Demystifying Delhi’s discourse

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Shujaat Bukhari

SINCE July 8, when Kashmir broke into unprecedented unrest after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, I was persistently arguing that Delhi should read the writing on the wall and accept the crisis as the outcome of the denial that it was not a political issue. Taking part in TV discussions I was often confronted by those who represented the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying that it was Pakistan-sponsored agitation which often lures young boys for money. One would take it as a fire fighting method since Kashmir was burning and getting bad press for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, essentially at International level.
But two statements by senior ministers in Modi government past week made it amply clear that it lacked the basic comprehension about the place and it was bereft of any understanding as to what was happening on the ground. Again making us to believe that New Delhi has not changed its thinking based on the denial that Kashmir was not a political problem.
The statement by Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar even put their coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to shame and its members confided that they were caught in a wrong alliance. At a time when the PDP that is leading the tricky coalition in the state was trying to restore some order on the streets and wrestled with the joint Hurriyat leadership over holding the examinations to two crucial classes—10th and the 12th, the statement by Javadekar had all the ammunition to take the situation not only back to square one but also to endanger the lives of thousands of students who had opted for examinations to save their precious year of career. The examinations were held (with some concession in syllabus) and over 95 percent students preferred November session over March in order to catch up with important step next year by sitting in the common entrance examination that sends thousands of boys and girls to the professional courses. But the minister had his own theory to explain this attendance. Look at the statement he gave on November 15: “I’m proud of those children and their parents who are the strength of India. Education is the way to progress. They have understood and given this befitting reply. We have seen the surgical strike of the army, but this reply given by students is also a powerful surgical strike.” Absurdity too has a limit, and he could not have gone beyond that by calling it a surgical strike.
If the minister in the central government has this kind of assessment about how people have braved the last four months, one can imagine that the way the government has dealt with Kashmir is not something which is unexpected. The minister not only showed how poor he was in comprehension but tried to project these young boys and girls as a reply to what he called the “act of terrorists”.
Does he really believe that the uprising, which is political in nature and in which 96 civilians are killed by police and para-military forces, can be termed as terrorism? Rather than talking about the students who were blinded by pellets, he is trying to use the students as cannon fodder to further the state’s position that is unyielding.
One can have disagreement with the strategy adopted by the joint Hurriyat leadership since July 8 and it has been talked about but they never asked students not to appear in the examinations. They certainly called for deferment but they did not stop them from opting for the November session. Even if a number of schools were burnt but there was no resistance to sitting in examination and the protesters could do that easily as they had put the state apparatus on tenterhooks. Those who conducted examinations are also local Kashmiris and their grit and determination to see this happening need to be appreciated. But how come it is a surgical strike, only Javadekar and his ilk could elaborate, and that too when the original surgical strike against Pakistan had come under lot of questioning.
Similarly the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made a statement that, given the government’s own figures, does not match with the reality. As the Narendra Modi government was grappling with the fallout of demonetization, he boasted of a result that never was. Parrikar linked it with stone pelting incidents in Kashmir and to strengthen the government argument that those who indulged in stone pelting were being paid, he said “In the last few days after PM’s daring move, there hasn’t been stone pelting on security forces.
Earlier, there were rates: Rs 500 for stone pelting (on security forces in Kashmir) and Rs 1,000 for doing something else. PM has brought terror funding to zero. I congratulate PM for it”.
This has been a standard line adopted by the government not today but in past as well. What the state feels to say it can and that too without proving it. But in this case Parikkar was caught on wrong foot. In fact the level of incidents of stone pelting, according to state government’s own figures had drastically gone down in October itself. The truth is that the number of such incidents was proportionately higher after the demonetization.
The figures compiled by the state home department reveal that the number of incidents in July was 820 and in August it was 747. These showed decline in September ending at 535 and went down to a very low 157 in October. Before demonetization on November 8 the number was 48 and from November 9 to 14 it was 15. So looking at the figures belies the contention that demonetization helped to bring down the stone pelting. Even today sporadic incidents continue and there is no zero in this business.
Today I realize that it was futile to ask for a political approach in handling Kashmir. The government in fact is clueless and it perhaps believes that the use of power is the only way to tackle it. Apart from the inspiration of completely integrating Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian union that the BJP draws from its ideological fountain head, it is misleading itself on the basic facts. It may be finding at ease to see that level of violence has gone down and the fatigue is catching up the people but that is not the reality about Kashmir.
It has erupted in past and it will continue to erupt again and again unless addressed politically. If New Delhi believes that the turmoil is hitting the people only, who in turn would go against those spearheading the agitation, its calculation is grossly wrong as has been proven in the past. The way the ministers speak, it only shows how naïve the government is.
—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir