Shut up or die

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This was to be a literary column but on Saturday morning I changed my mind. I beg my readers’ forbearance. It was after a tweet by Congress media panelist Salman Soz, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi why it was that ever since the recent Kashmir crisis erupted, Modi had tweeted “hundreds” of times but not once on Kashmir. (This is also true of Modi’s townhalls and his Mann ki baat.) I phoned a friend in Srinagar, who laughed. “But who says Modi has been quiet?” he asked. “All this shooting at protestors, all of it is just Modi speaking to the Kashmiris.”
Modi-speak on Friday was particularly cruel. Three youngsters were killed and 200 were injured. (Another 400 on Saturday.) None of them were terrorists. But this is the pattern for the past month, since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death on July 8. Many had warned about the summer of discontent that was brewing; Wani’s funeral was the spark for its mainfestation. Kashmiris grieved in the lakhs. And for that they were fired upon. This is Modi-speak: shut up or die.
In this violent cycle of protests and firings, the number of demonstrations has decreased, prompting a bizarrely Orwellian phenomenon of the government telling the Supreme Court that law and order had improved. It has its own logic — Modi looks at Kashmir as a land dispute and not a people-problem, which would require a political solution. In Modi-speak, there is no politics with Muslims.
Yet, in this month, 60 people have died, and thousands injured, overwhelming doctors with pellet injuries. This is not an improvement of the situation by any measure.
The government deals with it by calling it Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Were this not the depth of cynicism, I might haved laughed at the government for not knowing the meaning of terrorism: the attack at Pathankot Airforce base was terrorism; Kashmiri political protest is not. Yet Modi-speak conflates the two, and why not. His followers don’t care. To the dismay of the writer Mirza Waheed, many youngsters declare that not only do Kashmiris deserve the repression, there ought to be more. Retired officials, from whom you’d expect sobriety, are like the ex-spy chief who recently asserted that “there is no freedom struggle” in Kashmir. Even a Mumbai editor on Facebook bragged about his ignorance of the Kashmir issue. A clinching qualification for his job, no doubt.
With this egging on, it is no surprise that in the world of Modi-speak, the deaths of hundreds, even a thousand Kashmiris, is acceptable. Crush dissent, teach a lesson. And yes, reply befittingly to Pakistan.
True, Pakistan has coveted Kashmir since 1947, though from 2003-2007, following former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee’s peace initiative, it was willing to settle the matter without changing borders. President Pervez Musharraf had even told Pakistan’s most avid ally, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to get out of peace’s way. Now Pakistan just sits back and has a grand time. Read its media — it’s back to the 1990s rhetoric, throating full support for Kashmir’s separation from India, reminding the world that this region is a nuclear flashpoint.
This makes little difference to the believers of Modi-speak; they anyway advocate no dialogue with Pakistan (remember, no politics with Muslims). Yet consider the consequences of letting our guns do all the talking.
With this stamping out of dissent, you demonstrate to Kashmiris what modern India is. “I’m not unhappy,” the Kashmiri friend says. “It’s now black and white. There’s no fig-leaf of secularism, Gandhianism, liberalism, etc.” Even the media’s quietude in the past few days — be it either ultra-nationalism or the State’s invisible hand — leaves them to believe that we are all Arnabs. It’s clear: no middle ground exists between Kashmiris and India. “No more Kuldip Nayars coming here as the acceptable face of India,” he says. The bridges have been burnt.
Modi-speak has turned against us generations of Kashmiris, including today’s children. Kashmiris during Vajpayee’s time were ready to make a fresh start after the devastation of the 1990s; such is no longer the case. There doesn’t appear to be a Vajpayee on the horizon. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict that the cycles of violence will only get worse.
I did not know what to say to my friend. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Even we don’t know what to say.”
And so I changed my column, begging your forbearance. Because I don’t want my country to lose its moral bearings; because a call to conscience is the need of the hour. Kashmir is not a land dispute (that would only legitimise Pakistan’s claim, dismissed by us since 1947); Kashmiris deserve a political redressal to live honourably; the heel of the jackboot is no solution. Trouble is, Modi-speak these days is loud, and direct.
The Article First Appeared HERE

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