Cauldron of unrest

Well into the second month now, the cauldron of unrest in Kashmir valley, of wanton killings of protestors, the young in particular, of enforced shutdowns, ordered by authorities and the protestors alternately, shows but little signs of cooling off. Mr. Narendra Modi, among others, has failed to understand the gravity of the situation, the severity of the suffering inflicted on Kashmiris living in the valley. And a shame it is for all of us, living in other parts of the country, to be mute witnesses to this violent abuse of power.

Let this one figure speak for itself: provided by the CRPF to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court; it admits that the Central Reserve Police unleashed 1.3 million pellets in 32 days in the valley to control street protests, causing injuries, ranging from blindness to partial loss of vision, to 400 demonstrating citizens. Not to mention the 68 deaths caused during clashes between security forces and crowds of agitators.

The State Government led by Mehbooba Mufti continues to soldier on, denied the support she would have needed from Delhi to heal the wounds inflicted. A pity that it should have been so, given that the BJP which rules in Delhi is a coalition partner of Mehbooba’s in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP bigwigs in Delhi seem to have opted in favour of teaching the Valley a lesson or two with an unprecedented show of force. So much so that a lone cry in support of the valley in distant Bengalaru has ended up in the saffronite student wing preferring sedition charges against the organizers and a pliant administration acting with great alacrity to register a case.

The Modi dispensation chose to ignore the sane advice from the Chief Minister: of peace and reconciliation. No negotiations before restoration of peace is the answer the Indian Home Minister gave. And to confirm that he means business 4,000 additional CRPF men were reportedly airlifted to the valley on the eve of India’s Independence day.
The word from New Delhi is tailor-made to soothe ears south of Pir Panjal and enrage those caught in the cauldron. One wonders what to make of words solemnly uttered by men in authority there – no less than by the Prime Minister himself – that the Indian leadership is sincere about following the Vajpayee line, essentially notable for its commitment to humane and democratic values which certainly is not the ground reality as the valley continues to groan and moan under the iron heel of the Security Forces.

Mr Modi’s latest on Kashmir and his ‘no’ to the dialogue process with Kashmiris, let alone Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan, shuts the windows of opportunity. Only in theory is there value to the argument that cessation of violence is a pre-requisite to talks; a more pragmatic approach would at least have kept half a door ajar for the back channels, overt or covert, used as a safety valve of sorts.

Seldom before has a Prime Minister’s speech on India’s I-Day caused so many to see red as in Narendra Modi’s 90-minute effort from the Red Fort, both because of what he said and what he chose not to talk about.
Not even a minute of the meandering talkathon spared to make a reference to the violence in the valley. Yes, Kashmir did enter the long monologue but only for Mr Modi to lay claim to parts of the old princely State of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani control for almost seven decades. The fireworks on Gilgit, Azad Kashmir (POK) etc were extended much relish to Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan, in an obvious attempt to add some pep to an otherwise dull self- adulatory narration.

Or, was it just another BJP ploy to earn cheap brownie points as the party of Akhand Bharat, intended essentially to spice up the offering which, in fact, had nothing to offer to the victims of the five-week old strife in Kashmir nor even to the Dalits and other minority communities in the country that continue to be at the receiving end of the malevolence put on offer by the saffronites.

Or, was it that the change in tone and tenor at the Red Fort peroration was in fact the realization that Modiji might have overplayed his “statesman” card a bit too often. Could it be that Delhi realised that Pakistan has continued to retain the initiative, ramping up terror whenever it wanted and pulling back from carefully crafted negotiated agreements for cooperation when it so chose. May be Modi now wishes to explore alternatives.
Modi’s initial bet on positive transformation of ties with Pakistan and China had inevitably run into structural problems that beset India’s engagement with both countries. May be Modi finally saw no option but to come to terms with their fusion in Kashmir and Baluchistan.

True, intemperate remarks by Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi on the Pakistan national day, provided just the kind of an opening Modi needed to do some plain-speaking, as a sympathizer put it. But was that reason enough for the Indian Prime Minister to descend to the puerile tu-tu mein-mein of the street-smart variety. Nor does the hyphenation of Kashmir and Baluchistan do any good to India’s cause as was evident when the Valley this year suffered its most violent Independence day in decades.

As for the talk of regaining areas under Pakistani control it seems rather fanciful when one thinks of the fires raging across the Valley for almost six weeks now. Yes, the ritual of laying claim to parts of the old State of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani control may have existed for long but it has always remained a ritual and no more. Shimla accord for the rest did outline the broad contours of future Indo–Pak dialogues including on Kashmir.

This alone would render the Prime Minister’s Red Fort declaration meaningless. It certainly doesn’t make any sense unless it be the BJP government’s case that it won’t settle for anything short of an open confrontation with Pakistan; it also would spell, or so the saffronites believe, an end to the Valley’s centrality to any future accord.

Or, who knows, the saffron parivar may have other plans up its sleeve. To its credit it must be admitted that the parivar, which includes the BJP, has only put its Kashmir plan on the back-burner, a concession to its coalition partner in the State. Remember abrogation of Article 370 and old hardy ones like ek vidhan, ek nishan, ek pradhan are right there on the back-burner. That’s how the parivar plays its games.
Meanwhile, the Valley must continue to bleed.