Thrown to the wolves

India is multiplying its debit account in Kashmir by
using familiar crude tactics to muzzle genuine discontent

It is now clear beyond doubt that New Delhi which is synonymous with ‘India’ in Kashmir has no appetite for learning from history. The crudeness of the central government’s rough and ready treatment of the entire population of Kashmir over the past few days once again proves that those at the helm of affairs at the centre are more interested in ‘teaching a lesson’ to Kashmiris than extracting the country from the mess created by successive governments in New Delhi and their obedient favourites in the state. The attitude and behaviour of the union home minister and home secretary demonstrated in the past four days, following virtual surrender of its authority by the state government, has a striking resemblance with the conduct of their long-time predecessors of 1960s who happened to be handling the aftermath of the theft of the Holy relic from Hazratbal shrine in 1963. Then, as now, political wisdom was put away on the shelf. The language and terminology adopted for handling the situation smack of colonial mindset. Nothing in that respect seems to have changed over the past nearly half a century.

The inhuman manner in which the entire population in the capital city and major towns of the Valley have been locked indoors, local press completely gagged, essential services like hospitals immobilised and threatening statements are being issued from New Delhi shows that it is futile to expect any worthwhile improvement in the situation.

State apparatus has been practically put out of action presumably for lack of confidence in its allegiance. Duly authorised persons have been barred from exercising their judgement in issuing curfew passes. Instead, wherever one goes or approaches for a curfew pass one only hears ‘Pillai Saheb ka hukum hai kih koi pass mat do’. That is exactly how it used to be when present home secretary GK Pillai’s that time predecessor Vishwanathan happened to be New Delhi’s choice as master of Kashmir’s destiny on the ground in 1963-64. The worn out term ‘anti-national elements’ was the most favoured description then as it is today. Vishwanathan brought his country to brink of disaster by stretching it too far and declaring that anyone demanding proper identification of the mysteriously lost and mysteriously found Holy relic was ‘anti-national’ and that he would be ‘shot dead’. A number of protestors and innocent citizens lost their lives because of that madness. But when the situation was about to get out of hand, wiser sense prevailed and Jawahar Lal Nehru rushed Lal Bahadur Shastri to takeover. That type of healing political touch is missing today. Total reliance on crude methods to‘set right’ the local population are once again bound to prove a costly bargain for the country and its larger interests in this state.

Gimmicks like phone intercept to backup the official version that the ongoing trouble was the handiwork of ‘anti-national elements’ are worn out over-used tactics. An obliging ‘national’ media might fall for the trick but it has no takers where it matters the most—in Kashmir. Perhaps that is why the local press and pressmen have been subjected to shameful gag. They are the people who have braved militancy and lost some precious lives over the past three decades. Today the whole lot of them is treated as suspects and dealt with shamefully. Movement of the press persons has been curbed, obviously with a clear cut design to put the local media out of action. Professionals including doctors are also being treated in the same crude manner. Patients in hospitals are suffering for want of treatment. Large scale arbitrary arrests, among them many children, are being carried out.

What all happened over the past three to four days seems to have pushed the ground situation back by more than three decades. Simmering hatred for ‘India’ is more than palpable. Yet there is not a word of realisation, much less sympathy or understanding from those who matter in New Delhi. Looks as if Kashmir has virtually been thrown to wolves. Voices including that of the beleaguered chief minister Omar Abdullah calling for a political approach have got drowned under the noise of jackboots strutting about the length and breadth of Kashmir. This stifling atmosphere provides a fertile breeding ground for deeper alienation that lies at the root of India’s troubles in Kashmir. Instead of addressing the real issue and mitigating its manifestation the central government seems to have embarked upon the same old disastrous path that has caused so much bloodshed on either side. The attitude has got to change, if anyone is still listening out there.