THE whole country is full of anguish at the Pulwama attack which has claimed the lives of 49 CRPF jawans. Even as India copes with this tragedy, the Sangh brigade has launched an orchestrated campaign to exploit the emotions of the people and use the sacrifice of the jawans for the BJP’s own electoral gains. There is a vicious campaign to orchestrate frenzied demands for war against and destruction of Pakistan, as well as an internal war against Kashmir, Kashmiri people, the Muslim community, and all voices advocating peace, harmony, and justice and demanding accountability from the Government.
After the Mumbai terror attack, the BJP demanded the resignation of the UPA Government claiming it was a result of "collective culpable negligence." After then Home Minister Shivraj Patil resigned, BJP said it was "too little, too late”. Why does the Modi Government today brand every demand for accountability as unpatriotic?
On the 2014 campaign trail, Narendra Modi had asked the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “When the nation’s borders are under the central government’s control, then how do terrorists enter the nation? How do they lay hand on arms and ammunition? Those must be coming from foreign land, so who should be held responsible if not central government?”
What answer does Modi have to the same questions today, after the Pulwama attack?
Why did the government refuse to concede the CRPF’s request that their troops be airlifted? Why was a huge contingent of nearly 2,500 men made to travel together in a large convoy of 80 buses?
Kashmir is one of the most militarised zones in the world. There is estimated to be one armed person of the Indian Army and paramilitary for every 12 Kashmiri civilians. The number of militants in the state is estimated to be 200 - but 90,000 Indian armed persons are deployed in the Valley (not counting those on patrolling, guard duty or the borders). One can see uniformed forces in every lane, every bazaar. Anyone familiar with Kashmir knows that when troop convoys pass, the route is sanitised, and civilian population is not allowed anywhere within striking distance of it. How, then, was an explosive-laden car allowed to come via a service road on to the Jammu-Srinagar highway which had been sanitised for the movement of CRPF convoy?
How did terrorists acquire several kilograms of RDX, M4 carbine and rocket launchers? How could a car jam-packed with these explosives manage to go unchecked in such a heavily militarised zone?
Two days before the Pulwama attack, the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, (which has since claimed responsibility for the attack), had uploaded a video warning of a suicide attack in Kashmir using a an explosive-laden vehicle. The Criminal Investigation Department of the state police had shared the video and input about the possible attack with intelligence agencies. But the intelligence was ignored and no precautions were taken. Why?
When the Pulwama attack happened, at 3.10 pm on February 14, the Prime Minister was inside the Jim Corbett National Park. It is inconceivable that he was not informed about the attack. If, as a note circulated to media houses by the Government indicates, the NSA Ajit Doval failed to inform him about the attack, why has Doval not been sacked yet? Since Doval was not sacked, surely we can assume the PM was informed about the attack? What did he do on being informed of the attack?
According to an Uttarakhand official who spoke to the Telegraph India, Modi wrote in the visitors’ book, then had lunch at a guest house, went on a jungle safari, took a picture of a black buck on his mobile phone, and then reached another guest house to go ahead with filming a show for the Discovery channel, in which he reportedly got to speak about his claims of having once retired to the Himalayas for a spiritual sojourn! At 4.30 pm, he addressed a gathering in Rudrapur via mobile phone.
Out of respect for the jawans, could the PM not have cancelled the safari and the self-promotional shoot? That he chose to go ahead with this programme is a telling comment on this narcissistic PM who spends most of his time (and taxpayers’ money) on various jaunts, designer clothes, photo and video shoots and advertisements.
And since then, also, the PM has continued in ‘election mode’ - prioritising election rallies and photo-shoots at ‘inaugurations’ of various projects over even an all-party meeting on the Pulwama attack.
This is the PM who is asking for votes in the name of the jawans’ sacrifice of their lives! Whose supporters on social media and in real life are unleashing abuse and violence on any and everybody whom they choose to brand as “insulting our jawans"!
Sarhad pe bahut tanav hai kya?
Kuch pata to karo chunav hai kya?
(Is the border fraught with tension?
Find out – is there an election?)
