Perhaps, I am not as good with words as Barkha Dutt was. Maybe I fail to sound my prose as poetry. And, I’ve no awards to my name. Having no credentials never was an obstacle to think, especially when those with credentials fail to see the whole picture. She tried to reimagine Kashmir in her own way and wanted others to give it a try. No doubt, Kashmir was wrongly handled by the Union Governments over the last seven decades including even the present one for sometime. Everyone tried to solve the crisis in their own way – and failed.
Having said that, is it not imperative to ask who created the crisis in the first place? Was it the Government of India? Or the Raja of Kashmir, who ceded the state? Or Pakistan that occupied half the state and was continuously trying to occupy the other half? Or the local leaders of Kashmir, who time and again shifted their loyalties to those who funded them more? Or the Islamic preachers, who under the garb of independence further their agenda of Khilafat? Or is it really the prime-time anchors with shrill voices? Or is it the gau-rakshaks?
I always thought as a writer, I’m the one who meanders around the point and consider it a weakness. After reading Barkha Dutt’s analysis I realized meandering was rather my strength. She was far better in beating around the bush, without even touching the outer periphery.
Well, if she considers the prime-time rhetoric of Arnab is driving the opinion of the public and policies of the government, she is definitely overestimating the influence of Arnab Goswami, considering the reach of English Television. Does she think, she influenced the public opinion and government’s policies in the last two decades, when she ruled the prime-time TV? Unfortunately, she failed to achieve what she advocated on her shows and the rise and rise of Modi is one of many proofs to that. It is not to say there is absolutely no influence by the prime-time anchors. But crediting them with the changing political scenarios is stretching it a bit far.
Neither Barkha Dutt nor Arnab would influence the public opinion. If once Arun Shourie, N. Ram and Chitra Subramaniam could help in dislodging Rajiv Gandhi’s government – it is the Bofors scam that was at the root. If the gentleman like Manmohan Singh lost an election, it was the scams executed with perfection by his ministers that caused his downfall and not news reporters. Shooting the messenger never solved the crisis. Being a messenger, Barkha should’ve known that. Or perhaps, she succumbed to the professional rivalry and failed to stop herself from taking a dig at Arnab, though not by naming him.
If one tries to imagine Kashmir without Kashmiri Pundits, what one can see? Can one imagine Varanasi without Ganga? Without Ganga turning around it, Varanasi would become any other ordinary town full of dust. It is same even for Kashmir. Without Kashmiri Pundits, how can we call it Kashmir? Kashmir is a beautiful Sanskrit word that even the invading Muslim rulers never thought of changing. Kicking out the Pundits and making it an Islamic republic is not what the Kashmiriyat stands for. If situation is considered to be worse than 2010 only because Kashmir then erupted for an extra-judicial killing but now erupts when militants are dead, this only exposes how the local people have been influenced. And it is for sure they are not influenced by Arnab or Modi and not even Mehbooba. If school going children wanted to protest the death of a militant because the militant died protecting ‘Islam’ and had to be corrected by Barkha Dutt to include even ‘Azadi’ in those protected by the dead, it only shows how the society in Kashmir has degenerated.
When people buy an expensive suit piece from Raymonds only to make a hole at the centre and drape it over their head, much like Rambo – imitating the Afghan mujahedeen, it is time for people of the state to protest that it was not the dressing culture of Kashmir. When practices evolved in deserts where water is scarce are enforced onto the people in cold mountains that have both rain and greenery in abundance, it was supposed to be protested. Sadly, intellectual supporters of Kashmiri militancy never opposed these changes that have seeped into the local culture only to be recognized as a new culture in Kashmir.
Like in all states, Kashmir too has its own set of opportunistic politicians. The only difference is Kashmiri politicians has a second profession or a part time job. When not in power, they become separatists – or supporters of separatists. Whether it were the Muftis or the Abdullahs, both were culprits in this political game. When Farooq Abdullah talks the language of separatists after being in power for many decades, he is to be blamed more than anyone representing Government of India.
I too agree with Barkha Dutt on one point. That of removing both AFSPA and Army from the state. Why the Army officers and soldiers should suffer indignities at the hands of locals. Army should be guarding borders and has no business inside territory, except for helping out during natural calamities. Empower, Equip and Train local police to deal with all situations.
If Barkha Dutt thinks Kashmir is central to the secular nature of India, she is wrong. As is the case with all Muslim dominated regions, Hindu Pundits were already kicked out and subjugated. If Barkha Dutt wants to see what makes India secular, she should visit any Hindu majority village or town, where Muslims live in peace. And surprisingly, there are no riots and not even forcible or lured conversions.
Maybe Barkha Dutt needs to reimagine her concept of India, for it seems she has a little understanding what India really is. For Indians, Kashmir is just another state as good or bad as Andhra or Rajasthan or Manipur or Bihar. Nothing more nothing less. India celebrates local culture that varies greatly even within states. India cherishes Kashmiri culture too like it cherishes others. True, there are several problems in many states – from poverty to suicides to rapes and murders. Yet, they did not support secessionism. Common Indians are vexed with the “Kashmir is different” theory. So, it is better Barkha Dutt to try and find out how religious and feudal forces within Kashmir are damaging the lives of ordinary citizens including school going children and maligning the image of their own state – Kashmir.