Hari Jaisingh
Hari Jaisingh

Unfair to Kashmiri students National perspective must never be ignored

Hari Jaisingh

I wish Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have been more categorical and forthright in asking Sangh Parivar activists and others to stop attacking Kashmiri students in Dehradun and other parts of the country. At least five of the institutes, where Kashmiri children are studying, were targeted after the Pulwama attack. They are covered under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (MPSSS) – a merit-based programme that offers admission to J & K students in colleges, institutes and universities across the country and pays for their tuition and board.

The Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme was a laudable initiative to bring young Kashmiris closer to the mainstream people of India.

The moot question, however, is: why should PM Modi be soft on the activists since they are reversing the very process of his “healing touch” to young Kashmiris by weaning them off from the clutches of Pak-sponsored Jaish-e-Mohammad operating in the Valley. Is this “softness” a matter of an information gap? It needs to be kept in mind that a double-faced policy and the absence of guts to speak out firmly on national issues is not in the PM’s own interests, keeping in view the 2019 polls. In any case, Hindutva cannot be delinked from the rational and national thinking process. Otherwise, it could become a divisive act that might go against Narendra Modi’s very concept of all-inclusive Indian unity and development.

At this critical juncture of our national life, we must not forget that if there is one country which has suffered most from Islamabad-sponsored cross-border terrorism, it is India for the past three decades. New Delhi has been fighting a brutal war against sponsored terrorism all alone, with its hands tied at the back. It is a pity that the successive governments in New Delhi have not mustered enough political will and resources to strike at the sources of these troubles. How come? The answer is simple: we Indians are generally not united politically and otherwise to take on the terrorist monster. We tend to speak in different voices irrespective of the fact whether the Congress was in power or the BJP is ruling the roost now.

One question which often agitates a section of educated and average Indians is: why can’t India function in a more cohesive manner as one nation? Why should the polity be divided all the while on caste, communal and narrow political lines? Why do we allow petty political calculations to prevail over larger national objectives? We see this happening now after a few days of all-party unity rhetoric. Is this because of the poor quality of our leadership at all levels? We must not forget that these queries surfaced sharply in the wake of the 9/11 carnage in New York and Washington. Instead of crumbling under the terrorist onslaught, Americans belonging to different backgrounds and races rallied behind the Bush administration in an unprecedented show of solidarity. In our case, after a few days of solidarity, it is politics as usual.

We ought not to overlook today’s globalised setting which underlines broad-based, humane, forward-looking, enlightened, liberal nationalism. Viewed in this light, the US 9/11 evoked the right response in the US as well as stirred the conscience of humanity, beyond the geographical boundaries of America.

True, a large number of global voices are with New Delhi after the Pulwama massacre. However, this would get diluted unless we address ourselves to the glaring weakness in the BJP’s concept of nationalism.

As it is, most Islamic countries have looked the other way as Pak-sponsored jihadis have been playing havoc with the lives of innocent citizens in Kashmir. The Indian leadership, of course, makes a lot of noise about the menace but it has not picked up the courage to hit back at the terrorist outfits, their hideouts and training camps across the border and PoK. This is not a matter of one or two surgical strikes but a well-organised offensive with a view to breaking the backbone of terrorism for all times. For this objective, we need to think of new lines and work out new policies for governing the country. Mercifully, Indian Air Force jets on February 26 dropped 1,000 kg bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camps in PoK. Well done, the IAF and PM Modi!

This is a major shift in India’s anti-terrorism strategy.  All the same, we also urgently need to give a fresh look at all facets of the Kashmir question and the ground realities in the Valley. Withdrawal of the security cover provided to separatist leaders is a symbolic act, and not an earth-shaking step. We ought to go deeper into the Valley's changing mindset. The security forces are doing their job well. But, what about local politicians?

What is required is integrated thinking, proactive policy and coordinated action which has to take into account new ground realities and desired targets. A major area of concern today is the spreading tentacles of Islamic extremism and militant outfits under the sponsorship of the ISI and the army-guided Imran Khan’s government in the Valley.

It needs to be widely appreciated that the basis of the people of the Valley is Kashmiriyat and Sufism. There are varied religious traditions and practices in the Valley which are common to both Hindus and Muslims. These traditional bonds of secularism have to be strengthened by political and social entities. We also must not forget that Islam as practised in India derives its sustenance from the secular bonds of the Indian nationhood, its history, culture and civilisational roots. I expect the Modi government to keep these ancient historical facts with regard to Kashmir constantly in mind to check the Sangh Parivar's activities, which give wrong signals at home and abroad.  He would get an overview of India’s ancient links in Kashmir in my book, Kashmir: A Tale of Shame (UBS publications).

One more pertinent point I wish to convey to Prime Minister Modi, who I have known from my Tribune days. That is, in the absence of a credible media adviser, he must ensure that Sarkari policy announcements are not left to the discretion of an individual minister. Take, for example, seasoned RSS-backed minister Nitin Gadkari. He sent out a series of twitter messages, saying that the government will “stop” the waters in the three “eastern rivers” of the Indus basin – Ravi, Sutlej and Beas – as provided under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty and supply it to our people in J & K and Punjab! Fine. A government official, however, has said, “no new decision has been taken!”

My point is simple: every crucial decision must be discussed in depth and analysed in totality with its possible implications before making a public announcement. This will add to the credibility of the Modi government.

I also wish to tell Congress leaders: why make a fuss about the invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the coming meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (O/C) at Abu Dhabi. This is a major diplomatic breakthrough for India after 50 years. Rahul Gandhi and his team should learn to be gracious at least in New Delhi’s diplomatic success!

Lastly, I would like to tell PM Modi that he should not have politicised the solemn occasion of inauguration of the National War Memorial in New Delhi on February 25. He could have avoided slamming the Congress and the Gandhi family on this occasion. This was not in good taste, Mr PM.