The Politics of Rebounding Rhetoric
Many of our ‘secularists’ have rushed to blame the BJP for the attack on the AAP office in Ghaziabad without any clear evidence, just because the attackers were from a Hindu rightist outfit, but, of course, these very ‘secularists’ don’t believe that AAP members being attacked in Amethi by Congress workers deserves any discussion!
As an educated Indian who believes that the rule of law is the very edifice of democracy, I condemn the attack on the AAP office in Ghaziabad. Prashant Bhushan is a citizen of India and has the right to freedom of speech and expression, and to suggest that there should be a referendum as to the military presence in the valley or whether the AFSPA should be operational certainly does not amount to sedition, and if some believe that talking about a plebiscite in the valley does, then they can move a sedition case against Bhushan, but violence is unacceptable. In any case, the AAP had clarified that these were Bhushan’s personal views.
Having said that, I do not endorse Bhushan’s oversimplified analysis.
While the UN resolution to conduct a plebiscite did take off ceremoniously, it fell through as Pakistan refused to hand over its occupied territories to India (a prerequisite as per the resolution), and as a result, the valley continues to remain a part of India. In any case, the scope of arriving at a consensus outside the domain of the UN resolution exists in the scenario post the Simla Accord.
True, there are serious allegations against Congress governments at the centre of having rigged elections in Kashmir, but as eminent Indian journalist MJ Akbar pointed out once in the Jaipur Lit Fest, if that in itself was to be a valid ground for secession, then Pakistan should have disintegrated ages ago!
And though I have the highest regard for the men in uniform who suffer and sacrifice for our security, one cannot deny that there have been gross human rights violations (such as rapes, fake encounters and forced disappearances) by rogue elements in the Indian military and paramilitary forces, but that again, by itself, does not make for a ground of secession, and high-pitched exaggerated propaganda apart, there has been no genocide in Kashmir, the likes of which we saw in Kosovo or Darfur, and human rights violations by some rogue security personnel, though not in the least justified, take place in every conflict zone across the globe.
Not to speak of the killings and forced displacement of most of the Kashmiri Hindus and pro-India Kashmiri Muslims or those seen to be so (such as the old, bed-ridden Maulana Masoodi who was killed in cold blood) by the jihadist militants (as for the baseless conspiracy theory of the exodus of the Hindus being at the behest of Governor Jagmohan, this article does a remarkable job of busting the myth -), other than the militants having even gone about committing atrocities against the average, secessionist Kashmiri Muslim for extortions, at times even engaging in forced marriages.
The need of the hour in Kashmir is to engage the people and make them understand how the separatist narrative is flawed and how their best interests would be served by way of Kashmir remaining a part of India.
Indeed, there have always been Kashmiri Muslims (especially those who prefer secularism over theocracy) who believed that Kashmir ought to remain a part of India, and some of them, in 2010, even participated in the BJP function observing the day commemorating the martyrdom of eminent Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee who had undertaken a fast unto death for the abrogation of a special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, and this constitutional provision is something the BJP has always been against and the introduction of this provision back in 1949 had stirred up a very heated debate even within the Congress, as BJP leader LK Advani has pointed out in his personal blog.
BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has done well to highlight the need to debate this issue, which implies an approach of engagement rather than imposition, given that the subject is undoubtedly a very sensitive one for the Kashmiri Muslims.
Coming to Bhushan’s suggestion that the military presence in the valley and whether the AFSPA ought to be operational be decided by a referendum, to suggest that matters of national security be decided upon by laypersons is ridiculous to say the least, and in this context, especially bizarre, given that it is widely believed that the Afghan Taliban, routed in their own country, may make Kashmir their theatre of conflict after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, and in the light of how porous the Line of Control is at certain places, one cannot expect that our jawans at the border would be able to stop the infiltration in its entirety.
As for the AFSPA, the honourable Supreme Court has already held that it would not apply in cases of rape and murder (Read here), owing to which immediate action was taken against jawans who had recently shot dead a cowherd and even prior to the landmark judgment, hundreds of rogue soldiers had been convicted. Recently, six soldiers are being tried by the court martial for a fake encounter (read here); so, the trend is positive! Repealing the AFSPA can open a Pandora’s Box of frivolous allegations to weaken the morale of our forces, something we can ill-afford.
The BJP has done indeed well to oppose the stand taken by Bhushan. It is time that Bhushan, for the sake of his party and the country, stops making irresponsible remarks about Kashmir and focuses on other important public policy issues.