Monday, August 12, 2013

BJP’s concern for Kishtwar nothing but politics….

Arun Jaitley made a fiery speech in the Rajya Sabha yesterday. If fiery speeches won elections, the BJP would be ruling in both houses of Parliament with an absolute majority. Unfortunately for the party, there is more that counts. Consistency of positions for one. Caring for all Indians rather than for just Hindus for another. Jaitley was being selective in raising his voice against the violence in Kishtwar. Had he been as consistent about violence in general, he would have been hailed as a statesman. Instead, he is just another communal BJP politician.

Kashmir holds a special place of importance for the BJP. It’s a state that has a complex history, not all of which is appealing for us Indians. Those complex issues are best left undiscussed in the public domain. Suffice it to say that we need to remember that Kashmir is a special state, annexed physically to India, but not quite so fully mentally. There are all kinds of elements in that state, including much to our distaste, those who want freedom (Some from India. Some from both India and Pakistan). For anyone therefore to blatantly play politics in Kashmir is insensitive at the least; and unpatriotic at the worst. Jaitley of all people should have been a lot more sensitive about the matter.

Omar Abdullah, CM of J&K, responded by reminding the BJP about its role in the Gujarat riots. He is dead right. It is a matter of recorded history that the Gujarat riots were “allowed” to happen right under the eyes of Modi; the only debate is whether Modi merely slept or also directly participated in the pogrom. Not being proven guilty by no means gives him a clean chit. Other incidents of violence against the Muslims in Gujarat – including the fake encounter killings – only establish a pattern that hints at the BJP’s complicity. The BJP has its hands permanently smeared in blood – and its refusal to admit the mistake, prevents it from moving on. Everyone makes mistakes (the BJP is not alone), but its refusal to accept it is what rankles people. So Omar Abdullah is right in telling Jaitley that the BJP of all parties is in no position to lecture him on how to handle riots.

After all, only 4 people died in Kishtwar – 4 too many, but just 4 all the same. In contrast, under the benevolent eyes of India’s “governance icon” Narendra Modi, more than a thousand people died in Gujarat. Sure Omar could have handled the riots better. He could have called in the Army earlier and he made a mistake. But at least he accepts it. At least, he has a viable (though that does not exonerate him) excuse that his police force was thin because of Eid holidays. In Gujarat, the CM never accepted his mistake. Nor was there any excuse for the cops being off duty. In fact, the VHP had declared an illegal bandh on the day after the Godhra train incident; if the CM had been as good a governor as he claims to be now, he would have put his cops on high alert. Instead, there are strong indications that he actually participated deploying his famed oratory – calling for action against the Muslims.

The BJP should feel the pain of all in Kashmir, not just of the Hindus. It should understand how minorities feel and fear (J&K is the only state in India where Hindus are in a minority). Isn’t it terrible that the state failed to protect the property of Hindus? Don’t we hold the state responsible for pundits having to leave the state in the 90s? Don’t we fret that the Muslim majority doesn’t behave with the generosity that is expected of any majority community? The BJP should now turn the mirror on itself. Can it claim that it has been generous towards minorities? I think, the people of India can make this claim to a large extent. The BJP unfortunately cannot.

Jaitley and the BJP use Kashmir as an important tool to show their Hindu credentials. The BJP has no presence in J&K. And it has nothing at stake in that state. That is precisely why it uses Kashmir as a handy emotional tool to reap rewards elsewhere. Kashmir helps the BJP two ways. It helps burnish its Hindu credentials; but it also helps it take on a “nationalistic” position. When the BJP rants against the “azadi” slogans aired by a few Kashmiris, it appeals to all those who want J&K to stay with us (which is all of us). That is why the BJP often plays the drama of hoisting the Indian flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. The party refuses to accept the special status that J&K has, and deserves, ignoring history; or rather abusing history to appeal to its vote banks.

Its sad that it’s the BJP’s political strategy is so overtly Hindu driven. The Hindus in India don’t need protection. They don’t need representation. They are strong enough not to feel threatened by anyone. They are 80% of the population for god’s sakes. Even temperamentally, Hindus are generous, accommodative, and peace loving. It’s only the extreme fringe that falls for the BJP’s vicious lingo. And its this fringe that gives a bad name to all of us.

I would have been thrilled if Jaitley had spoken out against all forms of communal violence. Instead his party has steadfastly opposed the proposed Communal Violence bill, which enjoins the center and state governments to protect any targeted violence against the minorities (linguistic or religious). There is a need for a National Authority for Communal Harmony that the bill envisages. The BJP’s insistence that the act must not only protect minorities is specious. Protection – by definition – is required for those who are under threat. 80% of any population can never be under threat. Australians in Australia don’t need protection; it is the Indians there who need protection, right? In any case, if any violence happens against the majority community, there are enough existing laws to tackle that. By enacting a separate law to protect minorities, the country sends a signal that it means business. A business, that unfortunately, the BJP wants not to be a part of.

The real truth is that Jaitley and the BJP are politicizing the Kishtwar riots. They have no concern for the incident per se. The incident only gives them a chance to appeal to their core Hindu constituency elsewhere. The elections are coming – and we should more such communal rhetoric from the party….especially now that it is Modi who is heading the party’s poll campaign.

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