The Congress Party is capable of going any length to consolidate its position, politicize issues, and defend itself. The country has witnessed it for almost seventy years now. Hypocrisy, polarization, the defense of elements that seek to tear the country apart, and the practice of every logical fallacy, have become vital elements for the grand old party. Former Kashmir chief minister and leader of opposition in the upper house Ghulam Nabi Azad ’s speech earlier on Kashmir Unrest, this week was an embodiment of the aforementioned traits.
Ghulam Nabi Azad was speaking on the ongoing unrest in Kashmir. The unrest began when a terrorist called Burhan Wani, a prominent terrorist in the region, was shot dead by the Indian forces in a successful operation. Ever since, separatist elements in the valley have gone on a rampage. These youth, either inspired by or on the payroll of Pakistan agents such as Saeed Ali Shah Geelani and Asiya Andrabi, took to the streets and attacked Indian forces at different locations. In order to keep the situation in control, the Indian forces imposed curfews and shot at the stone-pelting protesters with pellet guns.
Ghulam Nabi Azad began his speech by striking a noble chord. He said the opposition stood by the government, especially in its efforts to wipe out militancy in the valley. He also acknowledged that Pakistan was the chief perpetrator of the unrest and the root of every problem in the valley. From then on, the leader of the opposition began making random statements devoid of any sense, and attempted to politicize the issue in every direction possible.
According to Ghulam Nabi Azad, militancy has always thrived in the valley. It existed long before he became the chief minister, it existed during his reign, and it has gone on till now. Several militants have been shot dead by Indian forces through the years. But the unrest post their eliminations had always been subdued, and the pellet guns are responsible for it to have gone out of hand this time around.
Mr. Azad should realize that the unrest is not the issue here, and that the Indian forces are more than capable of handling it. As he said, militancy has gone on for years, and that is the real issue. His proclamation of militancy having thrived before, during and after his reign is a symbol of his and his political masters’ incompetence. Perhaps if the pellet guns had been brought out earlier, stone pelting teenagers wouldn’t turn into gun-toting twenty-year-olds. Perhaps if the family he serves hadn’t lacked the guts and had been slightly more patriotic, the parasites of the valley would have shut shop by now.
Mr. Azad went on to say that by using pellet guns against separatists, the Indian government wasn’t discriminating between terrorists and the common Kashmiri. This notion is flawed at several levels. To begin with, the terrorists were shot down using bullets from firearms while protesters were shot with mere pellet guns. Many believe pellet guns are too mild a weapon to use against protesters, considering these men stand on Indian soil and seek to destroy India. But nonetheless, a clear distinction was made.
Secondly, these protestors are a small minority. To equate them to the common Kashmiri, who is tired of this conflict and comes out to vote in large numbers during the elections defying the separatists’ call, is an insult to the common Kashmiri. Painting the entire Kashmiri populace as separatist is the biggest strategic blunder India can make, and that is exactly what Azad’s statement implies.
Thirdly, there is no difference between the protestor and the terrorist, except that the former has pebbles for his weapon and the Pakistani flag for his shield. Ideally, the only reason for any Indian government to treat both of them differently should be some obscure technical clause of the Geneva Convention. Any other reason is unacceptable.
Then, Ghulam Nabi Azad went on to draw a bizarre analogy. Unrest occurs in many parts of the country, like the recent Jat agitation in Haryana. But pellet guns are never used in such situations, and Kashmir was being singled out. This doesn’t even warrant a rebuttal. One can only hope he isn’t taking after the Congress scion in terms of intellectual capacity.
After this, the communalization began. Mr. Azad placed two facts on the table. India had the second largest Muslim population in the world. India had the largest practicing population of Muslims. He remarked that despite such large numbers, only a handful had joined the ISIS and that this was an indication of the Indian Muslim’s patriotism. He wondered why the government was using violent means to deal with these patriots in the valley. Mr. Azad should know that not joining the ISIS isn’t the only parameter of patriotism. Accepting Indian supremacy and not taking up guns or pebbles against India is another parameter.
The communalization continued. Suddenly, for no rhyme and reason and with nothing whatsoever to back his claim, Ghulam Nabi Azad lay the blame for the unrest in Kashmir at the door of BJP’s controversial motor-mouths. By hook or by crook, these fringe elements of the BJP whom nobody apart from the mainstream media takes seriously, always find a place in the Congress Party’s plights. This was followed by Mr. Azad’s appeal to the state government for press freedom, since the media had been gagged briefly during the unrest. The very next minute, he criticized the mainstream media for inciting violence. One cannot have the cake and eat it too, at least not the very next minute!
Ghulam Nabi Azad’s logic for laying the blame squarely on the mainstream media was quite interesting. He spoke about the debates conducted on various channels about the Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who advocated suicide bombing and allegedly inspired the Dhaka terror attacks. Mr. Azad took exception to the fact that people like Tasleema Nasreen and Tarek Fatah were invited to participate in these debates and that they vitiated the atmosphere in Kashmir. He said these people were thrown out of their country for criticizing regressive Islamic practices, and that they were doing the same thing now.
Ghulam Nabi Azad should start by learning a little about these people. Nobody threw them out of their countries, they sought shelter in foreign lands in order to speak openly about what they believed to be true. Tasleema chose India, which is not only an honor but an attestation of India’s tolerance. Let them exercise their freedom of expression Mr. Azad… after all we do not want to become an intolerant country, do we? Not that anyone in Kashmir watches these debates, but for the sake of argument let us say they did. Does Tarek Fatah’s mockery of the Koran and of neighboring Pakistan on Arnab’s Newshour compel young men in Srinagar to throw pebbles at the BSF?
Mr. Azad’s rant was entertaining on the whole. It was based on false assumptions. It was devoid of logic. It was blatant in its politicization. It was flagrant in its communalization. It was random. It was weird. It was like a failed stand-up comedy act. For the Congress Party and its cronies, Kashmir much like everything else, has been an utter failure. Now they find themselves in a situation where they must say something about it, but they are not quite sure what!