The familiar Kashmir itch seems to have bitten the entire political class. All-party conferences and on-the-spot visits, ostensibly to offer a verbal salve to those who seek nothing less than azaadi, are yet again on the cards. This is a much traversed territory. We have been there before. And several times. Whether this charade is for the benefit of the secessionists or for the editorial classes, whom a venerable minister of the regime politely dubbed as “intellectual terrorists”, is not known. But what is known is that the outcome of the latest round of the mulberry bush is unlikely to be any different from the countless others preceding it.
Are we as a people dumb not to see that so long as we are unable to enforce our writ in Kashmir—without the use of force, if possible, otherwise with the use force—there is no way slogans of azaadi will cease piercing the ears of Indians wherever they might be? You cannot continue to pretend that those who target the police and the security forces with Pakistani guns and grenades are amenable to any sort of reason or persuasion.
Since the politicians, including those who were in power till recently and are well aware of the futility of such effete gestures, as a class lack the courage to state the nature of the beast in Kashmir, they per force must talk of talks with the stakeholders. What talks? What stakeholders? A handful of militants cannot claim to supersede the stake that every Indian has in Kashmir. Kashmiris alone do not have a stake in Kashmir. Every Indian has.
It is utter nonsense to grant jihadis veto over Kashmir. That way can only lead to the disintegration of the republic. There is a great falsity abroad that only those who chant slogans of azaadi and pelt stones and other missiles at the security forces have a say in what happens in and to Kashmir. You break Kashmir. And you wreck the secular foundations of the Indian state. Simultaneously. Are “intellectual terrorists” ready for that? Or maybe some of them are, for they are so avant garde in their views that the sanctity of India as a nation-state evokes little love, little concern. They are happy feathering their own cocooned nests with borrowed anarchist and post-nationalist ideas.
Let us be clear. History of insurgencies, home grown or foreign-inspired, has one common thread running through them all. Security forces need to be able to establish an upper hand before any negotiated settlement is possible. We, on the other hand, have always forced the security forces to fight the well-armed jihadi networks with one hand tied behind their backs. The point is that for the Kashmir problem to be settled we need to first ensure that the security forces “settle” the jihadis. Only then a political settlement can be discussed. But we reverse the order, thus allowing the thugs to talk from a position of strength.
Yes, we know that one of the monumental follies was that we took the aggression of Pakistan to the UN, thus, in principle, conceding that Kashmir was disputed. Indira Gandhi had the best opportunity to undo her father’s folly but she too slipped up, allowing Bhutto to walk free from the debris of East Pakistan in Shimla, instead of making him commit, in writing, that the actual line of control in Kashmir would be the international border. We have paid a huge price for the blunders of the so-called superior leaders.
However, when we insist that Kashmir’s accession is final and irrevocable, where is the need to engage those who seek azaadi? Indeed, those who begin to froth at the mouth at the mere mention of revisiting Article 370, as if it was written in stone, fail to see their own hypocrisy while showing little faith in the foundational pillars of the same charter which prioritises territorial integrity over all else. Without territorial integrity, there can be no India as we know it. Partial constitutionalists lend succour to separatists when defending Article 370, but not the accession of Kashmir to India.
Now whether it was the Basque separatists or the IRA, those whose task it was to deal with the terrorist mayhem did not really care what the political class was doing, and vice versa. In other words, keep the political separate from the security concerns—and give the security forces a free hand. Yes, there will be casualties on both sides, there will be heart-rending human tragedies, even some excesses too, but those who wage a war to break this country deserve no mercy. It is being misguided to dub the professional troublemakers, the grenade- and stone-throwers as misguided youths. And defenders of India’s unity cannot be abused as heartless killers and aggressors.
No, sir, such a weak-kneed approach has bled us all along. Narendra Modi, we thought, will put an end to this slow haemorrhaging of India and try something out-of-the-box, something effective to quell the challenge from the Pakistani jihadis. So far he has done nothing of the sort. Fear of the editorial classes seems to have got to him too. Which is such a pity.
If he fails, there will be no stopping the secularists handing over Kashmir on a platter to the secessionists. Because a defeatist syndrome has gotten hold of the secularist-liberal class, it would rather sup with the anti-national thugs than extinguish their challenge. But Modi must.
FALLOUT OF SLAPGATE
The last is yet to be heard on the most recent slapgate involving Tamil Nadu politicians. AIADMK member of the Rajya Sabha, Sasikala Pushpa had slapped the DMK RS member, Trichy Siva, at the Delhi airport on 1 August. In turn, she was slapped hard by the party boss and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. While Siva had not been seen in Parliament ever since, Pushpa has remained holed up in Delhi, afraid to go back for fear of attacks by the AIADMK cadres, especially because she refuses to resign from the RS. Now, not only does she refuse to resign, she wants Jayalalithaa to expel her so that she can retain her seat without being bound by the restraints of party discipline.
Meanwhile, the reason why she slapped Siva has led to much speculation, with some people suspecting a relationship gone sour. Incidentally, Pushpa is lucky. The AIADMK founder, M.G. Ramachandran, it seems, used to whiplash against party leaders who came up short in his eyes. Even the DMK heir apparent Stalin is alleged to be free with his hand, hitting party workers occasionally. In this respect, leaders from the North at least exercise due restraint.
A SUB-CONTINENTAL DISEASE
Junketing at taxpayers’ expense is probably a sub-continental failing. While Pakistan’s contingent to Rio Olympics has three times more officials than players, India has already made headlines due to the overbearing attitude of an aide of Sports Minister Vijay Goel. Why should Haryana send a minister-level delegation to Rio, though Anil Vij may not be guilty of doing anything which his Congress predecessors had not before?
But what really takes the cake is the reported decision of the BCCI to send a big contingent of cricket officials with the Indian team, which is set to play a couple of friendly matches in the US. As many as 29 cricket administrators from as many state cricket associations will accompany the team consisting of 14 players. Small wonder then the Apex Court feels encouraged to intrude itself into the affairs of the BCCI, though strictly going by the Constitution its intervention remains questionable, a point made forcefully by former SC judge Markendey Katju.