The same old Kashmir story

There is a ring of predictability around the recent events in Kashmir. The disturbances fit into a pattern, once again demonstrating that the unusual alliance between the People’s Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state has failed to realize a breach with the past.

There is a report of the molestation of a girl by some Army personnel. There are violent protests at Handwara; a man and a woman die. Protests continue, as do the usual politicking by the dramatis personae. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, during her meeting with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, demanded a “time-bound inquiry” into the Handwara firing.

Meanwhile, giving the lie to the molestation charge, the supposed victim of Army personnel said in a video it was the local boys, some of whom she knew, who had misbehaved with her. But neither the protesters nor Kashmiri politicians relented; venom continued to be spewed against our Army. So, Opposition leader and former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “People died as a result of firing by security forces and what does the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister do? She continues her self-promoting tour of Delhi.” Notice how unquestioningly and coolly he has announced the guilt of our soldiers even before the start of an inquiry into it. The vilification of the Army, a favorite pastime in the Valley, again became rampant. The mainstream media, or a part of it, joined in the fun; we have been told how a budding cricketer lost his life. The moral of the story: the main culprit is the Army, if not for sexual depravity, then for excessive use of force.

This is despite the fact that security men were physically assaulted; their action was purely of self-defence. As Army spokesman N.N. Joshi said on April 14. “We exercised maximum restraint despite stone pelting by large crowd. Only when the mob stormed the Army post was forced to open controlled fire in which some miscreants were injured.”

The disinformation campaign persisted nonetheless, acquiring an international dimension in the process. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation was meeting at Istanbul in Turkey. It reportedly supported Kashmiris’ right to self-determination in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

New Delhi promptly expressed its displeasure over the OIC stand. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “We note with utmost regret that the final communique adopted at the conclusion of the 13th Islamic Summit of the Heads of State Government of the OIC Member States held at Istanbul, Turkey, on 14-15 April includes factually incorrect and misleading references pertaining to the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of India.”

Further, India rejected “all such references regarding matters internal to India, on which the OIC has no locus standi. We further advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future.”

India’s response, though correct, was pro-forma, lacking earnestness and teeth. We did not hit them where it hurts. For instance, we did not point out the infringement of the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries, especially in sheikhdoms. In Saudi Arabia, Hindus cannot build any temples, do puja at home, or carry the pictures of deities.

Similarly, the BJP, lacking sincerity and conviction regarding its experiment with the separatism-friendly PDP, is increasingly becoming more pusillanimous and predictable. Jingoistic and dangerously illiberal in the rest of India, the saffron party becomes the paragon of liberalism in the Valley. And even its schizophrenia is becoming predictable. It is like watching a C-grade Hindi movie again and again.