Abominable Snowman

Good sense, one hopes, will prevail some day in New Delhi for it to realize that the Kashmir valley is no abomination inhabited by the wild abominable snowman, the yeti, who some seven decades ago was a much sought after creature in the Himalayas with international media focused on it. Coincidence that the Kashmir and the Yeti stories did indeed peak around the same time, give or take a year or two. Inexplicably, as the snowman story went, the horrible creature would make those forays down snowbound Himalayan mountain slopes, “leaving behind” nothing but his huge footprints for the curious newshounds to wonder “who,why and how”. The snowman or the yeti myth earned many – only briefly – some ill-deserved mini fortunes, most of the beneficiaries, of course, from my calling, with the odd Sherpa or clever photographer making smaller pickings here and there. The snowman probably never existed and is indeed dead and forgotten but there apparently is no end in sight to the Kashmir saga, if that be the word to describe the tragedy that has befallen the State. And with no end to the misery in sight.

Strange,though, that with the Yeti and the snowman of the Himalayas gone and no more than a whimsical fancy now, New Delhi’s newly-appointed tracker-in-chief of the Yeti’s Kashmiri counterpart seems unaware of the Kashmiri snowman’s existence. Mr Dineshwar Sharma somehow appears unable to find the right quarry in the valley; strange for a highly regarded retired Central Intelligence Bureau chief who is known to have had in the past a longish spell in the State as a ranking intelligence operative. To say the terrain is unfamiliar to him would be an understatement.

Unlike the chronicler of the original Yeti escapades today’s more innovative story-teller would dismiss it as another diversionary move to bring the ISI and the RAW into the picture. But we also have the other breed, blessed souls, who would want to convince you that yeti or no the Valley is unquestionably inhabited by a number of ingrates, unable to tell after seven decades and more which side of their bread is buttered and by whom. Or, more likely, and without hesitation, the Kashmiri may in their book well have been written off and put into the enemy slot, on the other side of the fence. How often, indeed, haven’t I have heard the desh bhakts yelling “we gave you this “, “we gave you that” and, the worst, “we fed you all these years”. And this, when, rarely indeed has one heard of a Kashmiri ever dying of starvation, not an uncommon phenomenon in the plentiful plains; one has also learnt to hear that other one about “we have pampered you at the cost of our own people.

Yes, you will find this mentioned in many dispatches published in in journals of saffronish hue. Judge for yourself the merit of the rant against the valley, of it having got the best of everything all these past decades. Remember the Rs. 80,000 crore aid package New Delhi granted to the State when the valley stood all but obliterated by the high floods of 2014, the year that also “blessed” the State with the oddest of political marriages . And believe it or not you have good intelligent people who do sometimes believe that Kashmir is finally at peace with itself, with the Security Forces. The ground reality, though continues to be different with the Security Forces and the militants battling it out day after day, the Forces with their preference for cordon-and-search operations causing entire localities subjected to unaccustomed hardship, even by Valley standards.

Mr Dineshwar Sharma, the area specialist and interlocutor, is meanwhile scouring the innards of the valley, never mind the chillae kalan (the frozen fest), administering to the problems faced by the yeti communities; and constantly watchful that no wrong footprints are visible in ill-lit, snowbound gullies and koochas. Dangerous fellows, these snowmen, capable of negotiating the worst terrains. And hence the need for the Security Forces to be visible everywhere.

If you ask me, there is little that the new area specialist has to bring to the table. Meeting delegations of doubtful representative character may seem fair to many but Mr Sharma has indeed had deeper insights than those conveyed to him by disgruntled elements. Mr Sharma by all accounts is a decent man, a professional to the core but am surprised that nearly three months into new office he is in is capacity as interlocutor confining himself to the outer political fringes. He is credited with the view that he was willing to meet the separatists then why the delay. Or, is he fearful of a repeat of Prof Ghani fiasco. The time taken in preliminary investigations– looking out for symptoms when the disease is rampant and staring you in the face – doesn’t look encouraging and may indeed put a question mark over the doctor’s intentions. No point at all in stating the obvious that Kashmir is in deep trouble.

An Aurangzeb, a Ranjit Singh or his General have nothing to do with it; or, who knows, the three of them together they may have something to do with it. The saffronites have never hesitated making pointed references to the historical aspect. They have been beating that drum of separatism for almost 90 odd years of the founding of the RSS. Of this we had a limited exhibition only three days ago when some saffron leaders in Jammu objected to granting of relief to State’s tribal population, Gujjars and Bakarwals in common parlance. They State BJP saw it purely from the communal angle, unmindful of the subhuman conditions in which these tribals live. And the objection clearly was to the majority of the tribals being Muslims. And this ridiculous objection by a party which wants the marginally less numerous Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir to be declared a minority. Why? It might gain them some of the privileges presumed to be in existence for national minorities like Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Jains. You can’t be more ridiculous than that. And there seems to be no end to this sense of victimhood being projected by by all kinds of Hindu sects and sub-sects. Why? It means more reservations, more admissions to universities (fake or real, you will never know) and, of course, more jobs. When a Kashmiri Muslim asserts a similar right nine times out of ten he will be turned down. For, he is suspect.

A combination of the snowman and the yeti. And whenever you hear of a Kashmiri young man coming atop of a Central Services test it’s to be accepted as a token of our secularist idealist pretensions. When in simple words it’s merit. And in the saffronised world of the Hindu Rashtra of whose imminence we were warned only the other day by one Mr. Modi’s bright young Cabinet colleague, most of us might find ourselves pushed up the snow-clad Himalayan slopes, mere footprints for future Yetis to follow. For the present be assured that the saffronites will require at least another three years for them to be able to fine tune their labs to reshape India, that is Bharat, that will be Hindu Rashtra. Y’see they are far too busy putting together numbers to give a Constitutional overhaul a veneer of legality. And mind you in saffron land of the parivar dream it’s not just the future that is unpredictable, it is as much applicable to the past.