Modi's Appeal to Protect Kashmiris Is Lapsed Speech

The prime minister's appeal against the nationalist "anger" was akin to applying balm to soothe a broken head.

After the bloodletting comes the deceit. Once the outpouring of national sentiment in the form of vilification, abuse of and attacks on Kashmiris was exhausted, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally gave to the media what it was begging for: a lofty sermon to his people not to hurt the children of Kashmir. Even more than that: to protect them as their own.

When the prime minister’s men and women had done their bit, he emerged with a white flag. After enough hatred was generated against Kashmiris, he appeared with a balm to soothe the broken head.

So, what was he doing when the Kashmiris were being bloodied in India? Expressing solidarity with the angry Indians: “The fire that is in your hearts also rages in me.”

The only difference between the followers and the leader was that he could not be on the streets like them to vent it. Like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee of December 5, 1992, he wanted them to understand his compulsion while validating their “fire”.

Also Read: As Hate Incidents Pile Up, Modi Finally Breaks Silence on Attacks on Kashmiris

The prime ministerial appeal for mercy towards Kashmiris is lapsed speech, like a lapsed check. Worthless because it came when it had become redundant.

Rama Lakshmi is right when she says:

Narendra Modi’s well-rehearsed pattern goes something like this – let bigotry gain legs, the poison seep in, let the sane and insane head butt on every platform first. Then weigh in with a trite “let’s all love each other” kind of a speech. His practised and deliberate delay in reacting to incidents of hate is not unlike, but even more sophisticated than, the infamous ‘good cop-bad cop’ routine that L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee played out in the previous avatar of the BJP.

He waits for the hatred to rise from the streets, turn into hashtags and exhaust the critics. And just when people have almost given up looking for a leader or when it no longer matters, he speaks.

To say that you should not attack people is banal. Yet it takes the man almost a week to utter this platitude.

But he does so with a purpose. For the language of battle has to be kept alive. Our fight is for Kashmir, he says and we nod in agreement. Do we ever say that our fight is for Nagaland or Mizoram or Bihar or Uttar Pradesh? Is Kashmir in the hands of enemies? Was not his party part of the government there only a few months back? And is not his man ruling it as its governor?

Healing Kashmir’s deep cut

He says that Kashmiris are themselves targets of terror, but obviously he cannot be expected to say that that the terror is also from the Indian state. Kashmir bears the scar of the last nationalist ambition of India. And it is a deep cut. There is no effort to heal it either.

Modi’s party and its cohort, represented by the affiliates of the RSS, have been busy portraying Kashmir as the last fort India has to claim for the Hindus. The demand to scrap Article 370, remove Article 35A are those made by the BJP.

These article bind Kashmir to India. They are part of India’s promise to Kashmir. But the prime minster’s party has not given up the demand to remove them. Why should not the people of Kashmir be suspicious of their intention then? What reason have they to trust the prime minister and his party?

The way the rest of India has reacted after the Pulwama attack has created a chasm between it and the people of Kashmir. It would be difficult for them to forget the humiliation and the hurt that the rest of India has caused them.

A board outside a mobile phone shop in Dehradun. Credit: Twitter/@Saimawa62589841

The role of religious organisations

When they were suffering the nationalist “fire”, the much-hated human rights activists, against whom the prime minister had cautioned the judiciary, were busy safeguarding the Kashmiris. If Kashmiris have any empathy left for India, it will be because of those who have been denounced as “anti-nationals”.

If you leave aside good Samaritans like the Khalsa Aid, there was no religious or quasi-religious organisation or epitomes of humanity like Sadguru or Ramdev or Morari Bapu who thought it fit to raise their sagely voice and counsel the “outraged” nationalists. Needless to say, no Hindu, Jain or Buddhist religious body came to the aid of the persecuted Kashmiris.

Also, we need to say that the anger after the Pulwama was not spontaneous. It was not natural. It was manufactured and fuelled. The Sangh parivar machinery was in action all along. They do not want the fire to die.

Also Read: Do We Really Care for Kashmir or Just the Idea of It as a Part of India?

It also needs to be said that our political class has failed Kashmir. The prime minister’s silence was quite understandable. After all, he is the leader of the mob. But it was left only to the two Kashmiri parties to appeal for the safety of Kashmiris in India.

The all-party meet after the attack in Pulwama did not feel the need to warn against attacks on Kashmiris. The Congress party did not even tweet to ask its members to protect and be with the Kashmiris.

Manoj Mitta is right when he says that the prime minister expressed solidarity with the “anger” in the majority but ignored (or relished?) the fear and apprehension of the Kashmiris.

The media, which took a sigh of relief with this “not a moment too soon” appeal by the prime minister, did not even look at the timing. It came only after the Supreme Court intervened. The media, especially the Hindi one, should look deep within to look for humanity, if it is still there.

The Pulwama incident has brought to the surface the worst in the Indian polity and society. We need to think about the ways to recover.