Sunday, 8 September 2019

Barkha Dutt on Kashmir

Update- Dutt's Washington Post opinion piece is much more pro-India.

Is Barkha Dutt capable of making a reasoned argument? Or is every thing she utters bound to be utterly foolish? Let us see-
One month after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was withdrawn, and restrictions were imposed in the Valley, it is time to ask: What is the government’s blueprint for its future?
Why is it time to ask this after one month? Journalists are supposed to ask pertinent questions immediately. In this case, the answer was immediately forthcoming. The Government's blueprint involves firstly rounding up militants and their overground networks while completely sidelining the 'mainstream' political intermediaries.  The second step involves establishing a direct link to panchayats and local notables, while recruiting security personnel directly paid and answerable to the Center. In other words a corrupt political class is being dis-intermediated. The third step will probably involve some gerrymandering such that the Muslims of the Valley are not able to dominate the J&K Union Territory's Assembly. At some point, the region may actually start enjoying self-sustaining economic growth. But that isn't likely. The alternative is to keep the malcontents on short rations till they become demoralized. What has ended is a State subsidy for sedition.

In the initial aftermath of a decision as disruptive as the abrogation of Article 370, the administration and the security agencies had a legitimate focus on preventing the loss of lives.
When does the administration and security agencies not have a legitimate focus on preventing the loss of lives? How are such losses to be minimized? The answer is by catching and killing insurgents and destroying their 'overground' networks. Stone pelters can be dispersed by the pellet gun but it is more economical to go after the ring-leaders and incarcerate them. Never again will kids get paid a monthly stipend to engage in this sort of behavior. India has a professional Police cadre. It knows how persistent anti-social behavior by teens has been curbed in other parts of the world. Because the police is now directly under the Union Home Minister, it can tackle the problem effectively.

The Valley may not like it- but they represent only half a percentage of India's population. They are welcome to wail all they like. What matters is that they are seen to suffer because they hate India not because they love their religion. This can increase the BJP's share of Muslim votes in the rest of India. After all, the vast majority of Indian Muslims have no prospect of breaking away. They may as well love a land they are tied to. There is a hadith- hubb-al watan min al iman. Jihad ceases to be a farz-e-kiffaya if it has no prospect of success. It ceases to be Islamic. The Valley's hatred of India is also a hatred of Indian Muslims. As Nitish Kumar has discovered, their attitude is 'Let them stew in their own juice.'
The arrests of mainstream politicians could have initially been explained as a strictly precautionary measure to maintain the writ of law and the semblance of order. Thirty days later, that rationalisation cannot hold.
Explanations and rationalisations are only required from a criminal who has been caught or an agent who has not followed orders. None are required from a strong, popular, Government whose strength and popularity has increased by taking the first step in permanently resolving a long standing problem.

Why is Barkha pretending that the current administration is concerned in any manner with what she thinks? Nobody listens to her. She is suing the Congress Party's Kapil Sibal after having been sacked 'on disciplinary grounds' from a TV station he and his wife owned. Now Barkha is off the air and nobody is clamoring for her to be put back on it.
There may be little sympathy for the Kashmiri mainstream in the Valley.
So it isn't 'mainstream' at all. It is just a corrupt clique which was wholly useless and which cost the Indian taxpayer a lot of money. That's a good reason to sideline them. Keep them under home arrest till it is safe for them to go out and not get beaten to death by those they have been swindling from generation to generation.
But here is the conundrum for the Narendra Modi government. The more you disenfranchise the mainstream, the more you humiliate them, the more you push them to the margins, the stronger you make the separatists, and, in turn, the militants.
What made the separatists strong was getting money for being separatists. What makes them weak is being deprived of money and then being beaten and incarcerated if they wag their tail. Militants become peaceful and law-abiding after they are shot in the head.

