In this final part, we analyze Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s claim that the very act of BJP forming a Government in coalition with PDP in J&K has created mistrust in Kashmiris leading to the current unrest, and his demand to ‘control media’ as some Delhi TV channels conduct ‘polarizing’ debates involving Muslim critics of Islam thus fueling Kashmiri Muslim anger.
Azad’s complete speech in RS can be seen below –
Ghulam Nabi Azad: The current coalition Government in J&K does not inspire any trust in the people of Kashmir valley. I had warned PDP against joining hands with BJP, as BJP is just not acceptable to the Kashmir valley – it will take at least 200 years for BJP to win trust of Kashmiris. You should not have formed a Government there. This is another contributory factor to the volcano that has burst today. Talk about ‘demographic change’ in the valley has upset the sentiments of this sensitive border state. If someone talks about expanding RSS in the state, it will have repercussions. We did not see such a vitiated atmosphere in Kashmir even in 1990.
I congratulate Kashmiri Muslims for allowing the Amarnath Yatra to continue – they did not allow communalization of the situation. When some yatris met with an accident, it was the local Muslims who saved them and we all saw them on TV fighting over who would donate blood to the injured yatris. 3 days back when a Kashmiri Hindu passed away, Muslims defied curfew and performed his last rites. Kashmiris are very smart and volatile, but immensely loving at the same time. But they will not tolerate mis-treatment.
I am all for freedom of press. Today, there is no press freedom in Kashmir – internet is down, TV channels are not allowed. But the discussions which we see in some national media channels today are dividing the nation – by pitting extremist Hindus against Muslims. These debates also polarize the situation in Kashmir. Is there any boundary to control Delhi based media?
Some people who have been exiled from their own countries are given space on our TV channels. Taslima Nasreen was exiled from Bangladesh for writing against the Koran, but we gave her shelter – now she comes on TV and speaks against Islam in Bharat. The Central Government is responsible for this. Tarek Fatah who was exiled from Pakistan for speaking against Islam and is now a Canadian national, also speaks against Zakir Naik and spews non-stop venom against Islamic religious books. Younas Al Gohar, another foreign national who spews venom against Islam, is also given space in our media. The blame for all this lies with the Central Government and your (NDA) administration. I do not blame print media, it is some of these TV channels who carry out these debates which will lead to our downfall.
Analysis: BJP won 25 seats in the 2014 J&K state elections with 23% of total vote share to emerge as the second largest party – while its coalition partner PDP won 28 seats with 22.7% vote share. J&K has 3 regions: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. All of BJP’s 25 seats were won in Jammu region. When Mr. Azad says that BJP should not have formed a coalition Government with PDP, is he saying that Kashmir valley exercises a veto over the democratic will of the people of Jammu, who constitute 43% of the total population of J&K as per 2011 census?
Why is everything in J&K viewed through the prism of the Kashmir valley? What about the sentiments of the people of Jammu and Ladakh – does Mr. Azad realize that they feel discriminated against when each and every policy in J&K is decided keeping Kashmir alone in mind? Even in Kashmir, there are areas where people reject separatism – has Mr. Azad or his party bothered to understand the sentiments of the Shias, Ahmadis, Bakrwals of Kashmir? By giving undue importance to the hardline Sunni Islamists in Kashmir valley, does he realize that he is playing into Pakistani and Hurriyat hands?
The rest of the country understands the pain of innocent Kashmiris who were killed & injured during the recent protests. It is also heartening to note the incidents quoted by Mr. Azad of Kashmiris helping Amarnath yatris during an accident, and for conducting the funeral of a Kashmiri Hindu. But is Mr. Azad serious when he says that the Amarnath Yatra did not suffer any disruption? Maybe he and his party only watch NDTV, so might not be aware of the scores of reports in Hindi media about how Amarnath yatris were attacked, their vehicles pelted with stones, people forced to say ‘Pakistan zindabad, Bharat murdabad’’, and even bhandaras attacked.
The worst cut during his entire speech came when he did not utter a single word about Kashmiri Hindus, the minority population who were driven out of the valley in a systematic campaign of religious cleansing in 1989/90. Kashmiri Hindus again faced the ire of their Muslim neighbours during the recent protests, when the handful of Kashmiri Hindus working under the PM rehabilitation package and staying in the transit camps of Haal, Vessu and Matan were besieged by stone-throwing mobs. Mr. Azad, when you say that talk of ‘demographic change’ in the valley has upset Muslims, are you saying that Kashmiri Hindus should not be resettled in the valley? Is this an example of inclusive, loving Kashmiriyat?
Coming to your point about polarizing debates on some TV channels fomenting Kashmiri anger – isn’t it ironical that you call for media freedom in Kashmir, but in the same breath say that there is a need to ‘control media’ in Delhi. Did you ever feel there was a need to ‘control media’ when UPA was in power for 10 years, and all media channels (NDTV, CNN-IBN, Times Now, Headlines Today, Aaj Tak, ABP News etc) went hammer and tongs to nail Modi for his alleged complicity in 2002 Gujarat riots, and nail Amit Shah for the alleged fake encounter of LeT terrorist Ishrat Jehan and notorious gangster Sohrabuddin? Even 2 years after your party’s abject loss in LS 2014 elections, our mainstream media is still deeply deferential of your party President Sonia Gandhi – it is hard to recollect even one prime-time debate over her role in the monster corruption, mal-governance, and institutional degradation that Bharat suffered during the UPA era – but yet you want to control media!
Hindu Dharma and Hindu society is openly questioned & criticized by our media; we have seen prime time debates on whether Bhagwan Ram was a divine encroacher, whether he was a bad husband; the Hindu caste system is often castigated for all the ills that afflict our society; Hindu gurus and icons like Baba Ramdev are ridiculed; the Hindu opposition to MF Hussain’s painting of nude Hindu Goddesses has been harshly criticized as ‘muzzling freedom of expression’; any talk of reforming education curriculum to correct the Marxist distortions and inculcate a sense of pride for our ancient civilization is shouted down as ‘saffronization’. Often, harsh critics of Hindu Dharma like Kancha Illaiah, Teesta Setalvad, Mahesh Bhatt, Wendy Doniger etc are given space on TV debates and in print media. Hindus do criticize what they perceive as an overt bias of a media ecosystem dominated by left-liberals – but Hindus do not demand censorship. The Hindu response to the Hinduphobia in our media is to use social media to expose the bias and try to create alternative media channels. We believe that “the answer to a book is another book setting the arguments right”
Mr. Azad, it seems that what has upset you most is the space given on some TV channels to critics of radical Islam like Taslima Nasreen and Tarek Fatah. At a time when the whole world is grappling with radical Islamist terror, why do you want these dissenting voices from within the Muslim community to be silenced? Or do you think that an atheist ceases to be a Muslim and hence has no right to speak about Islam? By adopting an ostrich like attitude of burying our head in the sand and chanting ‘All is well’, will the real danger of Islamic radicalization disappear? How can we claim to be a free, secular democracy if we don’t even allow those holding opinions different to us to express themselves?
You say that we should not entertain people like Taslima Nasreen and Tarek Fatah as they were ‘kicked out’ from their native countries, i.e. Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively. So do you want Bangladesh and Pakistan, two nations burning due to deadly Islamist terror, to be the role models for Bharat?
CONCLUSION: Ghulam Nabi Azad’s contempt for the democratic choice of people of Jammu is shocking. Moreover, his calls for media censorship when certain aspects of Islam are being questioned does not behoove a mainstream politician belonging to a party which claims to be liberal in outlook.