Can't Wash His Hands Off

Published: May 3, 2019 - 18:22

There is something definitely uncanny whereby most of the pro-BJP media channels and their pathetically predictable and cacophonic anchors lost both their minds and their marbles moments after the massacre of soldiers in Pulwama in Kashmir on February 18, allegedly executed by a young Kashmiri Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber. Add to this the relentless chest-thumping across news channels by out-of-work retired army generals etc., frothing from their mouths, both their high and low blood pressure seemingly exceeding all limits, mindlessly egged on by war-mongering anchors who would seem to be firing mythical missiles from their TV studios across the LoC, and even the most perceptive theories on ‘manufactured consent’ in the media, as during the Vietnam war unleashed by the US, would fall flat. 

Indeed, hardened editors and journalists are professionally meant to deal with unprecedented catastrophes and tragedies with a cool head, quickly arranging all resources, gathering and dissecting facts, sounding out ground reporters and sources within and outside the government (and also the armed forces, when it comes to Kashmir, border areas, the North-east or a conflict zone), fact-checking and double-checking facts, credible, balanced and restrained in terms of news-dissemination,  decisively dumping fake/paid news, questioning dubious propaganda, including government propaganda, and treading a thin, cautious line like a tight-rope walk when in  terms of news and information dissemination. Indeed, when it comes to news, opinion is a no-no; mindless propaganda, shouting and screaming is a strict no-no; war-mongering, hate politics and melodramas are strictly prohibited.

Recent information released by the Ministry of Home Affairs indicates that between 2014 and 2018, terrorist attacks have increased by 179 per cent in J&K and there has been a rise of 93 per cent in the total number of armed forces killed in terrorist attacks. So, is the government in Delhi and Srinagar not responsible for this abysmal state of affairs?

This is the lowest common denominator of media ethics – which has been brazenly violated yet again, relentlessly, crudely and deliberately, perhaps the millionth time, by TV media anchors/editors in India, who ride on the perverse epidemic of who can create the highest form of psychopathic hysteria and xenophobia, when face to face to with a human tragedy or terrorist attack. Surely, asking for self-criticism, or introspection, or a corrigendum from these unethical anchors is well-nigh impossible.

Uncannily, indeed, it all seemed to be synchronised. Suddenly, and predictably, the hydra-headed octopus-like family of the Sangh Parivar, the BJP-ABVP-VHP-Bajrang Dal, often tacitly and overtly protected by the cops and the State apparatus, burst into arson and mob violence, stoning houses, burning public property and vehicles belonging to Indian citizens, especially Kashmiris  (as in Jammu and nearby areas), attacking girl students, assaulting male students, traders, travellers on buses, taking out hate-filled processions, demanding that India must attack and wipe out Pakistan now and right now, flexing muscles on the streets across towns and cities, especially in BJP-ruled states.

Kashmiri traders, ordinary folks, students and girls were attacked by Sangh Parivar mobs, as in Dehradun, Jaipur and elsewhere. Authorities in campuses were told by Bajrang Dal and ABVP gangs to throw out Kashmir students’ en masse, and block their admissions. Boards were put up on shops declaring: ‘Dogs allowed. Kashmiris not allowed.”

Indeed, if this was not a form of ethnic cleansing days before the Lok Sabha elections, organised and executed ‘spontaneously’ by the Sangh Parivar to communally polarise social opinion, what was it?

Predictably, it took days for the prime minister to appeal against the violence on Kashmiris.  His silence sank yet again inside the soul of the nation like an inevitable story with a fixed beginning and a fixed end.

Thankfully, the attacks did not turn out to be another gruesome replica of State-sponsored massacres of innocent Sikhs and Muslims, as in Delhi, and elsewhere in 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, or, as in the Gujarat genocide, 2002, after the burning of Coach 6 of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 28 in which several people died. Indeed, VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi said, “I am requesting Pradhan Mantri Modiji with folded hands. Entire country will bow to you if you orchestrate Godhra-like carnage in Pakistan… We will not be able to eliminate terrorism, unless Rawalpindi and Karachi are not burnt.”