There is no conundrum here whatsoever. Barkha herself says the Valley is happy the 'mainstream' has been disintermediated. This means there are opportunities for a new class of loyalists. But it also means that the separatists will get short shrift. There is a small carrot and a large stick. Repression in the Valley means the stick can swing and hit more rapidly and with greater precision and economy. What matters is that the cost of that Repression is less than that of the gravy previously handed out to the wholly useless 'mainstream'. Thus, the thing pays for itself and nobody ever need scratch their head about the Valley again.
On my multiple trips to Srinagar in the past few weeks, that is the one thing that leapt out at me: the schadenfreude on the street about politicians like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti being in detention.
Barkha says people are happy that the dynasts are in detention. This means Amit Shah did the right, the popular, thing. Sheikh Abdullah, Omar's grandfather, introduced the Preventive Detention Act ostensibly to 'curb timber smuggling'. It is entirely salutary that his heirs suffer under it.
Other than the political workers of their parties, many of whom have been targeted by terrorists for daring to take part in the electoral process, there is little or no sympathy for the humiliation of those whose home has been Centaur Hotel or Chashma Shahi and Hari Niwas for the past many days. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could either treat this as an “aha-I-told-you-so” moment, or realise how dangerous this contempt could prove to be.
Barkha is right. Indian Army is trembling and pissing its pants because some Kashmiris- a people better known for their artistic and commercial skills than their martial prowess- are currently contemptuous of the people they themselves voted for. What if, from being contemptuous merely, these people turn more obstreperous? Suppose they lower their pajamas and fart loudly to show an even more extreme form of derision? Won't that cause Indian Army to run away? Will not the administration collapse? Barkha is right to worry about such things.
Through his tears, one man I met outside a government-run phone helpline (he had spent hours trying to reach his father in Saudi Arabia) told me that the detentions “were a slap on the mainstream. Unki aukad pata lag gayee hain unko” (“They have been shown what they are worth”).
Barkha meets a man- not a child- who is crying. Apparently it took him some hours trying to reach his Daddy on the phone and this upset the poor fellow. Still, through his tears, he tells Barkha that the progeny of the 'Lion of Kashmir' have been put in their place. He does not say he pities them. From what Barkha reports, it appears his tears are entirely self-pitying and arise from a delay in talking to his da-da. No doubt, da-da will send ba-ba some money and so he will dry his tears and buy some nice sweeties and teddy bears. Indian Army is trembling in its boots because of its fear of cry-babies like this man.

Others in the city’s downtown area, where for years every evening ends with ritualistic clashes between paramilitary personnel and protesters armed with stones, openly sniggered at the plight of the mainstream.
So, when not snivelling, Kashmiris spend their time sniggering. That too openly! OMG! How brave these lions are! I wonder what will happen when 'clashes with paramilitary personnel' turn a little less 'ritualistic'.
Most of them have never voted in an election. Today, they say, their stand has been vindicated, now that even someone like Sajad Lone has been imprisoned. After Syed Salahuddin ( the Hizbul Mujahideen militant who is now in Pakistan), Lone is the first significant Kashmiri separatist who experimented with elections in 2002. He called out the Pakistani deep State and the ISI for the assassination of his father, a pro-dialogue separatist.
Aha! That's why the Kashmiris respect Pakistan! It kills their daddies!
One of his brothers is still a secessionist.
Probably in the hope that the Pakistanis will thin out his family even further.
His party was backed by the BJP, and Lone likened the PM to an “elder brother”.
What an artful picture of the Kashmiri psyche Barkah is drawing! They snivell, snigger, and brown nose like nobody's business!
Lone is among the scores of politicians locked away by the administration, obviously under orders from the top. Srinagar’s mayor, Junaid Mattu ,was also a former separatist. Last year, he won the elections with the BJP’s backing. Mattu was allowed to travel to Delhi for medical treatment, and, while he was in the capital, I had a chance to interview him in what would be the first account of a mainstream leader who has undergone detention. He called it “suffocating and humiliating”. Two days after that interview, he was arrested again.
By Barkha's account, being a separatist for a bit, and then turning your coat, was one way to rise within a corrupt system. True, the Pakistanis might kill your Dad, but the Indians would pay you. Till, that is an 'elder brother' decided it was time to end this nonsense. Kashmir must develop some manly qualities and stand on its own feet economically.

