Never say never again

published on August 10, 2010

Tarun Vijay

If Jammu is us, Ladakh is us, and the Kashmir valley too is us as much as Jammu and Ladakh, then where are the healers?
Should the political parties declare that unless a particular region votes for them they won’t be concerned about its welfare and pains and anguish?
Unfortunately, the Congress has been doing exactly this with a region that defines India’s honour and geographical identity.
If a chief minister finds time to meet the wounded — emotionally and physically hurt after 48 deaths — and instead of saluting the soldiers and going to the homes of the widows of martyred security personnel, he officiates a meeting that demands investigation into the actions of the defenders of the motherland, what can be the result except anarchy and a rudderless administration? Insensitive.
Hence it was a solace to hear the Prime Minister on August 5 when the enraged MLAs — all belonging to the BJP — went to see him and apprise him of the grim situation in J&K. The delegation was led by ever so young LK Advani, and the leaders of the opposition in both the houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, accompanied him along with Shanta Kumar and Chaman Lal Gupta, the fiery leader from Jammu. The author of these lines too was present when the Prime Minister said: “No compromise on our security forces’ honour, they are working with utmost restraint, no political package to Kashmir at this juncture, we need to restore peace.”

The Prime Monsiter also said: “Pakistan in fact is abetting violence in Kashmir in order to internationalize the issue.” He showed sympathy for the Jammu and Ladakh regions. Everyone felt it was a positive response. Advani was forthright when he said it looked the government was clueless and the situation had deteriorated to an unprecedented low. Chaman Lal Gupta said: “Discrimination against the Jammu and Ladakh regions is forcing people to think if they have to turn as violent as Hurriyat to have their grievances heard. There is no accountability regarding the enormous level of funds released to J&K, and the security forces are being demoralized.”
It was an interesting interaction, sadly ignored by the media, which perhaps saw no controversial fire in the news.
In 2010 Kashmir is passing through a turmoil reminiscent of the 1980s. Arson, stone pelting, a virtual writ of the separatists running the state and a paralysed governance. (The anarchy in other states and in matters of governance notwithstanding — counting from the misuse of the CBI, shameful corruption a hundred times bigger than the archaic Bofors, failure to contain Maoist violence, a kick from the uncivil goons of diplomacy in Islamabad and an intra-departmental war, home versus external affairs, environment versus everybody, Mani versus Gill and so on.)
The collapse of governance at the central level was never so total and open. The government has forgotten the assurance given to Parliament by Nehru regarding the most horrendous instrument of separatism, Article 37. He had said “ghiste ghiste ghis jayegi”, loosely meaning “the article will vanish gradually”. It was never meant to be a permanent feature, which it is sought to be today by the secularists. If stone pelters and separatists in Srinagar are sponsored and supported by Pakistan, the ground for their spread is prepared by Delhi’s denationalized secularists. And  in this melee of policy mishaps, it’s the common people who suffer.
I was in Srinagar for more than a fortnight in May and June just before the stone pelting intensified. But frankly speaking, the situation before the stone pelting intensified, seen in the rising graph of the dead, hardly made a difference to the attitude of New Delhi’s sultans. Neither had it, as we saw,  made an impact of the kind a Delhi or Mumbai resident would have expected — people enraged and revolting. It’s all on the front pages of newspapers, a couple of stone throwers and women shouting slogans in a locality. Otherwise, life remains as cold-shouldered as ever in Srinagar, as if whatever is happening is the daily routine to be accepted as a way of life. How would a common man be bothered whether it is minus 10 or minus 40, as long as it remains  subzero temperature?
The situation in Srinagar has been pregnant with simmering unrest. Since the ’90s. The clashes on Srinagar’s streets are like a long-running fever, not an emergency that needs immediate surgical intervention. The common man is unable to send his kids to schools, fetch vegetables and daily needs to home as leisurely as in any other calmer Indian city. The sick people at home were stuck with pain and agony, shopkeepers were unable to have a full harvest of benefits in a  “tourist-peak” season, Boatmen (shikarawallas) were hurriedly trying to earn as much as they could in the lesser time, from fewer tourists. Most of the roads were bumpy and uncared for. Power supply was erratic forcing big shopowners to use generators and the smaller ones candles.