– Rahat Indori
A discredited BJP hopes the Pulwama attack can do what its Ayodhya and Sabarimala campaigns failed to do: create Hindu-Muslim polarisation and divert attention away from its multiple failures. A Gujarat BJP leader inadvertently “leaked the script” of this ploy, by openly asking BJP cadres to “turn the nationalistic wave into votes” for the BJP!
Sangh leaders, Modi’s cyber army of trolls, and even even those sworn to upholding the Constitution, such as the Meghalaya Governor and a BJP-backed Delhi MLA are openly stoking and organising hatred and violence against Kashmiris and Muslim minorities in the same of avenging Pulwama. They are also calling for war with Pakistan and even genocide against Pakistani people.
From all over the country (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Bangalore) there are reports of Kashmiri traders and students being attacked by Sangh mobs, and of Kashmiri students and employees being expelled, dismissed and arrested for sedition for social media posts critical of the Government’s Kashmir policy. Yet, the HRD Minister Prakash Javdekar declared that “harassment of Kashmiri students is not happening”!
In Dehradun, college administrators have admitted that they issued illegal and unconstitutional declarations that they would not admit Kashmiri students “under pressure” from violent mobs. Bajrang Dal leader Vikas Verma boasted openly to a Times of India reporter, “we will ensure that no Kashmiri studies or stays here”. He told the News 18 channel, “Dogs are allowed but Kashmiri Muslims are not allowed in this state. Within 48 hours, we want them gone from here.” The same man also went on to threaten a Kashmiri journalist, the editor of The Kashmir Walla on phone, saying, “Oh Fahad [Shah], come here. We will show trailer to you also. Tell your terrorist brothers to behave. Stop making heroes out of terrorists. We are keeping track of your posts.” In spite of all this evidence, Vikas Verma has not been arrested, Uttarakhand police filed a case of fake news against Shehla Rashid for alerting people about the danger faced by Kashmiri students of Dehradun. And Javdekar declares that no Kashmiri student is being harassed!
What do these attacks say to Kashmiri students? These Sanghi mobs are actually reinforcing the ‘separateness’ of Kashmir. The online mobs say ‘all Kashmiris are stone pelters’. Well, when Kashmiri youth go to college and University to study, or take up jobs, what happens when mobs evict them out of studies and jobs, in the name of Indian nationalism and the Army/CRPF?! When they are forced back, will it not be even more likely that they will feel they have no option but pelt stones at the Army vehicles which represent India? These mobs are the real anti-India mob, who are representing India in the worst possible light.
What about Kashmiri youth who write posts which seem unsympathetic to the jawans killed at Pulwama - should they be booked for sedition and so on? If we equate even social media posts with militancy and bombing, if we tell Kashmiri youth that whether they express themselves on social media or through guns and bombs, they will be treated as ‘seditious’, arrested, evicted from studies and jobs, we are pushing them closer to militancy.
Moreover, why is it that scores of Kashmiri kids, and even young people in West Bengal who post against war-mongering, are subjected to mob attacks and arrested - but there is zero action by police, government or even the President of India against people holding Constitutional positions and being followed by the PM on Twitter, who call for genocide and communal boycotts against Kashmiris and Muslims?
Not only the Government, we must also ask why most Opposition parties, (apart from the Left, Kashmir-based parties & TMC) have issued any appeal or condemnation against the systematic victimisation of Kashmiris by Sangh-instigated mobs? The silence of the top leaders of Congress, RJD, BSP, SP on this shameful phenomenon is both cause and symptom of India's vulnerability to fascism. If these parties think defending ordinary Kashmiris will harm them in elections, it means that they insult and underestimate the potential of ordinary Indians for democracy and decency.
Tathagata Roy, Governor of Meghalaya, tweeted, “An appeal from a retired colonel of the Indian Army: Don’t visit Kashmir, don’t go to Amarnath for the next 2 years. Don’t buy articles from Kashmir emporia or Kashmiri tradesman who come every winter. Boycott everything Kashmiri. I am inclined to agree.” He also tweeted, “The Pakistan Army (who are handling the Kashmiri separatists) was among their own in East Pakistan in 1971. They slaughtered and raped right and left. And they would have kept EP but for the whacking from India. I am not suggesting that we go that far. But at least some distance?”
