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The pot calling the kettle black
Those trying to create a permanent wedge between the two regions — Jammu and Kashmir — have an agenda to change the existing narrative but they will never be successful
Of late, while reading the Kashmiri media, both print and social, one feels that they are working on a deliberate plan, backed by a certain section of Lutyens’ media? There is an attempt to change the existing narrative and portraying Jammu and its people as hardliners and communal, while projecting the Kashmiris as secular and tolerant. Even our twitterati former Chief Minister of the State has spared no effort to add his pearls of wisdom to the changed narrative. “This gets messier and messier. What was until recently the fringe is now the mainstream and feels completely emboldened to do as it damn well pleases,” reads one of his tweets. The entire media in Kashmir is up in arms against the lawyers of Kathua for agitating against the Crime Branch presenting the challan in ‘Rassana Case’. What the lawyers did is condemnable but they were not shielding the accused, as is being portrayed. They were demanding a CBI inquiry, which is the demand by a majority, but the Kashmiri media has given a communal twist to the entire episode by projecting it as an attempt to prevent prosecution of the accused. Crime is a crime and it should be treated as such without politicising or communalising it.
It all began with some ‘judgemental’ statements issued by a few leaders, even before the investigation began, accusing the locals of carrying out the crime. The locals became suspicious and demanded a CBI inquiry instead by the State police. They insist that the inquiry so far has been lopsided and a CBI probe is a must so that the real culprit is punished and innocents are not harassed, tortured or framed. The Gurugram murder case of a young boy is fresh in mind. The local police had charged the driver of the school bus for the crime but the CBI later revealed that he was innocent.
In such a scenario, how can one be sure who the actual perpetrators of the heinous crime are? Such crimes are against humanity and are unpardonable. But using such acts to create communal divide is highly objectionable and condemnable, particularly when it comes from those who are responsible for ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs and now boast of being a monolith i.e., society. Even Mirwaiz Farooq, after one of the Friday prayers, threatened a mass agitation if justice is not done in the ‘Rassana Case’. The Kashmiri media, however, did not take notice when a few days later, a Muslim girl was raped by a Maulvi in a madrassa in Nagrota. Rape is rape but why such double standards when it does not suit their narrative?
Similarly, in the Shopian case of 2009, the same people in Kashmiri media rejected both the Special Investigation Team and CBI’s report, declaring the death of Neelofer and Asiya due to drowning, claiming them to be Government agencies, because it did not suit their narrative of blaming the local army unit for their rape and murder.
Today, they have an objection to the demand of the locals for a CBI inquiry because locals have no faith in the SIT of crime branch, because it suits their changed narrative of communalising the entire issue. The then Chief Minister is on record admitting that the Shopian case was mishandled by the SIT. How is it then that the crime branch has now become a holy cow and the Chief Minister is unwilling to concede the demand of the locals for a CBI probe?
Even in the Rohingyas case, the Kashmiri civil society and media are in unison, blaming the people of Jammu for asking their ouster just because they are Muslims. Are the Bangladeshis and Malayasians non-Muslim? Why did Malaysia deny them entry into their country? Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali told his Parliament in June 2017, that Rohingya Muslims will pose a threat to the national security in the future. The Government of India, too, told the Supreme Court that Rohingyas are a threat to national security and vulnerable to be recruited by terror groups.
But the fact is that Jammu is a melting pot of cultures, churning out a very tolerant society. It is famous for giving shelter to all, irrespective of caste, colour or creed. Jammu is known world over for its bouquet of languages, synthesis of faiths, synergy of ideologies and confluence of different cultures. Nowhere in the country has a tolerant civil society existed as in Jammu, whose residents have welcomed even the Kashmiri Muslims whenever they felt threatened in the Valley. Thousands of Kashmiri students are studying in various educational institutions of Jammu. It is also home for refugees: Be it the POJK or Chhamb refugees, west Pakistan refugees, displaced Kashmiri Pandits, internally displaced people from remote and far-flung areas of Jammu province or aspirational migrants from all parts of the State.
Not very long ago, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti lauded the people of Jammu for their big-heart and appreciated its secularism. She warned: “There are some vested elements hell-bent on disturbing the peace and harming the communal chord of the place.” Does this warning have some connection with the vicious campaign launched by vested elements from across the Pir Panjal to paint Jammu as communal and intolerant?
Let’s now look across the Pir Panjal to see who actually is ‘black’? Kashmir politics from the beginning has been communal, right from the days of the forming of Reading Room Party wherein religious places were used for political congregations as well. From day one, their brand of politics has been politico-religious. Quit Kashmir movement was a manifestation of communal politics while exclusivity has been the hall mark of the civil society in the Valley.
After assuming absolute power through deceitful ouster of the Maharaja, no effort was spared to promote the interests of Kashmiri-speaking Muslims at the cost of others. The introduction of Article 370 in the Constitution and its further strengthening through Delhi agreement and Article 35A is a manifestation of two-nation theory in its different avatar. Subsequent attempts to create a ‘Greater Kashmir’ by religious grouping of Jammu Province was aimed at marginalising the Hindus. The names of towns and cities were changed, even famous Hindu shrines were given Arabic names. Sufiism was gradually eased out and replaced by radical Wahhabism. All signs of secularism and tolerance have been eliminated but for a few because of the presence of security forces. Leaders of political party, who are now calling us non-secular and intolerant, chose not to include the word “secularism” in the Preamble of the State Constitution when it was inserted in the Constitution of India in 1976. Whenever Hindus tried to assert for even their genuine rights, the bogey of communalism was raised by the same very elements who are once again trying to paint us black. The bogey of Hindu fundamentalism is raised to preserve the Kashmiri hegemony. The Amar Nath Land Row of 2008 is a classic example of the mindset of these manipulators who portray themselves as well-wishers of Kashmiris but are their worst enemies because they have exploited them as pawns in for their power-games and vote bank politics.
But why are attempts being made to change the narrative? Majority of the people of J&K want to live in peace. Jammu is the place from where the arc of happiness is emerging. A common Kashmiri feels comfortable in Jammu. People of Jammu want this arc to spread further north to engulf Kashmir. Somehow, it does not suit the agenda of power brokers and manipulators who do not want the Kashmir cauldron to extinguish but want to keep it burning. To drive a permanent wedge through a religious divide between the two regions suits their agenda. I leave it to the readers to judge if the effort of Kashmiri media, in changing the well-established narrative, is justified. A look at the mirror will be sufficient to assess the truth.
(The writer is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. Views expressed here are personal)
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