#RightSideUp: One Kashmir, Two Narratives; Modi's 'Vann Ki Baat'

A weekly round-up of voices from the right.

New Delhi: A dark cloud hung over Eid celebrations in the country this week with parts of Jammu and Kashmir still under lockdown under the watchful eye of the armed forces deployed by the Central government.

Yet stories upon stories of human suffering emerging from the state – of medical emergencies, protests and pellet victims and of families being unable to contact one another – did not pierce the harsh ecosystem of the right wing on social media where revelry over the move continued.

Also read: Fired at For Assembling After Prayers: How Srinagar Spent Its Eid

On such stories published by The Wire, comments have varied from how Union home minister Amit Shah has delivered the correct dose for the ailment that is Kashmir; how the Kashmiris deserve this turn of events for what happened with Kashmiri Pandits nearly three decades ago; and how this move, much like demonetisation, will help in rooting out terror from the country.

Other parts of India have been equally stricken by floods with hundreds dead and lakhs displaced. Large parts of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and even Goa lie inundated even as rescue efforts are on to prevent more deaths, and to evacuate and airlift supplies to those who have been stranded.

But through all this chaos across India, what truly caught social media’s fancy this week was the episode of Discovery Channel’s Man Vs Wild show featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the host and noted adventurer Bear Grylls which was aired on Monday night.

The episode has, as expected become fodder for meme makers. From Modi’s monologues in Hindi, to host Grylls nodding at every word, to questions about whether this was just an episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ in disguise, nothing was deemed sacred online.

‘The untying of the Kashmir’s Gordian Knot’

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh mouthpiece Organiser continued to on its roll of writing reams upon reams on Amit Shah’s “masterstroke” in parliament on August 5.

In an article aimed at explaining just how the government’s move to abolish Article 370 and 35A is legal and constitutional, Ishkaran Singh Bhandari, an advocate in the Supreme Court of India, writes:

“A Himalayan wrong has been righted by a brilliant stroke of the fearless Modi government that dared to think the unthinkable: cut Kashmir’s Gordian Knot at one fell swoop that bound the poor minority under unbearable misery

Article 370 and special rights of Jammu and Kashmir were tied up in a Gordian knot by those who have always furthered the separatist agenda but PM Modi by using the law has cut the Knot and once it is cut it cannot be undone and will not be undone.”

In another article, Jammu-based political commentator Brig Anil Gupta chooses to celebrate Amit Shah’s “political surgical strike” in Kashmir by warning those who stand against the move:

“To all those who are crying foul and trying to incite communal passions in order to ensure the continuation of their hegemony, it would be suffice to say that the days of their feudal attitude and open loot are over.

The master surgeons have done the surgery. It was done with precision and perfection expected of master surgeons. Recovery and recuperation take time after major surgery… ‘Acche Din’ (good days) have arrived for the vast majority and those destined to sulk will also one day realise their folly and join the march towards modernisation, development and peace.”

‘Vann Ki Baat’; Pakistan media leads the way

News Bharati, a portal which describes itself as “Nationalist News, Unbiased Views, Journalism With Righteousness, News Portal With Most Authentic News”, fawned over PM Modi’s ‘Vann Ki Baat’, claiming it has undeniably “created awareness about environmental changes and wildlife conservation”.

The portal also tried to paint an image of a peaceful Kashmir while tearing into “erroneous propaganda of anti-nationals”.

“Seven days after revoking the special status on Jammu and Kashmir, the streets in Valley are calm and normal. Celebrating Eid, people have shown how happy and satisfying the decision is and how they are accepting the decision with ‘open arms.’

Promising development, the streets in the Valley signify normalcy and happy faces. People are once again getting accustomed to their routine and the children are back to school and colleges.”

According to the article, “following Pakistan’s lead, some international media have also propagated that Kashmir is not what it looks like”.

Rajasthan’s anti-lynching law

Amid the storm that has been swirling over Kashmir, Rajasthan passed an anti-lynching law on August 5, making Rajasthan the second state after Manipur to pass an anti-lynching law.

The passage of the bill was fiercely contested by the BJP-led opposition in the state, despite the fact that even the Supreme Court has felt the need for a separate law against lynching.

Right-wing media organisations such as Swarajya magazine published arguments vehemently opposing the law. Arihant Pawariya, a senior editor, noted several reasons why the right believes the passage of such a bill is “draconian in nature” and why it “must be amended or repealed immediately”.

He begins by quoting Thomas Sewell’s infamous line: “Liberalism is totalitarianism with a human face.”

“Whenever and wherever Congress governments come to power, they push laws which are totalitarian in nature but are deftly presented as harbinger of justice for the powerless and cunningly wrapped up in the sophisticated language of liberalism.”

According to Pawariya, the new law is a “clever way of curtailing liberties of citizens by the government in the name of opposing lynchings”.

A look at his author page shows that he had no such compunction to write about liberties being curtailed when it came to the amendment of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the NIA Act which give the central government a wide arm to declare citizens terrorists while holding the reigns of India’s premiere investigation agency.

Pawariya takes great umbrage at the definition of lynching under the new law, with an argument that aims to protect perpetrators of such crimes.

“It defines lynching as ‘any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity”.

But lynching in original use of the word means extrajudicial killing of a perpetrator of a crime (alleged or convicted) by a group.

Lynching is essentially killing. It is not merely an act of violence and certainly not attempting an act of violence as the law has stated it to mean.”

The harsh punishments prescribed under the law “won’t lead to reduction in crime as long as there is no swiftness in delivering justice,” he says.

After making several more complaints against the bill known, including the clause where hospitals have been directed to provide “first aid or medical treatment free of cost to victim”, he concludes:

“This so-called anti-lynching act is totalitarian in nature, subjective and ambiguous, gives arbitrary powers to police and politicians to target citizens and communities, is unnecessary and defies common sense.”

Another piece, also by Pawariya, attacked the festival of Eid over the slaughter of animals. He dutifully parrots WhatsApp forwards by asking why a “festival is celebrated only by killing”, adding that there is “a grave issue of children being exposed to blood-curdling sights of mass animal slaughter, which can be traumatising”.

“The Indian State is finally waking up to the challenges posed by Bakrid celebrations,” he writes, before launching into how India must “get its act together and learn to not just make laws that prohibit slaughter in open and have stringent punishments in place for offenders, but also make sure that it has enough resolve as well as state capacity to ensure that those regulations are implemented in letter and spirit”.

A question for Kashmiri Hindus

After a group of Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras and Sikhs signed a petition opposing the reading down of Article 370 and 35A in parliament, the team at PGurus published a story a story questioning “such loonies”.

The article then jumps to how black people who worked inside the homes of their white slave owners felt superior to those who worked in the fields.

“It is for the sociologists and historians to study whether Hindus and Blacks developed these gradations to clutch at something psychological in a position of total and abject helplessness, or they had these gradations that is why they became slaves,” it reads, before going into a convoluted explanation of why any “psychic illusion” of these Hindus feeling superior to other Hindus is “beyond stupidity”.

“This is something de-evolution. A regression of species. And the phenomenon is not restricted to Hindus of Kashmir but is common across all linguistic groups of Hindus.

It is sad, and it is tragic, that such loonies exist. But it is outright dangerous for all of us Hindus that such loonies more often than not hold power, as politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen. And decide, destroy, lives of all of us.”