On our way to Anantnag, spread over a radius of 20km, on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway we saw hundreds of shops selling and displaying cricket’s willow bats, piled in hundreds on the road side. These bats are famous globally. More than 15,000 people are directly or indirectly associated with the industry. Kashmir willow is known around the world and is second only to the famous English willow. At first sight the market in Bijbihara and other townships looked innocently crowded. Women in burqas and girls without veils buying mutton, fish and pulses when the day was not declared a bandh by the separatists. But underneath, tension could be felt. The common man wants to make progress, send his children to school and a good institute. The youth are ready to take a leap.
While taking a boat ride on the Dal Lake late in the night, the shikarawalla ran a cassette in his tape player — and to my utter surprise, it turned out to be  a song from Anand Math, Lata singing “Vande Mataram”. Did he know what he was playing?  Met young men from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar arriving in the tourist season to earn money by selling “chaat” and groundnuts. The guides and locals do not forget telling the history of Jammu & Kashmir, which is the “second oldest after the history of the Jews” and is considered as old as 5000 years. Many legends narrate tales about the origin of the name Kashmir, but many unitedly believe that the land of Kashmir emerged when the saint Kashyapa drained the water from the lake Satisar by cutting a gap in the hills of Baramulla. This land came to be known as Kashyapmir after the name of the saint Kashyap and later became Kashmir. “Ka” means ‘Water’ and “Shmir” means “to desiccate”, hence Kashmir stands for “a land dessicated from water”. This story is also recorded in the Kashmir history “Rajatarangini” written by the Kalhana in the 12th century. This was told by a Muslim guide to me in Chashme Shahi. We did observe the martyrdom day of  Syama Prasad Mookerjee, at Shere Kashmir International Conference Centre, with the active  help of local Kashmiri Muslims. There are a huge chunk of them who are fed up with the separatists and want the India tricolour. I met Hindus, quite resigned to their fate, who narrated inspiring stories about Muslims who had  helped them to rebuild temples of Ram in Srinagar.
But the question is, who protects the Indian Kashmiri in the valley? Those who do not want to observe bandhs, do not support the closure of schools  continuously for weeks or months just because a separatist has given a call, fear for their lives if they dare to disobey the diktats of unlawful agencies, because they have no trust that the government will be able to provide them safety.
The bad governance and the policies of Delhi that support separatism in Kashmir have created an atmosphere in which Pakistan can have a field day using fifth columnists. Three generations have passed by since 1947. Who has told them they are as much Indians as are Biharis and Tamils? Has anybody studied what is taught to them in schools and madrassas? What Indian idea is prescribed  to them in the schools?
They are given a separate flag which is not given to another Indian state. They are given separate constitutional provision of Article 370, which is not given to any other Indian state. Except currency, foreign affairs and security they are autonomous in framing their own laws and they are at liberty to accept or reject any laws passed by the Indian parliament, which are otherwise automatically applicable in all other Indian states. The central government takes back economic packages earlier sanctioned to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, but for Kashmir money has never been a problem. They ask for 10, and get 100. And Indian planners on Parliament Street know how much of the money given  goes down the drain and still they have to tolerate the criticism, not enough has been done.
If Indian government feels that people in the Kashmir valley must be as Indian as our citizens from other states, isn’t it living in a fool’s paradise? The government tolerates all sorts of anti-national activities thinking that such appeasement will perhaps change the perception and thinking of the separatist Kashmiris. On the contrary, it has given encouragement to belligerent anti-nationals. Take the recent example of an unprecedented Jammu &  Kashmir Bar association president who made an open statement before the high court saying he was not an Indian and he did not believe in the Indian Constitution. No action has taken place against him till date. Why? The issue of human rights violations by the security forces in Kashmir has been taken up hundreds of times at national and international arena but violence continues unabated along with appeasement. No one demands an inquiry into the activities of those who openly incite violence and attack the security forces, which are working under constitutional authorities.

India is forced to reap the poison fruits of a Nehruvian policy, ignoring Syama Prasad Mookerje’s line of action on Kashmir. Unless we reverse the denationalization of the state, known as Jannat, things won’t improve. It’s time we had a leadership that would not say no to the demand to do away with the constitutional provisions that help separatism in Kashmir.

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