RSS chief's Muslim outreach, cinema launch in Kashmir mean little to traumatised community
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's interaction with Muslims was just opportunism ahead of Assembly polls, while the people of Kashmir are as alienated as ever due to oppression by the right-wing regime
Nothing really shocks or startles one in these dark times, not even the visuals of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat meeting and interacting with a group of Muslims or visiting a particular mosque in New Delhi to interact with the maulvis and imams present there.
A great majority of the Muslims of this country are extremely apprehensive and wary of the right-wing strategy and tactics. After all, they are well aware of the RSS literature. Many have read those books and booklets.
They are also witnessing and experiencing the communal poisoning and violence being unleashed all around. Accelerating as never before. I have been a witness to several communally surcharged phases in the recent history of the country, but the communalism that has now been unleashed had never been so blatant and brutal as it is today. These are indeed hopelessly dark times, as a certain agenda gets implemented, so very systematically and swiftly, under various garbs and camouflages.
With the political climate turning murkier and blatantly communal by the day, the right-wing speaks in different voices, to confuse and rattle the masses and with that halt a collective outcry.
The double standards hit as never before. Today, many are asking: With a ban on PFI, what about a ban on the Hindutva outfits and Hindutva brigades terrorising disadvantaged groups and minority communities?
Cinema can't help heal wounds in Kashmir
With the opening of a multiplex in Srinagar, cinema returns to the Kashmir Valley after a gap of 23 years. Last week, I was asked many times whether cinema can heal the ongoing trauma of the people in the Kashmir Valley.
No, it can’t. Wounds, bruises and pain can never be settled or even lessened by these distracting moves. Also, have we bothered to ask the Valley people what they want? What are their demands? We haven’t even bothered to find out the reasons to the growing alienation.
We have been also kept away from the significant facts and turning points of the history of the erstwhile state. Facts have been buried or bypassed. Vital facts about Kashmir are not even there in public domain.
Veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea had commented, “People tend to forget that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be treated like any other state. It acceded to India on 27 October 1947 on the condition of being given internal autonomy. Though the Muslims were in majority, they supported accession and helped the Indian troops resist Pakistan. But the gradual erosion of the state’s autonomy planted the seeds of alienation. Now, of course, the situation is messed up.”
And without taking facts and ground realities into consideration, there can be no way forward for the urgently needed dialogue with the Kashmiris. An atmosphere has to be created, in the context of what the Kashmiris want. Not what we can heap on them.
In a book on the life and times of the late editor Ved Bhasin, Vedji & His Times—Kashmir: The Way Forward (Selected Works of Ved Bhasin), edited by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, there’s a chapter titled ‘Jammu and Kashmir: Road Map for Dialogue’, where the veteran journalist listed several confidence-building measures (CBMs), which could help prepare a ground for dialogue to take off.
However, there’s also a note of caution: “It needs to be emphasised that there can be no ‘peaceful negotiated settlement’ of Kashmir, without the full and active participation of all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir living on both sides of the divided line. No solution should be imposed on the people of J&K and it should emerge through a process of multilevel dialogue.”
A political settlement to the crisis is urgently needed. New Delhi needs to return to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech of August 7, 1952 where he spoke of Kashmir and Kashmiris. He had said in the Lok Sabha, “We do not wish to win people against their will, with the help of armed forces.... We want no forced marriages, no forced unions.”
Today, the Kashmir Valley seems burdened with sorrow and disappointments. The right -wing rulers in New Delhi have had ample time and opportunity to put into action all their cries for development in the Kashmir Valley, when they had formed the alliance government with the PDP, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Mind you, even then, a large number of the PDP MLAs were quite uneasy with the alliance.
The PDP’s decision to get into this alliance had dragged along offshoots. One of the prominent faces of the PDP, Tariq Hameed Karra, was upset to the extent that he resigned. Days after his resignation from the PDP and also from the Parliament, I had met and interviewed Karra in September 2016.
Along the expected strain, my first query to this former MP was: why did he have to resign when he could have stayed on and spoken out in the Parliament?
He told me: “For the last several months, I hadn’t been attending any of the party meetings…feeling suffocated ever since the PDP decided to form the alliance with the BJP. This decision to resign from the PDP was a difficult one for me, as I’m one of the founding members of the party, but I listened to my conscience. How could I justify to my people that we formed an alliance with a communal party, the BJP? The way the situation has been handled in the Valley left me feeling outraged. So many Kashmiris killed… worst form of human rights violations. Mosques locked and closed by the government on Fridays and even for the Eid namaaz! I didn’t want to be a part of this government. From day one I have been against PDP’s alliance with a party like the BJP.”
He added, “It’s high time that the government stops its practice of looking at Kashmir as a territorial issue. It is about political aspirations. The state has its own flag and Constitution. This reality cannot be blanketed by economic, developmental or administrative issues. And where’s the so-called development taking place? Nowhere! Can you see any traces of development in the Valley?”
Instead of development, what was seen on ground were painful incidents. With that, the level of alienation and anger in the Valley only grew by leaps and bounds. Not just the average citizen of the Valley who was affected by the rising levels of killings but even those in the bureaucracy.
Shah Faesal, who topped the 2010 civil service examination and but in 2019 resigned from the Indian Administrative Service (he rejoined it this year), attributed his decision to the situation in the Valley. “To protest the unabated killings in Kashmir and absence of any credible political initiative from the Union government, I have decided to resign from the IAS… Kashmiri lives matter…”
Today, the Kashmiris continue to be forced to question the human rights violations, the missing people, the encounter killings, the tactics of the State agencies, unmarked graves and the countless dead lying tucked in those graves.
I am reminded of the use of a young Kashmiri as a human shield in the spring of 2017. Farooq Ahmad Dar (26) was seen tied to a military jeep, which was driven for 28 kilometres across various villages in the Valley. Dar wasn’t a terrorist. On the contrary, he could be termed as a ‘good citizen’.
That very morning, he had stood in a queue outside the polling booth at Arizal’s Chill Bras area to cast his vote for the Lok Sabha by-polls for the Srinagar constituency.
(Views are personal)