These shocking calls for genocidal war crimes are not by some random troll but by a Governor sworn to uphold India’s Constitution. Yet Rashtrapati Bhawan and President Kovind is silent, as is Prime Minister Modi - and few in the Indian media have spared any time to ask Kovind or Modi why Roy is not being sacked and prosecuted.
Then, you have the Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra (nominally an ‘independent’ MLA but actually in the BJP camp) who tweeted, “'Not enough to kill 40-50 enemy soldiers to avenge ours, destroy the wombs that can give birth to terrorists.” This is an open call for genocide and violence against women. We should remind ourselves here that Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh had also said, “The life conceptualising in Dalit mothers’ wombs is like a serpent in the egg. The moment it comes out, it will attack with its venom. Lord Hanuman, while destroying the evil Lanka, had killed the demons in their womb.” This is why the Ranveer Sena massacred Dalit women and children at Bathani and Bathe. “Destroy the wombs that can give birth to terrorists” is the language of genocidal Manuvadi terrorism used to justify massacres of Dalits, Muslims, Kashmiris alike. Dalits in Bihar were branded “terrorists” for wanting dignity and freedom, Kashmiris are facing the same.
Another Twitter terrorist is Mahesh Vikram Hegde, co-founder and editor of the website Postcard News, who was once arrested for spreading fake news. Hegde’s handle boasts of being “blessed to be followed by the PM Narendra Modi.” He tweeted, “If we want to hit a final nail in the coffin of TERRORISM, Then the Hindus should make a Surgical Strike on the business of “M”. Unless we don't stop doing business with “M”. A part of their earnings will go to terror activities. INDIA'S FUTURE IS IN YOUR HAND (sic).” Modi has not unfollowed Hegde, though calling for a boycott of a particular community is a classic hate crime.
Meanwhile, scroll.in uncovered how a group called “Clean the Nation” run among others by Ankit Jain, also followed on Twitter by PM Modi and other senior BJP leaders, led a witch-hunt of a range of persons expressing criticism of the Modi Government and BJP over Pulwama. This group also revealed private information of other social media users (called doxxing) - such as phone numbers.
As a result of such doxxing, journalists asking some critical questions of the Modi Government in the wake of Pulwama or opposing the targeting of Kashmiris, have been subjected to vile sexual harassment, threats of rape and murder issued to them and their family members. These journalists include Abhisar Sharma, Rajdeep Sardesai, and Barkha Dutt. Needless to say, the Government’s silence on this unrelenting campaign of harassment indicates its tacit approval.
George Orwell wrote, “All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda tours.” (Homage to Catalonia)
Neha Sharma, daughter of a soldier, wrote a powerful post on Facebook where she said:
“The cyber army is outraged
It wants revenge
It wants blood
And the scariest of them all
It wants war.
This cyber army does not comprise a soldier, his family, or his well-wisher, for if it did, it would know what's at stake, it would know who bleeds when a soldier dies.
A family wakes up everyday to the fact that the uniform their beloved so carefully ironed, and the medals and shoes that he so meticulously polished, are all they have left of him now.
Being an army kid, I have seen many such families, their world crumble and their efforts to rebuild it, first hand. One would not utter the 'W' of war if they met even one such family.”
Demanding justice and accountability for the Pulwama attack is not the same as demanding war and destruction of Pakistan, or communal targeting of Muslims and Kashmiris. Mita, wife of Bablu Santra, a jawan who was killed at Pulwama, said, “We do not want war. Many wives like me will lose their husbands. Many daughters like mine will lose their fathers. But I want those guilty to be punished.” Ranjit, brother of a jawan Ajit Kumar who was killed at Pulwama, said, “When all are uniting to share and lighten the grief of the jawans’ families, why are some politicians seeking to divide us? Modi was elected because he said all previous governments were bad, but in my opinion the past 4 and a half years have been the worst ever in independent India, and we all know who is responsible. The Government spends on advertising itself not on soldiers’ welfare. Why play politics over the Army and soldiers? I even saw the shameful sight of politics being played at the funeral procession of a soldier.”
Onkarnath Dolui, the 64-year-old father of Gangadhar Dolui who was killed in the Uri attack, had then said, “Believe me, I don’t want war as it demands countless of lives like that of my son on either side. It will be much better for the two countries to seek a solution to the outstanding problems through negotiations only. Guns will only multiply the misery on both sides.”
