Mint editorial on Kashmir peddles disturbing state propaganda

Angshukanta Chakraborty
Angshukanta ChakrabortyAug 24, 2016 | 14:51

Mint editorial on Kashmir peddles disturbing state propaganda

An opinion piece carried without byline in Mint on August 23, 2016 made an attempt to straighten out the “false narrative of the Indian state in Kashmir”, and the “ongoing attempt to paint it as a brutal, rogue regime”.

While the editorial tries to bookend the piece with caveats and concerns about the 70 till-date deaths in the Valley since 22-year-old Hizbul militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter, and the grievances of the civilians against the Indian state, what it basically goes on to do is explain why the Indian state, despite its top-level mishandling of the situation and regular hyperbole of the crudest variety emanating from the tallest leaders themselves, is nevertheless, innocent of the charges being levelled at it.

No cosmetic surgery to fix the image of a disfigured political reality would rectify the situation for Kashmiris.

The backbone of the true narrative that the editorial wants us to learn is that the Indian state is only a stoic defender of peace and tranquility in the Valley, and all the deaths and blindings and injuries are unfortunate collateral damages, which by the way are statistically insignificant to merit any harsh global censure.

This gem of a line from its third paragraph sums it up: “Heartless as it may sound, a casualty figure of 70 in 45 days of controlling very violent crowds shows exemplary restraint by the Indian forces.”

Moreover, the “crowds in the Valley” are constantly painted as a rogue population that has sprung out of control, as if Kashmiri youths, even schoolchildren, are sheep who will not react when they see their home state in such a violent turmoil.

The editorial has no word on the recent beating to death in police custody of a 30-year-old Kashmiri lecturer, nor has it any sage advice on the reports about women being beaten up by paramilitary force personnel while they were on their way to the hospital.

The editorial is similarly silent on the extremely difficult circumstances under which the SMHS hospital in Srinagar had to function, with medical supplies depleted, very little cellular or internet network leading to a complete communication breakdown during the nonstop emergencies.

While the piece says that protesters who throw stones, petrol bombs and grenades at the paramilitary forces, are barely out of their teens and are being misled by a gradual Islamicisation of the Kashmir valley, it chooses to stay mum on the poisonous miasma of Hindutva-laced nationalism that is eating at the very fabric of a secular India, to which the Kashmiri Muslims should ideally feel an allegiance to.

When the question is asked what are their “political objectives” and if they are being “used by separatist and Islamist forces in the Valley”, well the logical corollary to that set of inquiry is what about the alternative?

The reciprocal fundamentalism of Islamicisation and Hindutva would only widen the gap between the ordinary Kashmiri Muslim and the Indian, unless the Indian happens to be a Dalit, or a university student accused of sedition merely for his political beliefs.

Questions have been asked why pellet guns and similar “riot-control” mechanism were not used during the Jat agitation that rocked Haryana earlier this year, in which youths went on a rampage and destroyed property worth Rs several crores. 

The truth, tangentially touched upon in the editorial, is that more than an unrest that can be quelled militarily, the situation in Kashmir is approaching like it was in the early 1990s, with senior journalist Prem Shankar Jha dubbing it an uprising, a possible “second intifada”.

How can Kashmir, the most militarised zone in the world, under the brutal thumb of AFSPA, feel any more connect with the Indian state under the Narendra Modi regime when non-Kashmiri Muslims and Dalits are increasingly feeling estranged.

As senior journalists reporting from the ground in Kashmir have observed, there’s unanimity of sentiment that has crystallised against India and that sentiment is one of anger and hopelessness. Like Burhan Wani, it is embracing the call for “azaadi” because of serial betrayals and not just from the Modi government, but also the regimes that came before this one, both local and central.

The editorial is disturbing for another reason. Just like the official upholders of the Indian state narrative, this piece too is concerned more about the sullied image of the Indian state in the international arena and less about the lives lost in the 45-day curfew so far. Evidently, it is worse to be seen perpetrating brutal suppression of a mass uprising than to be actually doing it. 

While the Kashmir question is a 70-year-old one, the editorial should have had the good sense to ask why after 15 years of relative calm except during the 2010 episodes of violence, has Kashmir descended into such a hell. No cosmetic surgery to fix the image of a disfigured political reality would rectify the situation for Kashmiris, unless their political aspirations, dignities and liberties are ensured.

Last updated: August 24, 2016 | 15:50
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