, and thus do not mind saying things which their whims cherish, because their own children, kith and kin do not fall in the fatal of their words. For his entire attempt to link stone pelting in Kashmir to demonetisation, the truth is that such wild kite flying has been tried in the past; what his statement can be connected is the eternal disinclination to address the ground reality in Kashmir.
(Javaid Iqbal Bhat is Assistant Professor at South Campus, University of Kashmir)