The whole of these past many months I have waited, not particularly patiently, for a positive vibe, just one, from Jammu and Kashmir, from the valley in particular. Be positive, think positively, I have been telling myself.
All will be well, I have told myself, even as the happenings in the valley continued to border on the macabre. The ill winds consumed the better part of the year gone by, consumed by the death dance enacted in towns and in the by-lanes of the valley. The toll has been heavy on the streets: deaths, maiming, hartals and shutdowns.
Through all this, the most remarkable has been the fortitude of a people living in a virtual state of siege, when minds have stood blanked out and pebbles became a tool to confront the gun and pellet with.
Enough of all that, I thought, as the valley slipped under its cover of snow, a sparkling white cover which nature has endows it with year after year. Wonky times, you would say, seeing the bone-chilling winter as some form of relief. Truth to tell, that's what it looks like to my tired old eyes, after a horrible summer spent counting the dead, the dying, the blinded. Even in the middle of chilla-e-kalan, the severest part of the winter, even with an erratic power supply and interrupted supply lines! Yes, in the midst of the all-pervading chill one cannot but feel a little comforted by the thought of getting a feel of slightly peaceable times, these past few weeks in the State, the valley in particular.
I was quite taken in by the spirit of some of the school and college students, boys and girls, well clad (and thank God for that) taking to the street one day insisting on time and opportunity to make good the academic loss they suffered the year gone by, defiantly staking a claim to their little places under the sun. These were boys and girls, most of whom had used the enforced six-month confinement to innovate creatively, studying indoors or through private tutoring, some in the process excelling to catch nationwide attention. Among them were the tiny sporty angels from quaint old places who had distinguished themselves in international competitions – two or three girls and a handful of boys, all set to carve out a future in the sports arena just as others were determined to excel academically. Yes, these indeed were the few positive vibes I came across as my search continued.
One such hopeful noise occurred at the most unlikely of places, on the State Assembly floor, when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti held out the olive branch to the distraught families of those killed in the Valley during last year's confrontation between the people and the Security Forces. A long overdue gesture it may have been but Mehbooba's partners in the government, the BJP were quick enough to queer the pitch. A counter demand was made by the Jammuite BJP, demanding an identical compensation (Rs. 5lakhs) for Hindu agitators killed in the Amarnath Yatra agitation of a few years ago.The idea obviously was not only to embarrass the Chief Minister but to simultaneously assert Saffronite guardianship of the Hindu majority Jammu province.
A pity that his should have happened just about the time Mehbooba had stoutly defended her father's decision to forge an alliance with the BJP. Drawing heavily on the defence of the "North Pole-South Pole alliance " offered by Mufti Sayeed himself over two years ago she focused on its inevitability after the crazy end result of the last assembly poll, Hindu Jammu choosing to fall into the BJP lap and the valley going with the mainstream parties,foremost among these – and the largest single party by far – the PDP. The coalition was the only option to maintain the integrity (saalmiat) of the Jammu and Kashmir as a single unit, she argued, just as her father . The problem from word go, though, has been that the BJP has continued to use its position in the coalition only to sharpen the divide between the two regions.
The tragedy is that everyone seems to be aware of the BJP's grand design in the State but no one is willing to take up the challenge. The other day in the State Assembly I am told no less a personage than the BJP Speaker of the House created a ruckus by accusing a Congress MLA of raising anti-national slogans including – Kashmir banega Pakistan, giving his party legislators a rope long enough to kick up a controversy. Unfortunately for the Speaker the record of the proceedings showed the Congress MLA shouting "PDP ka kya firman – Kashmir banega Kabristan (PDP will make Kashmir a graveyard). The Speaker was forced to apologize. But the party mindset must remain unchanged.
The BJP mindset I am speaking of was there in full play the other day in the capital, given full expression by Dr. Jitender Singh, the Udhampur MP and Minister of State in Narendra Modi's PMO. It was a very eloquent narration of the thought process of the Bhagwa brigade. It may sound very offensive to you and me but then it's what Mr. Singh and his fellow saffronites do believe in and a feeling they share. The RSS frontal organization, the Muslim Vichar Manch was activated to sponsor a meeting in New Delhi of Kashmiri youth studying in educational institutions in neighboring States .The idea was to inculcate in them a spirit of patriotism/nationalism.
The youth, 300 of them were commandeered from neighboring States oof Rajasthan, Haryana, Noida in UP and Delhi. An extra bait was thrown in: Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the HRD Minister too would be on hand at the meeting, a temptation the youth fell for, given their grievances about irregular scholarship payments, police harassment in cities and towns they study in. In the event neither of the two Ministers turned up. But Dr Jitender Singh and a very senior RSS ideologue were present.
Dr. Jitnder Singh made a very "useful" presentation the highlight of which was emphasis on catching Kashmiri youth, between classes 8 and 10 "before they are spoilt". And the spoilers identified by Mr Singh were the parents who obviously filled up the young minds of their wards with wrong ideas.Mr. Singh was unsparing of the Kashmir Government, forgetting that his party is a partner in it.
New Delhi, he said, had sanctioned two AIIMs, one IIT and IMIs for the State but who would risk to be in Kashmir? Which faculty or specialist would like to man the AIIMs if it was opened in Kashmir valley. In other words Kashmir was not fit enough to host such institutions. And this gentleman from Jammu is the eyes and ears of Mr. Modi on Kashmir affairs apart from being a Minister in the PMO. If the State be home to such MPs, a friend so to speak of the entire people living out there, Kashmir could certainly do without the goodwill of such friends. And, mind you, Dr Singh's party is in power in the State.