Modi's decision to celebrate Diwali in Kashmir is not only absurd but reflective of his communal and ruthless politics


Prime minister Narendra Modi’s latest announcement to celebrate Diwali with the flood victims of Kashmir sounds bizarre, to say the least. Diwali has never been a popular festival in Kashmir. Majority population of Kashmir celebrates Eid and even for the microscopic minority of Kashmiri Pandits, the main festival is Shivaratri. Diwali is a major festival only for the huge mass of central security forces and armed forces stationed in the Valley. If this is a bid by Modi to impose his own brand of secularism, then he should have done a parallel act of celebrating Eid in Varanasi or Nagpur with a Hindu majority population. The move either stems from complete ignorance or abject mischief. Whatever be the case, the simplest import of this fresh Mission Kashmir would either be that the prime minister considers Army as the sole victim of floods or that he wishes to make a reluctant population a part of his celebrations. In either case, it may be a crude prank pulled up on the people of Kashmir already reeling under the most devastating crisis of all times. Bogged by misery of the havoc that rains and floods wreaked on Kashmir, the people further feel let down by both the inefficient state government and the insensitivity of the Centre which has neither offered enough support to the flood victims in terms of rescue and relief, nor allowed expert international agencies to suitably help them.

Prime Minister could have offered a better Diwali gift to the people of Kashmir by ensuring better co-ordination between central and state governments for relief and rehabilitation, more aid for economic revival and reconstruction of vital infrastructure and by giving the much needed green signal for foreign aid agencies to come and help with relief and rehabilitation work in Kashmir. However, he has decided to use the occasion of Diwaliperhaps as a goodwill gesture, if it really is not a vote bank tactic in run up to proposed assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. However, this would still be a case of fitting a square peg into a round hole. If it were meant to be a goodwill gesture, then it would have been more advisable to spend the day of Eid with the people of Kashmir, who celebrated the festival in the most somber way ever just about a fortnight ago. 

Another question related to his decision of celebrating Diwali in Kashmir is about how he intends to do so. Even with all his power and the best of infrastructure at his disposal, he cannot reach out to all the flood victims. Does he intend to visit a view relief camps or address some rally at some fortified zone where he expects homeless and foodless craving for something to eat and get their hands on a warm blanket will rush to listen to him on a day that is of no significance to them. Or would he simply celebrate the occasion in a sealed army zone with the jawans who were also victims in the floods? Or would he simply take a chopper ride and assure the people of his presence in the skies? In any of these cases, the focus of the visit as is the usual would be on the security drills, imposing restrictions on people and relief workers, snapping communication lines further and holding an entire population hostage, even if he is ultimately able to reach out personally to a handful of flood victims. Ultimately, an exercise projected to be a healing touch would simply turn out to be a case of rubbing salt over wounds as the visit of any dignitary his stature imposes an additional physical, security and psychological burden on the majority population. Pragmatism and sensitivity would lie in reaching out to the flood victims in other multiple ways, even if Diwali has to be turned into a opportunity, not in finding reluctant population to celebrate an event which means nothing to them at a time when all they need is basic needs not an extravagant tamasha which is ruthless and brutal in its very nature and smacks of a dangerous Hindutva agenda.