Will situation in Kashmir remain like this?
Kitni Khubsurat Ye Tasveer Hai
Mausam Bemisal Benazir Hai
Ye Kashmir Hai... Ye Kashmir Hai..!
Some 35 years ago this song of the Bollywood movie Bemisal was a super hit. That time we used to hum this song often. But now everything has changed. The weather is still Benazir (superb), but now it is not the Kashmir which could be visited for seeing snowy beauty and attractive tulips without fear. The Kashmir valley no longer houses the spiritual resonance of Sufi music. Now, bullets from rifles, bomb blasts, throwing stones at the Army to keep the terrorists alive, are common occurences.
The news of a Pakistani flag fluttering in Kashmir makes me restless and I begin to wonder how can that be? How can it be forgotten that when the war was going on in the country for freedom, the people of Kashmir were influenced by the progressive and modern ideology of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. The movement that Mohammed Ali Jinnah launched for separate Pakistan never got support in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir were treading the path of secularism. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, India was being established as a democratic and secular republic, so it was a natural step for Muslim-majority Kashmir to remain with India.
We all have loved Kashmir, we loved this part of our country from the bottom of heart. Be it winter or summer -- in every season -- tourists from all over India used to visit the valley. I remember the times when the houseboats -- shikaras -- were not available in the Dal Lake because people did not want to stay in the hotel, they wanted to stay in the houseboat. I have seen that period and sitting in a shikara have enjoyed the beauty of Dal Lake. This year the look is exactly opposite. The houseboats are lying vacant, the shikaras are tied to the shores. One of my Kashmiri friends was telling me that the scourge of terrorism has taken away the people’s livelihood. The construction of a houseboat takes more money than the money spent in building a luxurious house in a city. Those who took the loan to make the houseboat, they are more upset. Now neither the tourists from the country are coming to Kashmir nor from the foreign countries. In most parts of Kashmir there are no other means of employment. So just imagine how the Kashmiris’ life must be going on?
During the uneasy climate of terrorism, I have gone to Kashmir several times and I have been trying to understand the situation from the friends there. I can claim with certainty that the common Kashmiri seeks peace because many of their generations have been ruined. This is the most dangerous phase for the new generation. The terrorists first started burning schools and colleges and today the circumstances have developed in such a way that children of schools and colleges are throwing stones at the Army. You will be surprised to know that after the death of the terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, there has been no learning activity in the 8,171 primary schools, 4,665 upper primary schools, 960 high schools, 300 higher secondary schools in the Valley. In the last 10 months schools were open only for 46 days. Forcible closure and curfew for months have affected children’s life the most. When the children are going to school, parents are unsure whether their child will return home. This is extremely dangerous situation because the future of a whole generation is at stake.
The need of the hour is to control the situation quickly and open the channels of communication with the group that wants to talk within the ambit of the Constitution. Not everyone in Kashmir is subversive. Please note that if lakhs of people turn up for the funeral of terrorists, the same number of people turn up on the death of a soldier or policeman. If one Burhan Wani becomes a terrorist, then an Ummer Fayaz also becomes a lieutenant in the Indian Army. Thousands of Kashmiri youths stand in the queue for recruitment in the Army. Obviously, a few mercenaries are creating trouble. The evidence is available that shows that stone throwers are paid every week to throw stones.
Now there is the urgent need to renew initiatives. Many committees had been formed. There have been many reports. There is the need to act on the suggestions. I would like to remind that in February 2003, the Central government, defense and home secretary N N Vohra had been appointed as the negotiator to interact with Kashmiri groups. Krishnachandra Pant, Arun Jaitley and Ram Jethmalani have also played the role of the negotiator on behalf of the government in one round. Ram Jethmalani had spoken to several different separatist leaders as chairman of the Kashmir Committee. The Indian government had created another committee in which the educationist M M Ansari, journalists Dilip Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar were inducted. All of them gave their suggestions, but it seems that there was no specific action on these suggestions.
In the last week of August last year, a delegation of 26 MPs from 20 parties went to the valley, but it returned empty handed because Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other prominent leaders had refused to meet this all-party delegation. I would like to remind that separatist Hurriyat came forward to negotiate after the situation normalised between 2008 and 2010 because the Army and paramilitary forces had crushed the terrorists at that time.
Even today, the need is that the terrorists and Pakistani agents are crushed on one hand and on the other the balm on the wounds of the common Kashmiri should be applied. The world knows that Kashmir is an integral part of India and Pakistan does not have the power to take away Kashmir from us. We should talk about getting back Pakistan occupied Kashmir. As long as we are not aggressive, Pakistan will harass us. Actually all this needs willpower. If Narendra Modi is able to bring Kashmir back on track, then he will not only become the darling of the country but the whole world. But at the moment people are asking: Will the situation in Kashmir remain like this?
Before I conclude
Every meeting with thespian Amitabh Bachchan is unmatched. On Thursday, I went to congratulate him for his film ‘Sarkar-3’. In a scene of this movie, he is reading ‘Lokmat’. Personally, he is my friend; he has always showed his love for Lokmat group. Amitabh ji’s speciality is that he moves ahead with time, is very punctual and keeps an open eye on the country and the world. Actually, he is unmatched. He merges into the character he plays.
Is it the Modi wave or the Opposition weakness ..?
