Three men, guided by myopic agendas, notions of muscular nationalism, and inspired by the pursuit of power at any cost, are steering the destiny of India, a country of nearly 1.3 billion people. India should be extremely worried.
The tools being employed by these men are simple but lethal. They are preying on the two most primal fears of humankind — greed and fear. Buy or threaten, do whatever you can, but ensure compliance of their diktats, complete subjugation to their agenda.
Their defining credos are simple. Might is right. What’s popular is legit. What’s pragmatic is ethical. Majoritarianism is domestic policy. Debate is dissent. Criticism is criminal. Institutions — army, CBI et al — are weapons of mass subjugation. Federalism is a synonym for pliable, pusillanimous regional leaders.
States and boundaries are like those block puzzle games. Opposition is a corrupt, dynastic cabal. Media is for beating drums. History is what the government says. Constitution is what it defines. And, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express, the Parliament is just a noticeboard.
All of this would have been less worrisome if these current ‘bhagya vidhatas’ of India were not rash, impulsive, and prone to making big, audacious moves without thinking about the consequences. But, unfortunately, they are addicted to the high of power that, they believe, makes them immune to failure or accountability.
In five years, we have seen enough to spot the trademarks of the Narendra Modi oligarchy, also known as National Democratic Alliance. Make a big announcement, keep it secret, call it a ‘eureka’ moment, sell it to the public as a historic decision for the welfare of the people and a step in nation-building, make the media kowtow this line, label every critic a deshdrohi, shout down skeptics, co-opt other institutions, and, once the decision backfires, move on to a new adventure.
We have seen the same soap opera unfold many times. One horrifying night, money was outlawed; another balmy morning, an unscheduled trip was made to embrace the then Pakistan premier, on another occasion, a surgical strike was launched across the border… We have a long list of ifs and buts, flips and flops.
Bear in mind the Modi sarkar’s modus operandi as we watch the latest gamble, this time on Kashmir, unfold. The decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, bifurcate the state into two Union Territories has all the hallmarks of the stealth, subterfuge, and spin of the three men.
The real intent behind the decision is to rule Kashmir by force and through the Centre’s — read the three men in power — fiat. But, it has been sold as an altruistic decision aimed at correcting the wrongs of history, generating jobs, improving infrastructure, and making the Valley the heaven it was.
The bifurcation of the state is a cruel ploy to denigrate Kashmiris who were demanding aazadi from India and mainstream politicians fighting for greater autonomy. In one stroke, they have been told that they don’t even deserve their own state in an India that is being Hindu-ised gradually. Like always, it has the trademark spin of the government: be grateful, it’s for your own good.
The fact is, the Indian government may have taken over Kashmir’s land with this audacious move. But, it has alienated the people of the Valley for several decades. How the Kashmiris will react to this unilateral decision is easy to understand from the Centre’s own fears of a massive resistance that it is trying to preempt by bringing in a garrison for the Valley, imposing curfews and restrictions, and arresting the main-stream leaders.
On cue, the pliant media has gone into celebratory mode, eulogising the government, shouting down critics — one anchor on a Hindi channel silenced a constitutional expert by saying why he was screaming like those Pakistanis — and selling the decision as historic.
The ordinary Indian, unaware of the complicated history of Kashmir’s accession to India and the promises made to it in our Constitution, has been brainwashed into believing that a two BHK in the foothills of Zabarvan Hills is now within their ambit. And that the integration of Kashmir and the taming of Kashmiris is complete.
The institutions, meanwhile, have been either been co-opted, hoodwinked or brutally assaulted. The opposition has been silenced with the usual mix of greed and fear, a combination that has led to the horrendous spectacle of an Arvind Kejriwal — the one who has been demanding statehood for Delhi — supporting the disappearance of a state.
Have the three men presiding over India’s destiny thought about the consequences?
The Valley will inevitably react. The contours of the reaction are still not known. But just as night follows the day, summer follows autumn, a cycle of protests, violence and bloodshed threatens to follow the government’s diktat. By taking on the mainstream, arresting its leaders, betraying its allies, the government has united Kashmir in a way that is unprecedented in scale and magnitude. The mainstream is now the fringe, the separatists are now the mainstream, and the militants will now claim a legitimate stake. India should be prepared for a long winter of unrest.
The other challenge will come from Pakistan, whose leaders and public will see this as a defining challenge to their diplomacy and commitment to the “Kashmiri cause.” Over the past few months, Pakistan has moved closer to the US, become the kingmaker in Afghanistan, befriended Russia, and become a client state of China.
Post Pulwama, we were told by the spinmeisters of the Modi Sarkar that Pakistan has been isolated, but Imran Khan has actually managed to cozy up to some of our erstwhile friends and allies. How this new axis reacts to India’s ploy will define its future.
Once again, three men have rocked Kashmir’s boat, put India in uncharted territory. We should be really worried.