Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have just created a Palestine on our northern border. To do so, they first floated the deceitful rumour of an imminent massive Pakistani terror attack on the Valley to induct around 35,000 additional armed personnel into a region already bristling with lakhs of jawans. They then forcibly evacuated tens of thousands of Amarnath yatris and tourists from Kashmir. They have detained over 400 local leaders. They have shut down schools and colleges, shops and hotels, petrol pumps and gas outlets, and rendered the usually bustling streets of Srinagar and other Valley towns an empty wilderness. All communications have been severed other than those they do not have the technological capacity to cut. Parents in the Valley are unable to contact their sons and daughters in the rest of the country.
In the name of Fundamental Rights, the fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir are being extinguished. The Directive Principles of the Constitution are being enforced by transgressing the letter and spirit of the Directive Principles. A well-known Aya Ram-Gaya Ram of Uttar Pradesh is being paraded as the “voice of the people” of Kashmir. Why such suppression of seven million Kashmiris if they are in fact being “liberated” from the stranglehold of “three families”?
Modi-Shah have learned their lessons well from their mentor, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionists, including Menachem Begin, who preceded Netanyahu. They have learned how to trample on the freedom, dignity and self-respect of the Kashmiris even as Israel has tried to get away with seven decades of merciless oppression of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have retaliated by running a ceaseless insurrection ever since Al-Naqba (“The Catastrophe”) of May 14, 1948, when they were crushed by the Zionist war machine, funded and supplied by western imperialism. Intifada has followed intifada. All have been mowed down but miraculously spring up again. That so many Arab allies have abandoned them and their own liberation movement has split down the middle has not ended Palestinian protest, however heavy the cost to the ordinary Palestinian in terms of death, injuries and incarceration.
Modi-Shah have promised the Kashmiris “development”in exchange for forced integration at the point of the rifle and pellet shots into the eyes of their children. Even as the Palestinians, whatever their internecine differences, have unanimously spurned the Manama package of US/petrodollars goodies in exchange for quiescence, so too are the Kashmiris spurning the Modi offer of an enslaved prosperity. Modi’s political ancestors, of course, played no part in our freedom movement but had they done so they would have known that whatever the colonial investments made in railways and the telegraph, in industry and trade, in tea and jute, in “development” so-called, We the People of India (barring the Hindutva-ites) answered the British with the call of “Quit India”.
What is sought to be drowned out is the legacy of unflinching patriotism to India that the Kashmiri Muslim has displayed, first in being the only Muslim-majority concentration in undivided India to close their ears to the siren call of Pakistan. They refused to believe that “Islam” was “in danger” because Independence was coming to secular Bharat. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was delivered a knock-out blow. In 1965, every single Pakistani intruder sent into the Valley under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s notorious Operation Gibraltar was picked up and reported to the Indian authorities. By whom? By the Kashmiri aam aadmi, who else, almost all Muslim to the last man, woman and child. How betrayed must they be feeling now that “freedom” is being thrust down their throat, like castor oil to a recalcitrant child, by the largest deployment ever of armed might inside an integral part of the country? How must the Naga and the Mizo, protected by the Article following the now deleted 370, namely, Article 371 of the Constitution, be looking at the purses of gold being flung at them by a patronising central government driving a Faustian bargain to buy adherence to a contemptuous India?
What the full-fledged Constitution of India promises to the Kashmiri is but a pale shadow of the “Naya Kashmir” manifesto adopted by the National Conference 75 years ago, on September 29-30, 1944. The principal draftsman was B P L Bedi (the father of actor Kabir Bedi). The leading lights of the National Conference included Prem Nath Bazaz, Kashyap Bandhu, Jia Lal Kilam and Pandit Sudama Sidhu, besides Sardar Budh Singh. It was a Naya Kashmir for all the religious communities of the Riyasat. Writing in 1966, the renowned scholar of Kashmir affairs, Sisir Gupta, in his magisterial study, had this to say: “Socialistic in its approach, the plan in New Kashmir has ever since 1944 provided the guiding principles of the National Conference’s approach to the problems of Kashmir”. In other words, left to themselves, the Kashmiris might have given themselves an even more liberal order than they are now being offered with a pistol to their temple. To quote Gupta again, the proposed constitution “envisaged equality of citizens irrespective of ‘religion, race, nationality of birth’, freedom of conscience and worship, (as well as) of speech, of the press, of assembly and meetings, and of street processions” and the “right to work”, “equal rights to men and women” and even children, besides “cheap, quick, impartial justice”. In particular, there was a huge emphasis on women’s rights with separate sections detailing women’s rights in the political, economic, social, legal, and educational spheres. Modiji, Shah sahib, they were there long before us. So, who are we to teach Kashmiris the virtues of democracy?
Instead of achhe din, what Parliament has ensured is a long, dark night in the Valley, and perhaps even the rest of the country, with simmering communalism, rising political tensions, unending hit-and-run terrorism, asymmetric armed struggle, and guerrilla insurrection. This is what happened in East Pakistan in 1971. We are now bringing a similar disaster upon our heads. Be warned.
This article first appeared in today’s print edition under the headline: A long night in the Valley. The writer is a former Union minister.