HOWEVER, INDIA and INDIANS reasserted themselves in collective reaffirmation of rational, humanist and secular values. Thousands of ordinary people from all over India, including journalists, housewives, students’ unions and professionals,  came out in the social media (even as hate-filled TV stations were fighting full-fledged wars from inside their comfy studios) opening their doors to Kashmiris – from Delhi and Kolkata to Mumbai and Punjab. Sikh gurudwaras, as always, in Jammu and elsewhere, opened their doors for food, safety and shelter to Kashmiris. Indian citizens opened up helplines and their homes for Kashmiris. Even the CRPF, whose 41 jawans were killed in Pulwama, came out with a message and said that it will help all concerned, including Kashmiris, who are being attacked.

In a gracious response, Kashmiris responded with magnanimity and graciousness. Dentists said their clinics are open for free treatment for Sikhs all round the year,       computer institutes offered free coaching, academic centres said Sikh students will be given free admission, hotels and restaurants said they will not charge Sikh customers, and mothers said that their homes and kitchens are forever open for Sikhs in any part of the country.

Narendra Modi, surprisingly, chose to skip the all-party meeting called by the government after the massacre. Instead, he was shown smiling and waving at the guard of the ‘Vande Mataram’ superfast train from Delhi to Varanasi, which had a disastrous first run . The train was derailed due to a huge snag, with smoke filling four compartments – the entire photo-op turned into a nightmare, with cynical jokes being circulated on ‘start-up and skill-India’ etc.

BJP leaders like Sakshi Maharaj were seen smiling and laughing away to glory while riding the vehicle carrying dead soldiers for funeral. Union State HRD Minister Satyapal Singh was seen laughing at a condolence meeting for a soldier in Meerut, much to the anger of the people there. Both Modi and Amit Shah seem to be in election mode as they campaigned across the country soon after the killings of Indian soldiers, even while a shocked country mourned the dead with candles lit across university campuses and neighbourhoods.

The opposition, including Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, unanimously backed the central government in this time of crisis, standing with the slain soldiers and Indian army. In a united statement they supported the government wholeheartedly, while demanding that attacks on Kashmiris should be stopped.

It all seemed to be synchronised. The hydra-headed octopus-like family of the Sangh Parivar, burst into arson and mob violence, stoning houses, burning public property and vehicles belonging to Indian citizens, especially Kashmiris, attacking girl students, traders, bus travellers, taking out hate-filled processions

Meanwhile, Amit Shah went to Assam and yet again put salt on simmering wounds. He said that if elected again in Delhi, the BJP will bring the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has been widely and vigorously opposed across North-east India. He has been deliberately and repetitively using the term ‘termites’ in what reminded all concerned of how the Nazis used to brand the Jews during the holocaust and how the Americans condemned the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam war – implying that they are like pests and insects who should be crushed and eliminated. In a latest viciously communal twist for which he has not been punished by the Election Commission, he said: “We will ensure implementation of NRC in the country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs." 

Observers believe that this is a sign of desperation for a party which might not cross 150, as is being predicted  by political observers on the ground. And why only NRC, they might start talking of ‘kabristan and shamshan ghat ’ if  they think they can get away with it. Research by Azim Premji University has revealed that 50 lakh people lost their jobs due to demonitisation, while unemployment hit a high of 6 percent in 2018, double of what it was between 2000 and 2010. No wonder Modi is mum on both demonitisation and GST in his rallies. He is not even speaking of ‘Swacch Bharat’, Digital India, black money stacked abroad, Namame Gange or Jan Dhan Yojana.

Considering there is no Modi wave, and the fact that massive unemployment, universal farmers’ crisis, back-breaking inflation, broken promises,  Modi’s open celebration of crony capitalism, and a formidable opposition alliance in key states like UP, might hit the BJP hard. The result might be a surprise for the BJP on May 23, 2019.

The BJP PROPAGANDA machinery has mastered a ritualistic con-job as an evolved art form to re-capture shifting vote-banks. It tries to turn defeat into victory. The fact is that it was the BJP government which was in power in Jammu and Kashmir with PDP from 2014 to 2018. Now it is under central rule with a Delhi-appointed governor loyal to Modi. The prime minister/home minister, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and the armed forces establishment, run the show in the state.

