By Tavleen Singh
February 24, 2019
It was too good to last. For a moment the horror of what happened in Pulwama made our political leaders put India’s security above their own petty politics, but this moment did not last long. So even as ordinary Indians came into the streets to publicly mourn at the funerals of the 40 men who died so brutally, our main political parties went back to politics as usual. The Congress party accused Narendra Modi of shooting for a promotional film on the afternoon of the Pulwama massacre and the BJP blamed the whole Kashmir problem on Jawaharlal Nehru. Senior leaders in both parties hurled charges at each other without noticing that they were putting their own interests above the interests of India. Shame on them.
Nobody is interested in stupid accusations. Everyone is interested in knowing why we continue to be unprepared for the new kind of war that Pakistan has been waging on Indian soil ever since the defeat in Kargil proved that in a real war India would always win. Everyone is interested in knowing why the situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to horrible. If Narendra Modi must be blamed for not having a clear policy in the past four years, the Congress party must be blamed for creating the Kashmir problem in the first place. And, both parties must share the blame for not speaking out against the sickening attacks on Kashmiris since the Pulwama massacre.
Why is it so hard for senior leaders in both our main national parties to say clearly that these attacks shame India and must be stopped? I have found it hard to watch the videos on social media that show mobs of Hindu fanatics beating up Kashmiri students and tradesmen. This is not nationalism; it is extreme stupidity because these so-called nationalists have not noticed that they are proving that they do not think of Kashmiris as Indians. Certainly not Muslim Kashmiris. They have behaved disgracefully and harmed India with their perverted idea of patriotism.
They also seem to have forgotten that India is a country that has survived as a modern nation because of traditions that we should be proud of. Last week I was in Jodhpur for the World Sacred Spirit Festival and in a magical dawn concert I heard Muslim Manganiar folk singers singing songs of exquisite beauty to Krishna. The compere explained that ‘they follow Islam but they sing Hindu devotional songs’. He seemed to understand more deeply the ties that bind India than our political leaders do. But what is worrying is that our political leaders seem incapable even of understanding that Kashmir is a political problem that needs a political solution.
It is terrific that we have managed to get the UN Security Council to censure Pakistan for its support to jihadist killers. Terrific that so many countries have stood by India in this time of distress and disturbance, but unless we begin to admit that Kashmir is an unresolved domestic problem, it will continue to fester. Whenever there has been a clear policy to deal with our oldest political problem, there has been a measure of peace in the Kashmir Valley. It is when Delhi’s attitude to Kashmir is muddled and weak that there has been violence instead of peace.
Narendra Modi has seemed unsure about what his Kashmir policy should be ever since he became Prime Minister. So first came that bungled attempt to bring lasting peace by making the BJP part of a government with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This alliance never worked because at the same time came hawkish statements from BJP leaders on ending Kashmir’s special status (Article 370) and needing to deal harshly with Kashmiri separatists.
After Burhan Wani was killed and there was a sudden explosion of anti-India sentiments in the Valley, nobody in Delhi seemed to know what to do next. I recently participated in a panel discussion on Kashmir with some former Generals and the one thing they all agreed upon was that there was no strategy for handling Kashmir. They said it was as if everyone in Delhi forgot about the problem until there was some new act of terrible violence.
This is sadly true. So, for a few weeks more, there will be a lot of talk about Kashmir. Every major political leader seems to have an opinion on the subject. But, soon the suicide bombing in Pulwama will be forgotten and so will Kashmir. It is important that Pakistan be made to answer for promoting violent, secessionist groups. But, it is just as important to ask why they find it so easy to get local support and what has gone so wrong that young Kashmiri boys are willing to become suicide bombers in this war against India. Something has gone very wrong and nobody seems to know why.
Tavleen Singh, a leading Columnist associated with The Indian Express.