Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is the Government to Blame for the Current Crisis in Kashmir?

Today's editorial in The Hindu on the Kashmir issue revealed more by what it did not say than what it did. There has been plenty of criticism of the UPA government over its handling of the recent Kashmir crisis. To be sure, the Ministry of Home Affairs does not inspire a lot of confidence but then, Kashmir is different because it has been a problem for every government, not just this one. Here are some excerpts:

New Delhi and Srinagar failed to act when Islamists first started a campaign claiming the diversion of land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board was a conspiracy to change Kashmir’s demography. Panicking when the protests snowballed in Kashmir, the State government revoked the order — sparking off a communally charged backlash in Jammu. Subsequently, the State and Central governments failed to assuage fears that Kashmir was facing an existence-threatening blockade, thus fuelling support for an attempted march across the Line of Control. Force had to be used to stop the marchers, sparking off another round of violence. At this point, the State government simply collapsed, ceding power to Islamists in Kashmir and Hindutva groups in Jammu.

Put simply, New Delhi allowed matters to drift to a point where it was left with no resources other than coercive tools.

All right, things went wrong but what could have been done different? No one could have predicted that transferring land to the Shrine Board would set off a riot. Once it did, would The Hindu have been happy if the government had refused to revoke the order and allowed things to inflame further in Kashmir? Very likely not. Yes, it sparked off angry riots in Jammu but then what would have been the paper's answer to this event? The government did point out on several occasions that traffic was plying normally on the Srinagar-Jammu highway but everyone knows that reality can get easily obscured particularly when the truth comes from the mouth of an unpopular, nay detested government. The separatist leadership of course has obviously nothing to gain by calming people by letting them know how things really stand.

Praveen Swami points out in his thoughtful op-ed today previous incidents that sparked riots - the loss of the so-called Prophet's hair at the Hazratbal shrine in 1963 and the discovery of a supposedly blasphemous picture from a colonial-era encyclopedia in 1973. As he points out, there is a common thread running through all of these - a mob incited unexpectedly by an irrational fear of a seemingly innocuous fact. What then is any government to do in dealing with a paranoid and xenophobic people led by opportunistic leaders feeding their existing insecurity with a constant stream of inflammatory rhetoric based on false claims and twisted facts?

Criticism of the government's inability to resolve the crisis is all very well but unless the paper can offer a different approach or solutions, its attack amounts to little more than a rhetorical exercise of one-upmanship. The paper should follow the example of the New York Times Editorial Board which never publishes an opinion critical of anyone on any contemporary issue without having a real alternative - right or wrong - to offer.

Praveen Swami's articles suffer from the same infirmity. The analysis is excellent but he too fails to say what if any are the choices before the government and what can be done to defuse the situation without having to resort to repressive measures indefinitely.

7 comments:

reason said...

See the way LiC ends the sermon -
"the United Progressive Alliance regime seems to be moving towards a one-sided solution, which will be widely perceived to be at the expense of the people of Kashmir. If that happens, a bad situation could get horribly worse."

There are reports now even from congerss sources that the Court order regarding temporary land transfer for the duration of the Yatra to the shrine board will be honoured, and that will be the solution. This was the path first proposed reportedly by Arun Jaitley. The dailyexcelsior.com has been reporting for the last two days that this solution may be reached soon.

That is the problem for the secular communist Ram. He says following the court order will be at the expense of the people of Kashmir. And that is precisely what the separatists said too.

And you said something about 'a mob incited unexpectedly by an irrational fear of a seemingly innocuous fact. ' Look no further to know who is doing the inciting.

Pilid said...

Reason,

Which court order is this? Is there a link to some item reporting this?

I was not aware that any court had directed transfer of land to the shrine board.

Anonymous said...

Praveen Swami is indeed thoughtful when he states that a relic "reputed" to be a hair of Prophet Mohammad disappeared from Kashmir's Hazratbal shrine. We can note that the relic is not "alleged" (to be a hair of Prophet), an epithet uniquely reserved for "communal religions and their mythologies" in the high standards of journalism, as professed by Chindu.

Besides, Swami being Chindu's resident specialist on Kashmiri terrorism only knows too well the consequences of expressing the slightest doubt on the authenticiy or questioning the importance, of a shred of (human) hair.

Pilid said...

Anon,

The distinction is duly noted.

Anonymous said...

Pilid,

There was two court orders in 2005 allotting the land to the shrine board. For example, see this news

Since the state government had refused to allocate any land to run the functions of the shrine board effectively, a writ petition was filed in the J&K high court. In its ruling delivered on April 15, 2005, a single-judge bench upheld the decision to transfer land to the shrine board.

The ruling was endorsed on May 17, 2005, by a division bench, which clarified in its interim order that ``the land to be allotted by the board would be only for the purposes of its user and would remain allotted for the duration of the yatra.

reason said...

Pilid,
Anon gave a link. Indian Express first reported the solution steps from Arun Jaitley - the main thing was implementing the court order.

It is possible the Hindu never reported this. The low life editor has been barking like a mad dog from the beginning that it is the previous governor Sinha's fault.

A crucial step in the sequence of events is how the new governor vohra voluntarily returned the land and also ceded the responsibility of running the yatra to the state government. The state government could not have 'taken back' the land or 'taken control' of the yatra because that would be against the court order and contempt of court. It is very possible Governor Sinha was pressured by the secular rascals at the centre to do these, and he refused, and hence he is being hounded.

Pilid said...

Anon and Reason,

Thanks for your comments. I was not aware of the HC order. The paper reported the terms of a settlement being negotiated amongst the parties yesterday. It appears to be quite a reasonable answer to the problem.