Scores of protestors on the streets have been killed in what have been shoot-to-kill orders under the BJP-PDP regime, and hundreds, including babies, have lost their eyes due to pellets pumped on their faces. Militancy is on the rise, as Kashmir has been totally alienated and brutalised by the misguided, muscular, myopic policy of the current regime in Delhi with no space for democratic consensus or political and social assimilation, while giving a big handle to terrorists to lure frustrated, humiliated and angry youngsters to their fold.

In terms of political policy, Modi’s regime has been a total failure in Kashmir. They have messed up Kashmir to a situation of no-return. They seem to have totally forgotten the aggressive rhetoric they would unleash during the regime of Manmohan Singh using metaphors of ‘bangles’, more heads will be beheaded across the border etc., every time there was a terrorist attack. Amit Shah even said that once Modi is elected, no terrorist would ever dare to enter India. Despite Modi’s false claim, terrorism has increased manifold after demonetisation.

It is under Modi’s regime that the Uri and Pathankot attacks occurred, terrorists have attacked routinely and fearlessly, mass alienation of Kashmiris have helped them during army operations and funerals, and there have been large-scale casualties of Indian soldiers. Indeed, soon after the Pulwama massacre of  Indian soldiers, one officer and three jawans have been killed in an encounter with terrorists.

And, yet, post Pulwama, Modi is being posited as a saint, savior and muscular messiah who can take on the terrorists and Pakistan. All kinds of liberals and democrats, those opposed to war, violence and hate, those mourning for the soldiers but praying for peace, those seeking a political solution in Kashmir, those seeking answers to the brazen security breach and intelligence failure in Pulwama, are being viciously hounded, threatened and trolled. A top female TV journalist was threatened of rape and death.

Real questions in real time have been buried by this hyperbolic hate campaign so as to create a manufactured situation of ‘Advantage BJP’. But the questions remain: So who called the ISI to Pathankot? Who invited Nawaz Sharif for the oath-taking ceremony in 2014, and who went un-invited to a marriage in his house? Why are people being branded anti-nationals if they raise questions on intelligence failures and security breach?

Amit Shah has been deliberately using the term ‘termites’ in what reminded of how the Nazis used to brand the Jews during the holocaust and how the Americans condemned the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam war – implying that they are like pests who should be crushed and eliminated

Recent information released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs indicates that between 2014 and 2018, terrorist attacks have increased by 179 per cent in J&K and there has been a rise as high as 93 per cent in terms of the total number of armed forces killed in terrorist attacks in Kashmir. Indeed, in the last two years, terrorism has spiraled up decisively, despite the so-called muscular policy of the BJP regime, and the ‘surgical strike’ rhetoric.

 Mass alienation of Kashmiris in the Valley has consolidated the militants, and funerals have turned into a show of strength for the armed groups. In the last four years, according to official information, the number of civilians killed has risen by 35.71 per cent; security personnel killed has increased by 93 per cent and terrorists killed has increased by 133.63 per cent. So, where is the political vision and acumen in this abysmally dismal and hopeless scenario, with BJP at the helm in both the state and the Centre?

The RSS-BJP pumped up the Ram Mandir card testing the ground before the 2019 polls.  It did not help. They lost three big states in the Hindi heartland, despite Modi-Shah upping the ante. The BJP lost heavily wherever Yogi Adityanath campaigned. So they dumped the Ram card. The dumped the communal Citizenship Amendment Bill; it boomeranged on the BJP in the North-east, with no advantage in rest of the country. The triple talaq bill lies in a limbo – it had no impact in polarising public opinion.

Last winter, Modi was seen waving to a vast expanse of emptiness at Dal Lake in Srinagar, with the entire city locked in, and not a single Kashmiri in sight. This became a global joke on megalomania. More than megalomania, it seemed bizarre and crazy.

So, who was the prime minister waving at in that frozen lake with not a soul in sight?

The answer might be blowing in the wind on May 23. Hopefully.




This story is from print issue of HardNews