Monday, September 13, 2010

FOR THE TODAY OF A FEW, THE TOMORROW OF INDIA

After weeks of anti-India protests by stone pelters seeking secession from India, Pakistan's flag was hoisted at Lal Chowk in Srinagar by followers of the so-called 'moderate separatist' leader, Umer Farooq, the Mirwaiz -- chief preacher -- of ethnic Kashmiri Sunni Muslims, on Eid in full view of the Indian media. During the same period, a solitary pastor in the United States threatened that he would burn the Holy Quran on the same day which also happened to be America's 9/11. He was, however, persuaded from doing so and publicly made an announcement to the effect too a couple of days in advance.

How did the entire Indian visual media and almost the whole national print media cover both these developments?

The 'spontaneous' protests that broke out in a few towns in the Valley in May were marked by organised stone throwing on the police and burning of government property. The Indian media however, led unsuspecting Indians to believe that this was a secular outburst of a tormented generation fed up of the excesses of security forces and that they had to be assuaged by generating better job opportunities and by measures that would improve the quality of their life. Barring a few informed and educated analysts and professionals whose voices were quickly drowned out, no one was willing to accept that the intifada was being masterminded and executed with precision by Pakistan's ISI and its agents in the Valley.

In fact some almost seditious TV starlets crossed many red lines in justifying, propagating and inciting anti-India hatred and were quick to dishonestly and deviously bury suggestions that behind the histrionics and the fake facades, this was a new and far more internationally palatable show of strength by Pakistan that demonstrated its unshakeable resolve to sever Kashmir from India. No one was prepared to accept that having closely watched how India's weak, aversive-to use-of-force and strategy-blind leaders had been rattled after Kargil and, more recently, 26/11, Pakistan's real leaders had concluded that if more pressure was applied, it was only a question of time before they would capitulate, enabling Pakistan to take the war to another level, just short of the very high Indian threshold for full-scale hostilities.

The hoisting of Pakistan's flag was India's moment to show to the whole world that Pakistan was the mischief-maker and also substantiate earlier reports that the leaders of the stone throwers were being controlled from Pakistan, that many were being paid to throw stones, that small children were being deliberately brought into the line of fire, in some cases even carried on shoulders, to fulfill daily 'martyr' targets laid down by Pakistani handlers orchestrating the sordid drama. In one visual stroke, the lie of those who were made/paid to say that their 'struggle' was not communal and that they wanted Kashmiri Pandits whom they had thrown out two decades back to return to the Valley would have also been nailed. Any other country would have milked such a event to death to its advantage. But not India.

The threat of the pastor in faraway America was, however, not subjected to any censorship or governmental guidance. It was liberally aired and written about by the media almost every day. The pastor was rightly criticised but his threat was skillfully juxtaposed with the mounting opposition to the Ground Zero mosque with visuals that provided enough material needed by extremist leaders to incite angry and misguided Muslims to kill, and the less extreme to unleash arson and violence. The lack of restraint showed that either no lessons had been learnt from the Taslima Nasreen and the Danish cartoon cases or that it was being covered to give a subtle but clear political message to Indian Muslims.

And what has been the result? Even though the pastor changed his mind a few days back, Muslims in the Valley have gone on rampage, burning Christian Missionary schools and public property today, two days after. We are being asked to believe that they have done so because they were led to believe that the pastor had actually burned the Quran. Do you buy that argument? Are you in any doubt about how the media will paper it over?

Why did India's media so cover the pastor, knowing fully well that the situation would get explosive, that violence would invariably break out had he carried out his threat? Why was the flag hoisting incident blacked out as if it did not occur at all?

The answer lies hidden in the reply given by Rajdeep Sardesai to a question about the latter on Twitter. Sardesai, not surprisingly, gave a very morally correct reply, but in the process unknowingly let the cat out of the bag: "is the aim of a channel to exercise restraint, or to inflame passions?"

What appears to be the government's fiat to the media is unambiguous and can be even said to be exemplary. But, if you dig a bit deeper and factor in the incidents and cases in which the media has thrown restraint to the dogs without a thought and wantonly fanned inflammation of passions, the last two words that Sardesai did not utter start will start ringing loudly.

The simple truth, as it appears to me, is that the principal ruling party is petrified of anything, just anything, that might rouse the dead passions of Hindus and bring them together. The fear is not that violence may follow, nor is there a worry that the society will get fractured along religious lines. The dread is that if the Hindu vote gets consolidated and a larger percentage of Hindus start voting as a block, the Congress party's one-basket strategy of relying on the 16% bank of Muslim votes to defeat the huge but hopelessly divided Hindu vote will come to naught and electoral defeat will clutch it, possibly for good.

If you ponder for a moment and reflect on how the media has sanitised, if not sweetened, every development, no matter how serious, that shows Muslims, Indian or Pakistani, in a negative, communal, intolerant, extremist light, this aim becomes clear. Now do the same for Hindus and recollect how similar incidents, no matter how insignificant, that show them and sometimes even their religion in terrible light are blown beyond all proportions negatively. What is the aim here? This is the flip side. This is to ensure that a sufficient number of Hindus continue to vote for the Congress not because it is going to do anything for them but by deviously convincing them that by voting against it they will encourage communalism, religious intolerance and hatred against peace-loving and secular non-Hindus.

That is why Pakistan's flag being hoisted in Srinagar cannot be shown.. That is why the media and elements in the government can go to the unimaginable extent of blaming and cutting the hands of the very Army whose sacrifices have brought terrorism under some control in the Valley for India as well as ordinary Kashmiri Muslims. India's soldiers can be faulted and condemned for a few transgressions but not the ones who have been trained to kill them, not the nation that has for 60 years planned and executed only death and destruction in the Valley and the rest of India. Policemen can keep getting injured and dying unsung saving the state whose rulers have sent them into that hot pit, but the tears of India's real anti-nationals are only for those who get killed by them, no matter that they are striking at the very idea, the very foundation of India, no matter that they are being employed as soldiers by Pakistan in the latest phase of a war that it has been waging against a secular India for decades.

A responsive, nation-first government would have gone to every length to ensure that the whole of India saw that Pakistani flag in Srinagar. It would have roused the passions of every Indian, to give an emphatic message to Pakistan and its lackeys in the Valley that Indians are one against its aggression and that it will be made to pay a price if it continues to wage war against them; it would have told communal separatist Muslim leaders of the Valley that Indians will not accept the crossing of unacceptable lines by them; it would have given confidence to the men fighting for India there that their nation is with and behind them.

But, no, this ruling dispensation is manifestly guided by the effect it thinks its actions will have on its chances to retain political power in Delhi and grab it in states where it does not have it now. With the help of Muslims alone. And it has made sure that the crawling, hungry-for-money-whatever-it-takes business houses who run India's media know it.

A political leadership that places its domestic electoral interest above national interest has no moral right to rule. A political leadership that knowingly or unknowingly indulges in activities that are against the interests of the nation, no matter what the objective, is unthinkable.

I am not sure in whose hands India's destiny is today. But I can't shake off the feeling that its tomorrow is being mortgaged by a few for their today. If as an Indian that thought comforts you, India has much to worry about. As do the few.
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Readers may also read:
1. Completing cleansing of Kashmir: Sikhs asked to leave
2. Kashmir: after the gale, back to square one
3. India stoned: the enemy is in our midst
4. No answer to Pakistan's formidable force multiplier
5. Dealing with Pakistan: lessons from history