Extremism is very helpful at times. The beauty of this beast lies in its remarkable art of teaching. It smashes all difference between a gullible and a guarded, driving home a point with matching degree of reception. There were people in Kashmir who thought India was a democracy, whatever. There were people who fell for this thing called secularism, praising India and deriding Pakistan. There were people who thought Jinnah's Two-Nation was an anachronistic proposition, akin to medieval obscurantism. They thought it was a contest between Medieval and Modern, while it was plain Mathematics. Jinnah was doing hard calculations on safety and growth of a people because he knew well that Gandhi and Nehru were shrewd mathematicians when it came to calculus of power in post-Raj India. Tragic, some of us mistook mathematics for a discussion on political ideals. Indian politics taking a sweeping drift towards extremism, and Pakistan having already lost decades to extremism, it's time for saner elements of both the countries to transcend chauvinism, refuse to be led by anger, and figure out what ground politics of the region actually is. It is time to meet a Hindu in street and ask him what his apprehensions and dreams are. It's time to meet a Muslim in street and ask him what his apprehensions and dreams are. It's time to drop masks, and face each other. We can shock each other by telling what we thought of each other, but in the end this truth telling will help us know what the other is not. That would be a fresh beginning. It is time to shun hypocrisy, give up insistence on talking in modern political language, that barely gets across when it comes to a common man in India and Pakistan, and converse with a common man in his language, and through his sensibilities. It's time to uncover the original atmosphere of politics in the region and then build up a better politics based on universal values of justice and equality, without undermining a Hindu or a Muslim. The secularism of Indian National Congress was hypocritical and alien in many respects, and that is why extremism in both the communities grew. Because both communities felt that it was a denial of who we were. Kashmir is a tragic fall out of that dishonest politics.
In case of Kashmir Nehru had mastered art of raising smoke screen, and Gandhi, contrary to his body, hid his mind under million wrappers. Modi has done us a great favour by ripping apart those million wrappers, and dismantling that smoke screen. He has brought this entire matter to the very basics.
What is it that guides our political behaviour, finally. Am I safe or vulnerable? Can I prosper in this condition, or perish? The idea of Azadi is fundamentally tied to this security of life, and an atmosphere of human growth in all senses – intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and material. It is about securing a condition that is human. It is not about hating a nation, or preferring one over another. Those are all matters of political choice, cultural ease, journey of history, and geographical possibility. It is not about any complex academic debate over Democracy, Secularism, Radicalism, Nationalism, or Religion. If such discursive contexts appear, it is because it's either imposed, or a response to abject sense of vulnerability.
Looking at how BJP government responds to current situation in Kashmir, some people draw comparisons with earlier Congress governments. They are in a manifest error. Modi's India is exactly what Nehru's India was, when it comes to Kashmir, or for that matter to Pakistan and Muslims. In the aftermath of 9/11 the US unleashed its military fury on Iraq and then Afghanistan. Many commentators explained how attack on twin towers changed the US foreign policy. Robert Kagan made a poignant remark on this, saying that America did not change on 9/11, it only became more itself. When Modi came to power and launched a full blown attack on J&K during 2014 Assembly elections, many told us that this is not the India of earlier times. Then PDP, faithful to its genesis, shared bed with BJP. From that moment onwards things really seemed changed. The offensive could be felt, and the war cry raised by Hindu extremists was audible even to deaf in Kashmir. We were repeatedly told that India has changed. This is no Congress, this is BJP; as if Congress had wished us any well. In the current public mobilisation, we are once again told that this is a changed India. This is Modi's India. Applying Kagan, after the rise of Modi to power India did not change it only became more itself. And we must thank Modi for this. Nehru had blinded many of the Kashmiris, and Congress was a wily necromancer. Some people really thought that Nehru meant democracy when he said democracy, meant secularism when he said secularism, meant plebiscite when he said plebiscite, meant people of Kashmir when he said people of Kashmir. Nehru left it for some Modi to tell what he actually meant. And thankfully that Modi has come, and we are all back to our senses. Only he could tell us that devil is as black as painted, at times more.
When Modi spoke, he actually sounded off, from the ramparts of the Red Fort it was an alarm bell that should set us all thinking: Hindus and non-Hindus, Muslims and non-Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and atheists. It's a moment of collective disquiet. If the politics of this region turns hysterical, no one is safe and none will prosper. Yes, all can perish. For how long can this region be captive to this politics of violent hate. Time to stand up all, and raise the cry: we want freedom!
PS: There is a freedom that comes before freedom, and that freedom has come. Long live this freedom. Freedom from misplaced hope and fake optimism.