Thus Spake Ram

‘Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others’ –

Winston Churchill

 And the eminent legal luminary and Supreme Court lawyer of India has exhibited the one. Candid and fearless he talked about some uneasy things. He put a question mark before some  tall claims. Exposed the hollowness behind attractive slogans, and opened up Kashmir to the world, from the eyes of an Indian. The plain-speaking amid the atmosphere of distrust, especially from the one who happens to be the sitting parliamentary member of BJP is bound to invoke interest. It’s most welcome and laudable.

 The press conference, the Chairman of the non-governmental Kashmir committee held in Srinagar (June 06) on his concluding five day visit to Kashmir, reflects that pain in Kashmir has begun to create a  constituency of pain in India, especially in some of  its vocal sections. The heat is now felt among the people outside Kashmir. Both compunction and confession, blended with compulsion to wriggle out of this tunnel seems to gain access in the thinking landscape, Malani being one of the patch in. The hardships– huge and unforgettable – of the people of Kashmir have not gone unnoticed. They are being marked. In particular, 2008 and 2010 have to a large extent helped change New Delhi’s narrative that whatever happens in Kashmir is Pak-sponsored. They are veering to the fact that it is indigenous. Though many political leaders and rulers in Delhi are yet hesitant to remove their blinkers.

‘Even such atrocities were not committed in Nazi Germany.  We were deeply pained to hear about the continuing human rights abuse and indiscriminate arrests of innocents. Kashmiris are living in a atmosphere of terror and tyranny’, the famous lawyer said addressing the news conference (GK: June 06, 2011),
Terming the detentions under the preventive laws as ‘disgraceful’ Jethmalani said: ‘Detention of persons for eighteen years without trial can never be justified’ and cited examples to substantiate his argument. How the people are treated in detention centers and police stations, he had but to choke his expression and restrain to: ‘I do not want to mention the bad things done in the police stations’. Describing the AFSPA, as an ‘evil law’, Malani called for removal of troops from the civilian areas.

 It’s what the people of Kashmir had been undergoing for the past two decades and giving their vent to. But unfortunately the civil society outside Kashmir never lent their ear to it and rulers responded by way of force. Through his frank expression, Malani has stamped his approval to what the civil society of Kashmir, human rights groups and many others outside Kashmir have consistently been pointing towards.

 In equating atrocities committed in Kashmir with those of Nazi Germany, Malani has underlined the broader questions of ethics and legitimacy. Nazis were neither secular nor democratic, the very fundamental principles that our rulers swear their loyalty to. But Malani cannot blame those within Kashmir alone. He cannot absolve the power centers outside. Omar Abdullah alone can not be targeted for this. Moreover, it is a coalition-government that is in place. The government in Kashmir Omar works with the blessings and support of the regime’s coalition partner, Congress. If his is Nazis regime, can New Delhi allow such a regime to prevail? And should it? If it prevails, or is allowed to prevail, doesn’t it testify that for Kashmir there are different parameters of governance. Different standards to follow. And that it derives pleasure in handing over Kashmir to “Nazis”.

  Not in any way defending the state government, one can ask why Jethmalani, who raises his voice against ‘Nazi regime’ in Srinagar, zipped his mouth when during the protest demonstrations last year 119 people, most of them in teens, were gunned down in Kashmir? Why he maintained silence then. Or when atrocities were inflicted during earlier years.

There are other questions as well. If the same state government sometimes tries to exert authority on law enforcing agencies, why it doesn’t find any supporters in Delhi? Why for prosecuting a soldier this government has to go groveling to Delhi to seek permission? And didn’t this ‘Nazi’ regime many a time demanded revocation of AFSPA and withdrawal of troops from towns and cities? A mere cog in the big establishment machine you call “Nazi”? Earth must turn flat at this canard.

 We salute Malani for demonstrating courage and reflecting ground reality. For introspection. For revisiting their Kashmir policy. Nonetheless, Kashmir committee Chairman is still having a blinkered perception or, put it bluntly, pursuing duplicity regarding what is happening in Kashmir. On mass-uprising that last year, Malani, in reply to a question, sniffs ‘outside interference’, and says ‘Kashmiris do not want freedom from India’. now this is not the way things can be summarized. Does this imply there is something more than meets the eye. And behind his candid expression the Jethmalani of 2002 stays the same. He may changed attire, but mind and soul are the same.