Across the aisle: That sinking feeling — 1

To peddle the counter-narrative, the drum-beating has started, aided and abetted by sections of the media that want a spectacular blow-up either in the Kashmir Valley or in Pakistan.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: May 14, 2017 12:12 am
kashmir, kashmir unrest, kashmir protest, kashmir student protest, sukma attack, chhattisgarh, maoist attack, srinagar student protest, mehbooba mufti, mufti government, pellet firing, human shield, kashmir human shield, indian express news, india news Girl students pelt stones at security personnel during clashes in the vicinity of Lal Chowk in Srinagar. (Source: PTI)

Once in a few years, there arrives a moment when the whole nation appears to share the same mood — of celebration or anger or despair. Such a moment may have arrived in India in 2017.

You will find ample evidence of what I am saying in centre-page articles, columns, interviews, social media and even in some editorials. The narrative that seems to emerge from various strands of conversations and comments is that ‘the Centre cannot hold’ and the India that we had imagined in 2014 ‘is falling apart’. There is, of course, a determined push to sell a counter-narrative, as was done in September 2016 (surgical strike) and November 2016 (demonetisation), but the attempted counter-narrative seems rather weak against the facts.

Numbers don’t lie

Let me begin with the indisputable facts.

There is a rise in violence, be it terrorist incidents in Jammu & Kashmir or attacks by Maoists in Naxal-affected areas. The numbers of the killings tell the story:

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Maoists regaining ground?

The picture is dismal in Naxal-affected areas and the deterioration is visible. The epicentre is Chhattisgarh, where a BJP government under Mr Raman Singh has been in office for 14 years. Mr Raman Singh has perfected the art of hiding his government’s total ineptitude, and deflecting criticism to the Central government. It has also not helped that the NDA government has reversed major policy initiatives taken by the UPA government. The Backward Regions Grant Fund was scrapped. The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) that had placed funds in the hands of each collector to meet the felt needs of the people (and had won universal praise) was abruptly withdrawn. The MGNREGA was underfunded. The Forest Dwellers Rights Act was diluted. The cumulative effect of these thoughtless actions was that the district administrations had nothing at their disposal to counter the charges of the Maoists of neglect and exploitation by a ‘capitalist’ system.

Maoists thrive when there is support from the local population. The local people can be weaned away from the influence of Maoists only if the State is seen to be recognising the rights of the people, especially the tribal people, and addressing their grievances and needs. Since the State seems to have withdrawn from actively engaging with the people — and the only arm of the State that is visible is the security forces — the Maoists seem to have regained their influence and the capacity to strike.

Losing or lost the valley

The most rapid deterioration in the security situation has occurred in the Kashmir Valley. It is clearly a throwback to 2010. Mr A S Dulat has said that the situation is worse than what it was in 1990 (when a BJP-supported government was in office). He is right, the numbers do not lie. The security forces are killing more terrorists but they are also losing more of their own, and neither the success nor the sacrifice is bringing normalcy to the Kashmir Valley.

What has changed for the worse is the nature of the protest and the composition of the protesters. Never before have young girls indulged in stone-pelting, never before have mothers said that they cannot restrain their children, never before have there been such widespread protests without a visible leader, and never before have people wedged themselves between the security forces and suspected terrorists during a gunbattle. These are ominous portents.

To peddle the counter-narrative, the drum-beating has started, aided and abetted by sections of the media that want a spectacular blow-up either in the Kashmir Valley or in Pakistan. It is, once again, nationalism vs liberalism, unity vs azaadi, ostracism vs engagement, and bullets vs talks — none of which is relevant to restoring normalcy or finding a solution. Thanks to the binary rhetoric, both normalcy and solution have become more distant and unattainable.

Heed independent voices

I am a voice of the Opposition. I know such voices are brushed aside, but there are other voices. Listen to Mr M K Narayanan, a former national security adviser: ‘Peace cannot be enforced by authoritarian means or by fiat’ and ‘What is most crucial is to make an open and impassioned appeal for peace in the Valley accompanied by meetings and consultations at several levels’. Listen to Mr A S Dulat, a former director of R&AW: ‘There is a sense of hopelessness. They aren’t afraid to die. Villagers, students and even girls are coming out on the streets. This has never happened in the past’ and ‘Kashmiris are disappointed to see that nothing happened after (Mr) Modi took over. Where has (Mr) Vajpayee’s insaniyat ka daira gone?’

