Zero Tolerance to Crossed Fingers!

It is not enough to be a “Gentleman” selectively only. One has to act and stand up like a “Gentleman” in all situations, regardless of the consequences!

Manmohan Singh has the reputation of being an honest and upright “Gentleman”. In spite of umpteen numbers of scams being unearthed every other day, his person continues to be treated above board. The prime minister apart from being a man of integrity has had a brilliant career throughout.

Being an economist by profession he has been the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. He has also served in UNCTAD. He carried out revolutionary economic reforms during his tenure as the finance minister in the Congress Government headed by P V Narasimha Rao, from 1991 to 1996. These reforms resulted in the end of the Licence Raj system, helping to open the Indian economy to greater international trade and investment. He is in fact the author of globalisation of the Indian economy and he achieved this objective in the shortest possible time. He became prime minister of India by a strange turn of events. Sonia Gandhi as the leader of Congress hesitated to take on the premiership due to her foreign origin and the mantle fell on Manmohan Singh not only as a capable and honest person but also being a loyalist of the Gandhi family which quality he has demonstrated without any blemish. With unconditional support from Sonia Gandhi, he was able to conclude the Indo-US nuclear deal in spite of massive opposition. During this episode he demonstrated that in spite of being soft spoken and unassuming, he is capable of standing up to all opposition to implement what he believes to be in the overall interests of the country. However, in the case of a number of scams especially the one relating to 2G he appears to be on a weaker wicket because of his inexplicable silence. Silence in case of a scam also raises questions about one’s integrity. However, he has been on the weakest wicket in regard to Kashmir.

He started his Kashmir discourse by declaring “Zero Tolerance” for human rights violations right in Srinagar itself. Ironically, the declaration was made when the entire valley had been put under siege ostensibly to ensure his safety during the short visit! The expectations of common people had been raised by this bold declaration. Unfortunately, it proved to be damp squib and became rather a joke! The security forces indulged in brazen human rights violations with a vengeance after declaration of “Zero Tolerance”! But the prime minster instead of taking strong action to ensure implementation of his directive to stop these violations ate a humble pie. He did not even mention the words “Zero Tolerance” in his subsequent discourses. Maximum numbers of cases of these violations have occurred after the widely publicised declaration. One would have expected him to give a healing touch to the suffering people of Kashmir but he rather preferred to be a silent observer, only expressing distress off and on. It reflected total helplessness on his part. During last summer’s upheaval he did not act as the prime minister but as a mute spectator. Was it because he did not want to take cudgels with the strong Hindutva lobby within and outside the government? This could be true especially he himself comes from a minority community. Probably, his taking strong measures would have given more ammunition to the fanatic Hindutva brigade for whom anything pro-Kashmiri is against the “National Interest”? Or is it because he did not want to annoy Rahul whose friend had been facing a tough time in the state? Or is it because he did not want to displease Sonia Jee, the mentor who had placed him in his present position? Apart from the last summer’s gruesome events in Kashmir, the Prime Minister did not bother to follow fate of the working groups constituted by him on various aspects of Kashmir. Most of these working groups had submitted their recommendations for alleviating the sufferings of the common people of Kashmir, addressing at least their immediate grievances to some extent. These related to revocation of AFSPA, de-militarization of civilian areas and release of political prisoners. However, all these reports containing these recommendations are gathering dust in the state and central government offices.

The ultimate helplessness of the prime minister has been exposed by his recent remarks in the Parliament. While threatening the secessionists on one hand, he stated that he is keeping his finger crossed for the situation next summer in Kashmir. How can the prime minister of the largest democracy having one of the largest armies and security establishments keep his fingers crossed? Doesn’t he have the control over the massive set up he is presiding over? Or is it simply an escape from facing the reality and standing up to the truth? As the Prime Minister he is supposed to know the ground situation through the umpteen intelligence agencies operating in Kashmir. Apart from this he must be getting in puts from all over the world through diplomatic and other channels. At no other time in its entire history has the situation regarding violation of human rights in Kashmir been covered as extensively globally as has been done during last year or so! Even as an economist he knew that FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is shying away from India due to the security situation primarily emanating from the vexed problem of Kashmir. He has suggested an economic solution to Kashmir problem also. Just engage a hundred thousand people on a monthly dole and people will keep quiet! Why not to engage a million Kashmiris on the same lines? The cost will still be less than what India spends on security and defence related expenditures in the state. No able bodied young person will be left idle. However, all the “trouble makers” last summer were not without jobs! There were plenty of students in their early teens. The persons killed in cold blood by bullets against stones were mostly teenagers. It has been established by one and all that the unrest in Kashmir is not for economic reasons. The basic problem is political. Prime Minister’s journey from the “Zero Tolerance” to “Crossed Fingers” is a pathetic story. It does not reflect either a politician or a statesman but a simple and a true bureaucrat! It raises questions even on being an honest and upright “Gentleman”!

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