Funny as it might seem not many in Delhi's power set up are overly concerned over the three-week-old virtual shutdown in the Kashmir valley. Been there, seen it before, just about sums up Delhi's response to the ongoing situation – demoralizing in the extreme and illustrative of total unconcern for the ground reality in the valley.
Kind of an assessment that says the valley has invited it on itself, let it suffer. And the valley, long used to being violated, is responding the only way it knows: sullen acceptance (?) of its situation; yet wholly defiant in most respects. Like, when the State chooses to lift the curfew, even partially, the dissenters impose one of their own or are persuaded to take on the omnipresent security personnel who in any case are just a stone's throw away.
A sad situation marked by confrontation. Chief Minister Mehbooba may have strived these past few days to sooth hurt feelings but the images of the recent phase of Sarkari brutality are too dark to forget: not just the images of those killed in the firing by Security Forces but most wearingly the images of young boys and girls, victims of pellet guns, scores losing their eye-sight and scores others left to live with tattooed markings on their faces and on their bodies, a timeless reminder for them of an age they have lived through.
Can understand Home Minister Raj Nath Singh dismissing the pellet gun use as something of concern – yes, a committee would be appointed to examine the issue, but just the same, in his words, a non-lethal weapon. Remember, he didn't to disapprove of the role played by the security forces; indeed they were confronted with a situation which needed to be put down, the Minister had said.
A hundred children might have lost their eyesight to the fell pellets but the risk obviously was inevitable, Mr Singh suggested rather brusquely. The references often made by Narendra Modi down to the Chief Minister to A.B. Vajpayee's make-believe vision of a Kashmir notable for Insaniyat, Jamhhooriat and Kashmiryat may well remain just the dream which it always was.
Frankly, I tend to believe that Delhi has somehow come to believe in building up a wall of silence between itself and Srinagar. There are no plans to hold any talks with the valley parties, the separatists marked out as a clear No, No.
The Home Minister did make a half-hearted attempt to hold an all-party (mainstream) meeting in Srinagar but wasn't able to persuade the National Conference, one of the oldest political parties of the State, to attend. Nor is he likely to address the external dimension of the issue on his visit to Pakistan for the SAARC Internal Security Ministers conference, a meaningless exercise in any case, since the big 3 – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – are unlikely to agree on anything.
Prudence would suggest that the BJP dispensation in New Delhi gets off its trusted communal hobby horse and shakes off its over-reliance on the RSS agenda to find a modus vivendi with the Kashmiri people. Prudence would also require the BJP to forget its obsession with Kashmir's special status in the Indian Union. The emphasis ought to be on building bridges of understanding rather than sowing the seeds of hate and discord. Unfortunately nothing of the sort seems to be on the anvil.
The BJP probably sees its resounding success in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region in the last Assembly polls as an affirmation of its long term plans for Jammu and Kashmir. In an obvious over-reaction the party has in the post-election period sought to undermine the Valley's position in the composite State of Jammu and Kashmir. That's precisely what the BJP is doing in the State ever since it crafted the alliance with the People's Democratic Party, the largest valley party. Growth and development have somehow continued to elude Kashmir. Are the hopes and aspirations of the valley of no consequence.? The distrust between New Delhi and Srinagar is palpable with the Sangh parivar unable to reconcile itself with the idea of Kashmir as a Muslim majority State in India that is Bharat..
I don't want to take recourse to Gandhi's much abused reference to the "only ray of hope'' which he saw in Kashmir at the time of the partitioning of the sub-continent. The BJP's concerns may be of a different kind but if the secular character of the Indian State is to retain its validity all attempts at effecting a demographic surgery in Kashmir must cease forthwith.
There is no particular reason for me to believe that the ruling dispensation in Delhi will give up on its saffron commitments. The sudden emergence of gau rakshaks (cow protectors), particularly in the belt extending from Rajasthan and Gujarat to Bihar, offers telling evidence that the saffronites have no intention to let up on their very divisive agenda.
The " gau rakshak" attacks on innocent citizens, Dalits and Muslims alike, are acquiring sinister proportions – from the Mohammad Ahklaque story of Dadri in UP to the assault on Dalit youths in Gujarat, to the latest one from Madhya Pradesh which saw two innocent Muslim women attacked ferociously by "rakshaks", with the Madhya Pradesh police lending a helping hand. It was the women who were arrested even before the truth or otherwise of the allegation was established.
Add the cow vigilantes to the list of old-timers like the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Rame Sena, the Shiv Sena not to mention the ABVPs and, of course, the mother of them all, the RSS, and you have the full picture of their portentous potential.
What makes the prospects even grimmer is that not one of the BJP Ministers at the Centre or in the States, the Prime Minister included, has ever disavowed their RSS link. Indeed most of them have flaunted their pride in being swayamsewaks (volunteers) of the Sangh first and everything else later.