Now, please read my columns on Jammu & Kashmir that appeared between April and September 2016. That was the period when the government was losing control. Then, I wrote on April 16, 2017, when my private view was that the government had lost control.

Two subjects — Maoism and Kashmir — have consumed the space for this column and seem enough to explain that sinking feeling. There is more.

Website:, @Pchidambaram_IN

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  1. S
    May 8, 2017 at 6:11 am
    PC, here are the indis ble facts: You and your son are corrupt to the core, and both of you belong in the Tihar jail.
    1. C
      claire smith
      May 8, 2017 at 4:24 am
      Mr. former FM/ HM of India seems to have tied himself in knots (or his argument)- if today's government has really lost control in Kashmir then surely the people of Kashmir or atleast those with extremist views are in control, if this is the case then one must ask what Kashmiriyat really is? There are many articles aut d by former FM/ HM but one has yet to hear what should and must be talked ? what more the state must cede? and why ? As far as maoist problem is concerned one can only agree with former FM/ HM (PC) but one must ask why did he not implement the suggestion he has penned in this article?
      1. V
        May 8, 2017 at 4:14 am
        This "Italian bikini" washer has given the figures post 2014 and upto April 2017. Can this dumb explain what happened before that - and why at all this problem exists ? "Thank you Nehru, you have made mess of Kashmir and now resting in ."
        1. R
          May 8, 2017 at 3:49 am
          It is matter of time before we see frustrated seculars like PC,Rahul,Kejri,lallu,Momota,Yechuri, Sibal etc. throwing stones at our security forces wearing nurkhas! Of course alresdy prest.itu.tes and award waapsi thugs along with junior middle aged traitors like Kanniah/Umar/Sleha of JNU type may be in that crowd of stone throwers! Farooq Abdulla/Lallu are their idea of nationalists! Only it is not clear which nation it is of their nationalism! All these whining and complaints by these traitors means Modi is making right moves! Replace pellet guns with real machine guns please!
          1. M
            May 8, 2017 at 3:36 am
            Poison Congress has spread in the society with its mutated Social Engineering (Nehruvian) attempts is taking the toll now. This is the price to pay when you don't have not the best for the top job.
            1. R
              Renjith Thomas
              May 8, 2017 at 11:08 am
              Could you please be more specific? Can you also study and explain us the collateral damage done by Mr. Morarji Desai and VP Singh? Morarji Desai ed up R&AW, and foiled Indira's plans to break stan in three pieces. VP Singh has sown the seeds to caste politics that we see today. And you can only blame Nehru, because none of us has seen those eras.
            2. D
              May 8, 2017 at 2:32 am
              People like Chiddu are shameless. They will go to any length to regain power. But fortunately they are finished in politics. Their corruption and nepotism is for all to see. People are not fooled any more. There is a new awakening among the masses.
              1. a
                May 8, 2017 at 1:58 am
                some people become slaves of their own image.....and victims of their own loud-mouthedness......As all the chest thumping bravado Modi regurgitated on Kashmir in the lead up to the 2014 elections......has his bhakts baying for blood in kashmir and against pak.....playing back his own words .... and while he now realizes what he thought was a simple 2 dimensional a multi-layered multi-dimensional ...issue sitting in a complex geo-politcal matrix......but is trapped by his own loud-mouthed pre 2014 words.... Pak's propa a machine has already managed to internationalize the " Human rights Crisis" and gotten Turkey, China, Niki Haley ( US) to talk about mediation...on one hand so any brutal repression in the valley will have UN and nations jumping on him....and while he got away with his surgical strike drama last time....this time Pak is sitting ready to retaliate and escalate the old can't fool all the people all the time is catching up with Modi-ji
                1. C
                  Chandu Shah
                  May 8, 2017 at 1:11 am
                  Forces should use live rounds
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