Empty Rhetoric !

Breaking his 32-day long silence on Kashmir, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a statement which is full of political rhetoric lacking substance to address the real issue concerning political aspiration of Kashmiris. 

“It is said that boys who should be holding laptops, cricket bats have been handed stones in their hands,” Modi said while addressing a rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Alirajpur district. This irresponsible and juvenile statement stereotyped Kashmiris as gullible and naïve who are ready to pick up a stone at someone else’s behest. 

“Every Indian loves Kashmir. The freedom that every Indian has also belongs to every Kashmiri. We want the same bright future for every youth in Kashmir,” he said. In which state have the government forces killed 60 civilians, injured 6,000 and made over 300 blind, he wouldn’t bother to explain.

“Whatever Kashmiris want for betterment of their livelihood, the Centre will help. We want development for Jammu and Kashmir. Be it the J&K government under Mehbooba Mufti or the central government, we are finding solution to all problems through development,” he added. The development of pellet guns and bullets, perhaps! 

For rhetorical purpose, Mr Modi again invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous words to end up saying nothing concrete how to address the Kashmir dispute politically: “There are ways, including dialogue, to resolve issues in a democracy. My government believes in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's mantra of "insaniyat, jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat (humanity, democracy and Kashmiriyat)." 



Mr. Narendra Modi’s silence over killings of 60 unarmed Kashmiris, grave pellet-and-bullet injuries to over 6,000 civilians and blinding of over 300 youths in the Kashmir Valley since July 9 is least surprising to most Kashmiris. After all, it has been India’s ‘standard operating procedure’ (SOP) to speak to Kashmiris in a language of power since 1947 with a sole aim of criminalising their political struggle.

In this endeavour of delegitimising Kashmiris’ struggle for the right to self-determination, understanding the language of India’s corporate-owned media and the armed forces operating in Kashmir becomes very critical.

For instance if 50,000 common Kashmiris, including women and children, will gather at a place to demonstrate peacefully for their political rights, the Indian media will use the word “miscreants” for such a huge assembly of people. Mind you, this is being done deliberately to mislead the common Indians that people in such colossal numbers have assembled at the behest of Pakistan, and, therefore, any amount of force used by government forces against them stands ‘justified’. For the sake of an argument, if everything in Kashmir is happening at Pakistan’s behest it is a telling remark on India’s own standing in Kashmir. That is, however, another story.

Not only this, when the trigger-happy paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and accountable-to-none armed forces open direct fire on peaceful and unarmed protesters, the injured are described as “stone pelters”, “miscreants”, “agitational terrorists” and “terrorist sympathizers”. This colonial language is employed by vast sections of the Indian media, especially television channels, and government forces to justify colonial practices in Kashmir.

Here is an example. A statement issued by the J&K Police Media Centre on August 8 reads: “….It is clarified that a mob of more than 2000 miscreants assembled at main chowk Langate (north Kashmir) and started heavy stone pelting on deployment and police post Langate, due to which 38 police/security personnel were injured. While dispersing the mob, 11 miscreants were injured, most of them due to stampede out of which three of them were referred to Srinagar. The condition of all of them is stable…”

Now look at this statement carefully and focus on the choice of words. First, the police use the term “mob” for common people. Secondly, they are described as “miscreants”. Thirdly, they are then accused of “stone pelting” on deployment and police post, Langate in north Kashmir. These are all blatant lies. The number of people participating in a demonstration is reduced by design. The people are shown as “perpetrators” and police as “victim”. Then derogatory terms are used to describe people and their actions or lack thereof. Police never comes up with solid evidence to prove that their men are indeed injured. If they are injured, they should be in the hospitals undergoing treatment. But that is not the case.

Now the question that arises is this: from where do the government forces gather such courage to peddle lies after lies in public domain? State’s shameless backing to violence against common people and a draconian law, which acts as a shield against persecution, are the two major factors behind this audaciousness. 

When Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and working President of the pro-autonomy National Conference (NC), was running a coalition government with the Congress from 2009 to 2014, more than 117 persons, mostly boys in their teens, were mercilessly killed by government forces during the summer mass agitation. Not a single guilty armed forces person was punished till date.  
This became possible because the armed forces enjoy impunity and a license to kill in Kashmir under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, AFSPA, which is in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990. The fact that hardly any perpetrator is punished only emboldens the armed forces to go berserk and enjoy a free run. 

Even in 2008, when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress were running a coalition government, more than 60 Kashmiri civilians, most of them in their teens, were killed when they were protesting against sanctioning of 99 acres of land to Amarnath Shrine Board. 

Having said that, it may well be very convenient and politically very smart for the junior Abdullah to ask New Delhi whether “it has declared a war on the people in Kashmir*” at a juncture when the PDP is heading a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, but the fact remains that he too could not prevent civilians killings when he was at the helm of affairs in 2010. 

On August 6, Omar Abdullah told this to 'India Today': “Has New Delhi declared a war on the people in Kashmir? Hundreds of young boys and girls have potentially life-changing injuries, most of them caused by pellet guns. Thousands of youngsters have sustained injuries in this unrest. To blame Pakistan for the unrest or to delude ourselves into thinking this is a law and order situation is criminal.
There is an extreme sense of resentment and disenchantment among the youth of the Valley and that is the basis of this unrest.”

