Antics of political understatement

Mehbooba Mufti’s statement on the militant attack on the BSF convoy in Bejbehara, Kashmir resulting in the killing of three jawans and wounding seven others is a classical example of political understatement. 

She indirectly and subtly linked it to the façade of return of Pandit displaced persons to Kashmir valley, carefully avoiding reference to the impending elections for vacant Anantnag assembly seat for which she has filed her nomination papers.

The new narrative is about ‘disrupting the Amarnath yatra’, another twist to understatement syndrome. The Chief Minister innocently says that she does not understand why the militants and their handlers across the border are indulging in violence in Kashmir and what they want out of it.

This is a scintillating example of understatement. She at least knows why she and her late father both were applying “balm to the wounds of the militants”. Who had inflicted wounds on militants and why she wanted to apply balm?

She says she does not understand why Pakistan is playing this dirty game in Kashmir. Her late father had thanked Pakistan for allowing Kashmiris to elect a government. And still Mehbooba ji does not know what interest Pakistan has in foisting armed conflict on Kashmir.

Armed militants, obviously hiding in some nearby hideout at the site of operation and monitoring the movement of BSF vehicles carrying the personnel to the BSF Headquarter, seized the strategic opportunity and attacked the moving convoy that resulted in the killings. After committing the crime they disappeared in thin air.

The Chief Minister, in her innocence and honesty, has not a word of censure for those providing logistics and hideouts to the militants in and around Bijbehara, her hometown and traditional constituency. Mind you, it is her constituency where elections are impending. That explains the nature of political understatement.

The Chief Minister looks at things from a specific prism. She is at a loss why Pakistan and its sponsored militants have been indulging in disrupting law and order in the State. This feigned childlike simplicity is to show that the Chief Minister is not in know of the reasons of rise of militancy and fundamentalism in Kashmir during past twenty-seven years.

That is why she doles out very pious pieces of advice to Pakistan to explain to her what Pakistan gets out of it. Even if she knows, she very politely and mildly, like a true statesman, invokes logic and common sense in the affairs of bilateral relations with neighbours and the quality of good neighborliness. She asks the militants to think over on what they are doing especially after her late father and even she herself had applied the “balm” on their wounds.

Madam Chief Minister, to put it simply, they (militants and Pakis) want to snatch from you the throne on which you are sitting and the crown you are wearing. You want to save these symbols through softened and chastened understatements.

As a Chief Minister Mehbooba is pained to say that lives of fifty to sixty thousand people including security forces and police have been lost during the proxy war.  It is expression of humanism… however, the culture of political understatement prevents her from asking for the source of these fatalities. To leave the people guessing she finds alibi in her inability to understand what they want.

Militants enjoy her softened understatement, as do we, the ordinary mortals, without need for in-depth analysis.  In feigned innocence, she finds the ploy to cover the question of the origin of the gun in Kashmir.

However, the notable thing is that the Chief Minister does not feel it at all important to ask the peace-loving people of the state to denounce such atrocious activities of the militants, refuse logistics and safe havens and even guidance to them.  Making any appeal like that would, in all probability, polarize the constituency on which she and her party depend.

By not retaliating to the militant attack, the BSF has averted what is called a Handwara like situation. This is perfectly right for a government that must keep its vote constituency in tact especially when the election is round the corner for a crucial vacant seat. Cowardice is an art after all.

About the rehabilitation of displaced Pandits back in Kashmir valley — a subject touched on by the CM a couple of times in recent days — the commitment made in the Agreement of Alliance could not be implemented by either party in the coalition as was clear from what happened after late Mufti and PM Modi had made an announcement last year. This raises the question whether the new formula about which CM is speaking is palatable to the Hurriyatis and separatists with whom her government proposes to enter into consultation according to the recent statement of the spokesman of the government.

Therefore it may be premature to comment on the possible response of the majority community of the valley which has assigned to itself the final verdict on the return of the minority to their native land.

If it is only the will of the majority to decide whether a minority is allowed space and right to exist wherever it likes, and not the Constitution of the country or the State, or the norms of democratic dispensation and international law, then Bharat as a home to hundreds of millions of minority community members is standing on the edge of a precipice that leads to chaos and destruction.

BJP – led government in the centre and in coalition in the State should hang its head in shame for succumbing to the diktat of a fanatical and rabidly communal majority of an 80 x 35 miles strip in the north of the country. Who is Mufti Mehbooba or any other political figure to decide taking the ten thousand years old indigenous citizens of Kashmir back in pigeonholes and dump them there as prisoners of the majority community? We find several exclusive concentrated habitats of Kashmiri Muslims in Jammu region come up in recent years. If that is no threat to demographic complexion of the State, how will concentrated rehabilitation of displaced Pandits become a source of threat? How does Kashmiri Pandit enclave threaten the integrity of the State?

Who does not know that denying them concentrated rehabilitation is not because of any alleged “Israel-like” enclave? The real purpose is to deny them any chance of grabbing two or three assembly seats as it could be galling to the myopic local Kashmiri Muslim leadership that had already brought about gerrymandering of Pandit constituencies.

If the CM believes in human rights she must announce a new city for the entire displaced community; something also suggested by the team of interlocutors in their final report as the only sensible and viable solution. Pandits will protest against discrimination and violation of Constitution till eternity. PM Modi must come out of his frozen turbulence and assert as the custodian of the country’s destiny.  He has a massive mandate of the Bharatiya nation and trivializing it means trivializing the Bharatiya nation.

About the Author

K.N. Pandita
Shri K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.