The sad merry-go-round
Nearly two months on and nowhere to go. The violent Valley saga continues to play itself out on the streets of Srinagar, in the south and north of the once beautiful vale. Curfew continues to be in force in most of the valley, and enforced with severity in certain parts. Just the same I am expected to believe that things are on the mend.
Am assured of this by the men and women who, I believe, should have known better. Do I trust their judgment, I wonder. Am also asked to read out the message New Delhi is trying to convey via Home Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh's second visit in a month to the State. An additional bit is thrown in about Mehbooba Mufti's scheduled meeting over the weekend with the Prime Minister, a follow-up perhaps of the Rajnath's latest visit, thrown in as sop to boost sagging morale. I do continue to wonder, though, why Mr. Rajnath Singh had to make the visit in such a great hurry that the invitation had to be sent by twitter not to anyone in particular; a virtual open house which obviously was not on in the present security environment in the Valley.
The simple truth at the end of the day would suggest that situation continues to be grim in the valley. That New Delhi and Srinagar find themselves out of depth; use of force, for the present, continues to be the first choice even as it is understood that it has not worked, the numbers of killings and of the injured continues to rise even this 49th day of the unrest , as I write.
Political engagement with the stakeholders should have been the next best option for the Home Minister when he came calling the second time over. This was not to be, given the ruling party's (in New Delhi) own unsettling political predilections, some of these deeply woven into its unbending cultural and nationalistic ethos. It is an ethos cultivated by the saffronites over a hundred year period, and now very much a part of its overview of India, of unsettling commitments that are intrinsically opposed to whatever the founding fathers of the Indian republic had stood for. Secularism, for one.
A practical, realistic explanation for the continuing crisis in the Valley would suggest Delhi's lack of trust in the Kashmir government, of which it is a part and in an alliance described as the unlikeliest of marriages, and its ability to handle the explosive situation. In a way this also suits the BJP's macho image of itself as an all powerful force willing to take on anyone who challenges India's national interest, as perceived by it.
The BJP had obviously chosen to be a part of the alliance with the valley-based People's Democratic Party with an agreed agenda whose implementation it has steadfastly spurned. The party, unlike the PDP, walked into the coalition with both eyes open with no intention to implement any part of the agreed agenda. The truth of this was borne out by that leisurely reference to implementing the agenda by Rajnath Singh at his Srinagar Press conference – two years and more after it was thrashed out by former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's team and the BJP team led by the RSS plenipotentiary Ram Madhav.
Ram Madhav, the BJP points man in Kashmir, has been in virtual residence in the State these past few days and has indeed been directing the party agenda in the State in addition to his numerous responsibilities within the Sangh parivar.
That said, a bit more of candor on the part of Delhi in its dealings with Srinagar would have been in order and only appropriate. New Delhi can't afford to be suddenly waking up to suggest seeing the Pakistani hand everywhere, in every nook and cranny in the valley. Pakistan has indeed been at the heart of what has been called the Kashmir dispute, indeed from the very birth of India and Pakistan as independent States.
Nothing new about that including Pakistan coveting the place ever since. The two countries have been at war too, at least thrice in the intervening years, not to mention the minor and major skirmishes in between. That much about the roots, as it were.
A day after the latest Rajnath visit to the valley it becomes very clear that both New Delhi and Srinagar haven't fully fathomed the depth of the ongoing phase of unrest in the valley. This becomes obvious when you see leaders, including the Chief Minister reducing the ongoing blood-soaked story into an elementary lesson in mathematics : just five percent of the people are engaged in the confrontation between the might of the Indian State and just a handful of agitators who have brought normal life in the valley to a standstill. A mighty five per cent it must be, paralyzing life in Kashmir, as distinct from Jammu and Ladakh, as we now are always reminded.
Kashmir, y'see, is just one part of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. This is the boring refrain one comes across whenever you get into a conversation with anyone with saffron leanings. It turns into an unbearable din with words like deshdrohi, unpatriotic, seditious thrown in as if these were terms of endearment.
This reminds me of Mr. Modi's Minister in the PMO, Mr. Jitinder Singh, the Jammu MP, who has lately been trying hard to put on the mantle of a hardlner. Like when he was gently tweaked by Dr. Karan Singh over his remark that there was nothing like a Kashmir dispute in existence by reminding the junior Minister that a dispute cannot be wished away. Karan Singh, a witness to the signing by his father, the Maharaja, of the accession deed observed that the deed did not signify merger but only accession with India retaining control over defence,foreign affairs and currency. Unlike other States J & K had not merged with the Union; it had just acceded. And then you have Article 370, Dr. Karan Singh reminded, which grants the State a special status. As a sop, he asked, how could anyone dispute the existence of a dispute when India itself has staked a claim to parts of the State currently under Pakistan.
Mr. Jitinder Singh's other hobby horse has lately been the high priority he accords to the rehabilitation of refugees from West Pakistan settled in the State (read Jammu), as distinct from those from Muzaffarabad, who in any case are State subjects already.
This is part of the old Sangh parivar thinking: changing the demographics of the State. Of which the other part may have been the carving out new residential entities within the Valley. Remember the Sainik rehab schemes? I hope I am wrong but the Minister looks very meticulous to be making mistakes. But then, why raise the question now just when the State, or at least the better known part of it is going through hell ?