(Source, India Today, August 6, 2016 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/omar-says-has-new-delhi-declared-a-war-on-the-people-in-kashmir/1/733866.html)

Delhi media is at liberty to dub Omar Abdullah as “Pakistan sympathiser” for making a statement that he has made as an Opposition leader. 

Now, look at another statement made by yet another pro-India legislator Hakim Yasin, Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF) chief and MLA Khansahib Budgam, who said that the Indian forces were repeating Jallianwallah Bagh massacre* in Kashmir on a daily basis.

“The way British used brute force on unarmed protesters at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919, forces in Kashmir are repeating the same in Kashmir every day. Why are unarmed protesters targeted by the forces in every nook and corner of Kashmir,” Hakim Yasin told the local media. 

(Source, Greater Kashmir, August 6, 2016 http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/story/224905.html)

The Kashmir story that the corporate-owned national media won’t tell ordinary and gullible Indian audiences is precisely this: Since July 9, 2016, at least 60 unarmed Kashmiris have been killed in cold blood by government forces; inflicting pellet and bullet injuries on 6,000 unarmed Kashmiris. Besides, more than 1500 Kashmiri youth have been arrested, some in nocturnal raids for participating in demonstrations. At least 1030 FIRs have been registered by the police for further persecution and harassment of the youth. And, the fact that Kashmiris are suffering under strict curfew and unprecedented restrictions enforced by the PDP-BJP government since July 9 along with a ban on mobile and data internet on all cellular services except the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), and with no outgoing call facility available to pre-paid mobile phone customers!

Last Friday, August 5, was Kashmir’s Bloody Friday. More than 400 Kashmiris received serious pellet-and-bullet injuries after government forces acted violently to stop people from demonstrating against the state violence across the length and breadth of Kashmir. Doctors at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital told me that at least 324 youth, hit with the pellet guns, are on the verge of losing their eyesight permanently. Doctors said that most boys have been hit in the eye which has damaged their retina beyond repair. “We have performed as many as 65 surgeries until Monday morning,” Dr Raashid Maqbool said.
Dr Ruveda Salam, a lady IAS officer from north Kashmir working as Assistant Commissioner at Ministry of Finance, Government of India, could not stop herself from speaking against the state violence.

On August 3, Dr Ruveda took a dig at Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her PDP by writing this on her Facebook timeline: “From wooing voters while wearing colour ?#‎green to painting ?#‎red the same valley streets, and then they question the credentials of the same religion whose symbols they used to mask their evil deeds” ?#‎hypocrisy couldn't get worse than this !”

In response to her post, she was harassed by a senior police officer who also made a misogynist remark by dubbing Dr Salam as “ignorant lady”. 

Police officer Harmeet Singh Mehta threatened Dr Salam of government action as if he was the PDP’s spokesperson. “Govt (PDP-BJP coalition government) must take action against you (Dr Ruveda Salam) as a civil servant spreading so much venum (venom) against state. Better resign and join some separatist group.”   

Following the assassination of popular tech-savvy Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8 under mysterious circumstances in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, the massive Aazadi rallies are being organised on a daily basis across the Kashmir Valley since. According to moderate estimates, at least 300,000 people had gathered in south Kashmir’s Tral, hometown of Burhan, to participate in his funeral. Such a huge assembly had already made a statement that India was losing a battle for narratives in Kashmir. There are many in Kashmir feeling scared of India as a Hindutva project led by a rightwing RSS. 

Kashmiris feel under severe attack from politics of invasion aimed at crushing their identity as Kashmiris and Kashmiri Muslims under a PDP-BJP coalition government. I pity myself for lack of intellectual depth to not having understood why the PDP-BJP partnership was a “paradigm shift” in Jammu and Kashmir’s political history, as the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed described the coalition in March 2015 in Jammu. Jab loag hi nahin rahenge, masala bhi nahin rahega! What a visionary the late was! Indeed, a 'paradigm shift'!

Even after 60 civilian killings and injuries to 6,000 Kashmiris in last 30 days, the state unit of  BJP has asked the government to deal with the current situation in the Kashmir Valley decisively and with an “iron hand”.  State BJP spokesperson Virender Gupta said that there was no option for the government other than meeting the challenge posed by the “separatists and terrorists supported by Pakistan decisively and with an iron hand otherwise the situation will deteriorate further and it may not be possible to bring back normalcy in the Valley.” 

At present the morale of the state police, CRPF and other security forces have gone down because of the recent happenings where lot of restrictions have been imposed on them,” Gupta a news agency. 
(*Source, NDTV, August 9, 2016 http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/deal-with-kashmir-situation-with-iron-hand-bjp-to-state-government-1441857?site=full)

This is Kashmir’s story. And this mini-Karbala is Kashmir’s ‘normalcy’ for which the Indian media obviously has no time. It will relentlessly debate cows, cow protection and cow vigilantism and how Modi beat the drums in Kenya, but will not gather moral courage to narrate Kashmir’s story with a human heart and an unbiased journalistic approach, shedding jingoistic spectacles and hyper-nationalistic binoculars.

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