Vinod Mubayi


In a time of hyper-nationalism, reason and rational thinking go out the window to be replaced by chest thumping, calls for surgical strikes and revenge. The Pulwama episode reveals these features in gory detail. Indian TV anchors screaming like demented hyenas smelling blood if a guest dares to offer the mildest critique of the Government’s policies in Kashmir. Lynch mobs roaming the streets in many states outside Kashmir threatening and intimidating students of Kashmiri origin and forcing them out of their schools, colleges and hostels.


At the outset, the attack on the soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force claimed to have been planned and perpetrated by the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group based in Pakistan needs to be condemned unreservedly. We mourn the deaths of the CRPF personnel, victims of the suicide bombing. They came from all over India to serve in what is unfortunately regarded by most of the population of the Kashmir Valley as an occupation army. There is little point in hiding this basic fact. In an area where an occupation army simply does not have support among the majority of the population it is difficult to prevent such attacks as has been the experience of different armies in various countries over the last 50-60 years.


Charges have been made that there was advance intelligence about an attack that was not heeded or the authorities failed to implement measures that would have prevented the car of the suicide bomber from traveling on the road at the same time as the military transport vehicles. Such charges can and should be investigated but they cannot elide the fact that Kashmiri Muslims who constitute over 90% of the Valley’s population regard the Indian Army and paramilitaries as alien and celebrate those who attack it as heroes. The 19-year old boy Adil Ahmed Dar who perished in the suicide attack may have been instigated and trained by Pakistani handlers but he was himself a local Indian Kashmiri lad. His willingness to sacrifice his life and the fact that there are many others likely to imitate him testify to the depth of alienation among Kashmiri youth and the difficulty of preventing such attacks by military force alone.


However, it is more the behavior and response of the Indian political class, especially the BJP rulers and their trolls led by the 56-inch chest thumper Modi, which needs to be scrutinized. Lynch mobs target Kashmiri students and traders living in different states and the Prime Minister is silent or evasive. Are these attacks condoled by the highest echelons of the BJP leadership intended to win the “hearts and minds” of the Kashmiri youth? Education Minister Javadekar denies any harassment of Kashmiri students while a headline in the next column of the newspaper contradicts him directly. Kashmir is often referred to by the same leaders as the “atoot ang” (unbreakable part) of India. But the Kashmiri people it seems are not included; they are regarded merely as terrorists and saboteurs. The hypocrisy practiced at this level has persisted for many decades, with thousands of deaths and disappearances of protestors, the maiming and blinding by pellet guns of children who come out on the streets in protest, and other atrocities by India’s military and paramilitary forces.


The last five years of the Modi regime have been the most horrific. Saner elements in the Indian polity, including recently retired Army Generals have admitted that dialogue among the three stakeholders, India, Pakistan, and the people of Kashmir is the only path forward that has a chance of addressing this issue. But the current BJP leadership seems to be least interested in dialogue that it interprets as weakness. The hesitant forward steps to dialogue initiated by Vajpayee and later by Manmohan Singh are history now. Instead the talk is of surgical and not-so-surgical strikes and war with Pakistan that carries with it the danger of a nuclear holocaust among neighbors armed with nuclear weapons. Admiral Ramdas, former head of the Indian Navy and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, has warned in a letter to the President of India that “it is imperative that the situation should not be allowed to escalate into greater hostilities which it might not always be possible to contain.” But is Modi and the BJP/RSS leadership with elections only a couple of months away listening?

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