Congress lacks cadre, status of regional parties is akin to private limited company!
There is no hesitation in saying that Narendra Modi is the most powerful Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Both at national and international levels. But there is a big difference too. At the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress had dominated the whole country and the Opposition was not strong but many leaders of the party and the Opposition were strong enough to shake the government in Parliament. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not the only great resistance to Nehru but the stature of his opponents, right from Shyamaprasad Mukherjee to Hiren Mukherjee, AK Gopalan, JB Kripalani, Ram Manohar Lohia, C. Rajagopalachari, Gopinath Bardolai to Firoz Gandhi were so great that Nehru took them seriously. The absence of Opposition was never felt. At the time of Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of Jan Sangh and P. Ramamurthy and Jyotirmoy Basu of CPI (M) were very influential in Parliament. There was a group of stalwarts like Morarji Desai, Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, Jaiprakash Narayan, Madhu Dandavate, Mohan Dhariya, Krishnakant, Sharad Yadav. It can be said that though numerically the Opposition was not superior, however, in terms of moral strength the Opposition was very strong.
The circumstances around the third strongest Prime Minister Narendra Modi are quite the opposite. The Opposition may have big guns to boast, but the reality is that in today's situation, none of them is able to challenge Narendra Modi at any level. If any party can challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, then it is Congress. The Congress is a secular party. It is the party that has the interests of the poor, farmers, labourers, tribals at heart. It has got deep understanding of this country. It has the widespread experience of power management, but unfortunately Congress has become a party where there are plenty of leaders, but has an abysmal shortage of workers! Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should think over what the umpteen leaders, the party are doing? What is their usefulness? The entire Congress party has become the victim of five star culture. Lakhs of people used to throng the public meetings of Nehruji and Indiraji, today crowds have to be brought in even for the big leaders. A contract is given for gathering the crowd. It should be a matter of serious concern for the Congress leadership that the party has come to such a sorry pass. I remember that earlier the Congress elections would be held in full faith. From the ward and the panchayat level to block, the district and then to the state level, the party activists were visibly active. The problem started after 1980 when the big leaders gradually turned the election into a form of appointments and factionalism started spreading in the party.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has prepared its full base. A network of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which operated from behind the scenes, was already present and the BJP got the benefit. Earlier there used to be the ‘shakhas’ of Seva Dal which slowly ended. The Congress leaders did not understand that the people have fascination and love for Nehru-Gandhi family but what will remain when the workers leave the party? I am probably getting a bit outspoken but the reality is that the Congress has not been destroyed by someone else but the Congressmen themselves. When Indira Gandhi had lost the election in 1977, she had bounced back on the strength of her party workers and had come to power again. Today, Rahul Gandhi is working hard but how many leaders are there who are in the field? It is very easy to issue statements in newspapers and give bites to TV channels, but it is difficult to get into the field. Is the Congress leadership thinking about for how long it has not been in power in Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha? Congress had a strong presence in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh but lost it too. Only leaders are responsible for this because power was handed over in the hands of wrong people! One more thing is that when the party was in power in Delhi and Mumbai, none cared for loyal workers and competent leaders. Even today, the leaders are not easily available. One has to wait for months for appointments. This question always keeps popping in my mind why despite our leader Rahul Gandhi being the youngest leader, the youth of this country is with Modi? If the Modi wave is to be stalled, then the whole party should focus on this question.
None of the other parties has the power to stop the Modi wave. The condition of regional parties is akin to that of the private limited company. The parties run in the name of the families. There is no democratic structure there too. The interests of such parties are limited to their families and relatives. They have nothing to do with the state and the country. Communist Party, considered to be the benefactor of the poor, has survived somewhat in West Bengal and Kerala. Their existence from the rest of the states is almost gone.
All the world's political scientists have been saying that in a country where Opposition becomes weak, there is a big threat to democracy. So has this situation come about in India? At the moment, it will be premature to say so because our democracy is so strong that no wave can shake it! Yes, it is of course that if the Opposition remains weak for a long time then condition will definitely be weak. Cursing the Bharatiya Janata Party, Sangh or Modi and Shah will not fetch you any dividends. Nor will lifting finger on the functionality of EVM machine will do! The only need is that political parties should rise above their self-interest and join hands with one other, strengthen the Opposition. The Congress should play this role, but the question is unless the Congress itself becomes strong, who will come with it and how will the people trust? At present, there are more than 1700 registered political parties in the country but among them the status of the national party is only with the Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian Communist Party (Marxist), Indian Communist Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party. Lalu, Nitish, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Mamta's parties are part of the state-level 49 parties. None of them can provide leadership.
So will the wave continue like this? It seems to me that the opposition of this country is subscribing to the theory of eminent sociologist Ashish Nandy, that it does not take more than one and a half years for the people to get disenchanted with government? But it seems that this theory is not working at the moment. Unless the opposition itself will be strong, the wave will continue!
Before I conclude
Demand for such devices has suddenly increased in Japan, which can save the man in the event of nuclear attack. One tool is the Atomic Shelter which can be hidden and the other is the air purifier which prevents radiation. Last year only 10 shelters were sold, while this year in April alone 8 shelters and over 50 air purifiers have been sold. Indeed, as the tension between North Korea and the US is heading towards the extreme, Japan is worried because it is the world's only nation which has suffered the dire consequences of the nuclear warhead.