Watching these developments, those who never believed in the Indian Union only feel more emboldened to argue that they were right all along.
Who cares about 'those who never believed in the Indian union'? What power do they have? None at all. Even if they get 'emboldened' enough to argue something, who will listen to them?  On the basis of Barkha's article, they come across as snivelling, sniggering, poltroons.
The BJP promises a “Naya Kashmir” with the end of dynasty and family fiefdoms.
For the Hindus and Buddhists that promise has already come true. Some Muslims may continue to snivell, or snigger, or even chuck a couple of stones. But they won't get paid to do so any longer.
But how is this possible with a curtailment of all political activity? What message are we sending to a potential generation of new representatives?
Barkha's message is that corrupt dynasts count. She herself should interview them from time to time. Sadly, she can no longer do so on TV because Kapil Sibal won't put any more money into a channel nobody watches.

Modi's message is different. He says the 'potential generation of new representatives' must be panchayat based and do grass-roots work and concentrate on last-mile delivery. This is boring but it is useful. Talking shite about the martyrdom of the Valley can be left to senile NRIs.
The mainstream politicians have done themselves no favours either. Only two of them filed habeas corpus petitions in court to fight for their release. Others have challenged the abrogation of Article 370 but let this one month lapse as if they were utterly paralysed. Perhaps they are. Else, what explains, for instance, that not one among the scores of prominent politicians under arrest, have considered a hunger strike or a fast-unto-death? After all, the moral principle of Gandhian Satyagraha is all-powerful. Templates have been set by people as varied as Irom Sharmila, Medha Patkar and Anna Hazare.
WTF? Is the woman utterly mad? All three are still alive- which is why the hunger strike has lost its sting. Irom was forcibly fed and, being released after many years, shat the bed by marrying some British dude. Patkar fasts from time to time- as should I for health reasons- but nothing comes of it. Hazare, poor fellow, was a stepping stool for Kejriwal.
I am not suggesting that this would have altered any government decisions. But it would have at least sent out a larger message about functional politics and active dissent.
Nobody is listening to that sort of message anymore coz the previous senders were stupid, careerist, or drama queens.

The situation is so piquant today that although there are no curfew orders in place, people in urban centres like Srinagar are refusing to open shops and establishments or come out on the streets. That explains the images of empty, desolate streets that you see in the media.
Barkha is confirming the popular prejudice re. Kashmiris as spineless creatures who spend their time snivelling or sniggering or sulking.
Without a next move — and one that must lift the curb and normalise politics — it is the secessionists who will end up stronger.
Not if they got shot or incarcerated. However, if secessionists confine themselves to snivelling, sniggering and sulking, there is little chance of this happening. But this doesn't mean they will get stronger. Rather such behavior will further enfeeble them.
That will be most ironic for a move that statedly set out to integrate Kashmir into the rest of India.
The move has integrated Kashmir into the rest of India. It is now clear that neither Pakistan nor China nor the people of the Valley could have ever resisted such a step. Why was it not taken long ago? The answer is that India was ruled by a corrupt and incompetent dynasty similar to those of the Valley.

Modi, the meritocrat, has emerged victorious. Amit Shah has completed the work of Sardar Patel. Indian Muslims will now give more votes to the BJP. Jamaatis in the Valley will move closer to their cousins in India- not the crazy nutjobs in Pakistan.

Barkha's article contains reportage which directly contradicts her stated views. Is this purely because she is stupid? Or is she playing a double game? Only time will tell. In her profession, it is common to turn one's coat when all else fails. Perhaps Barkha is herself preparing to accede to Modi's India.

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