“Why fear?” This government advertisement blazing on the front page of many dailies in Jammu and Kashmir on last Friday is a Freudian slip that calls the bluff on the Modi government’s claims about normalcy in the Kashmir Valley.
The full-page advertisement by Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration sought to coax people into resuming their normal life – open shops, attend offices and send children to schools.
“Who benefits from closed shops, no public transport?” – read the government advertisement.
Amid security lockdown, people of the Kashmir Valley have been observing a self-imposed civil curfew by shutting their shops and remaining indoors to protest the communications blockade, mass detention of political leaders and teenage boys whom the security forces suspected of being potential “stone pelters”.
Even though the government recently told the Press Council of India that its fact-finding team can’t go to Kashmir, it is encouraging tourists to visit Valley. Earlier, on August 2, the state administration had issued a security advisory.
It asked tourists to leave Kashmir, citing terror threat after a sniper gun and a landmine mysteriously appeared en route the yatra to Amarnath. Thereafter, students, workers and labourers from other states had scrambled out of the Valley in panic and distress. A few days later, the Centre revoked J&K’s special status on August 5. Embedded journalists have been peddling government’s “All is Well!” narrative since then.
Paradoxically, the advertisement has blamed militants for intimidating Kashmiris—who were not evacuated in the wake of terror threat. “Are we going to succumb to militants? Think!!!”
But despite such grave threats, the government is going ahead with the Panchayat polls which have been boycotted by all prominent political parties including the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress. The government’s move to release political leaders in Jammu region and allowing delegations to meet prominent Kashmiri leaders who are under detention haven’t evoked any encouraging response either.
“For over 70 years now, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been misled. They have been victims of a vicious campaign and motivated propaganda that has kept them trapped in an endless cycle of terrorism, violence, destruction and poverty,” the advertisement screamed.
“How long are we going to tolerate this?” - it asked, adding, “This is our home. It is for us to think of its well being and prosperity. Why fear?”
“People of J&K are happy over abrogation of Article 370 provisions as they will now get benefits and entitlements at par with citizens of rest of the country,” claimed Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar recently, echoing the claims of the Modi government. But he conveniently hid the fact that J&K had been far better off than most Indian states on the human development indices scale.
However, even if local residents are happy over the revocation of state’s special status, why are then mainstream political leaders, including former chief ministers, still under detention? Why are students not showing up in the schools, colleges and universities? Why are the business establishments closed? Why are the streets and roads deserted? Why do the communications blockade and media restrictions continue?
The government has no answers.
Like the one-way ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of PM Modi, the government has been issuing many full-page advertisements to the local newspapers over the past two months, justifying its unilateral action on Article 370 and 35A. These front-page advertisements in each prominent local newspaper cost the state exchequer anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs one lakh.
Notably, prominent Kashmiri newspapers have stopped publishing editorials or are avoiding publishing opinion pieces on political developments as a mark of silent protest.
Last Friday’s advertisement wants the world to believe that Kashmiris have collectively developed a Stockholm Syndrome. The grim reality, however, is that the government is overlooking a mass civil disobedience movement building up in Kashmir.
On the eve of the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, PM Narendra Modi, wrote in The New York Times about Mahatma Gandhi. In his article, Why India and the world need Gandhi, he said, “Let us work shoulder to shoulder to make our world prosperous and free from hate, violence and suffering. That is when we will fulfil Mahatma Gandhi’s dream, summed up in his favourite hymn, ‘Vaishnava Jana To’, which says that a true human is one who feels the pain of others, removes misery and is never arrogant.”
Does he really understand the pain of Kashmiris under siege? Will he shun arrogance and remove the misery of Kashmir where Gandhi had seen a “ray of hope” when India and Pakistan were experiencing violence at the time of Partition.
Addressing a “national committee” meeting chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind to plan the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji in May last year, PM Modi had told the gathering that the nation should celebrate the anniversary “in action” and not through “tokenism”. Will PM Modi walk the talk and give a befitting tribute to Gandhiji in a real sense instead of relying on strong-arm tactics and Machiavellian manipulations?
“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands even if there be no public support. It is self sustained,” Mahatma Gandhi had said.
Every lie of the Modi government on Kashmir has started getting exposed, reinforcing “Satyameva Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs)”, enshrined on our National Emblem which was adopted when India became a republic.
The government can treat Gandhi just like a decorative totem at its own risk but can’t find any substitute for truth. It must get its ostrich-like head out of the sand and acknowledge the ground reality of locked-down Kashmir. The sooner the government realises its misadventure, the better it will be for the country and the people of Kashmir.