Gurmehar Kaur, 19-year old daughter of Captain Mandeep Singh who was killed at Kargil, sent out a powerful, silent message through a series of 30 placards in a video on Facebook. Hers was a message against hatred, against war-mongering, for peace and communal harmony - and she was viciously trolled by the BJP IT Cell, by some cricketers, and even by Cabinet Minister Karen Rijiju as a traitor for it!
The father of jawan Ratan Thakur of Bhagalpur, killed at Pulwama, told a CPIML team which visited their home, “Had the Government taken care of the country’s security, my son would be alive. Only the sons of the poor are killed in such attacks - no one from the rich families joins the Army. How long will the sons of the poor be sacrificed like this?” Ratan Thakur’s father-in-law said, “Our sons’ sacrifice is being used as a pretext for hatred and violence. Our sons are sacrificed for the sake of power games. We need to end this - not promote hatred which breeds terrorism.” This bereaved family’s words echo those of Jean-Paul Sartre, “When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.”
We would do well to remember that the NSA Ajit Doval, responsible in large part for the Pulwama attack and complicit in the policy of war-mongering and unleashing hate and violence towards Kashmiri civilians, has no sons in the Army. On the contrary one of his sons, Shaurya Doval (who plans to contest elections from a BJP ticket) has a Pakistani and a Saudi business partner, while another son is a British citizen. That’s fine by us, since we do not want a boycott of Pakistan. But why does the BJP which brands Navjot Singh Siddhu or Gurmehar Kaur traitors for rejecting anti-Pakistan war-mongering, and keep referring to the Indian Rahul Gandhi as ‘Italian’, remain silent on Doval’s sons? Why pose as patriotic over the dead bodies of the sons of the poor while one’s own sons fail the BJP’s own test of patriotism?
Here, we should recall the words of Robert Jackson Bennett in City of Blades: “Yet for all their self-professed civility, your rulers will gladly spend a soldier’s life to better aid their posturing... They will send the children of others off to die and only think upon it later to grandly and loudly memorialize them, lauding their great sacrifice.”
The last suicide bombing in Kashmir was two decades ago. Why has recruitment to militancy shot up in the Valley - from just a 6 local recruits in 2013 to 200 recruits in 2018?
The answer lies in very large part in the Modi Government’s Kashmir policy, which unleashed pellets and bullets on Kashmiri civilians, compared pellet gun attacks approvingly to ‘wife beating’, rewarded humiliating ‘human shield’ atrocities by the armed forces, all accompanied by a shrill, vicious campaign by TV channels and anchors branding angry, grieving Kashmiris as terrorists. The result was predicted by every informed observer of the situation.
The late Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari, for instance, had written just before was assassinated, about how “The military approach has failed if New Delhi cares to see it”. Bukhari had flagged the “phenomenal increase in militancy, especially local militancy” between 2013-2018, pointing out that the increase in local recruits “led to involvement of the civilian population in any operation that targets militants,” and explains why “the civilian population prefers to side with militants rather than so-called security forces.” Bukhari warned against the “policy of dismissing the frustration and despondency on the ground as merely Pakistan-sponsored”, and ended by stressing the obvious: “Recognising it (Kashmir) as a political problem and talking to all stakeholders without conditions is the only way. Pakistan also is important to the process of finding a solution. Killing militants has come at a huge cost. The forces may kill militants but will not kill the ideas behind militancy.”
Not just Bukhari who empathised with Kashmir, even hard-nosed defence experts have a similar analysis. Ajai Sahni, a counter-terrorism expert, said “The present government’s Kashmir policy is an absolute and abject failure. They have only used the strategy of polarisation and electoral games.” And Kriti Shah, junior fellow at Observer Research Foundation added, “the government does not have a coherent policy on Kashmir. It is extremely one sided. You need to have a different ideology on ground that cannot necessarily be pro-India or pro-government. There are many fault lines. There is need to improve intelligence, security. We need to understand why so many personnel were travelling together. We need to look inward.”
There is no question of justifying the Pulwama attack. But surely we must ask why a 19-year-old Adil Ahmad Dar became a suicide bomber? What made him ripe for recruitment by Jaish-e-Mohammad? Dar’s family remembered how he would keep speaking about the incident in 2016 when he was returning from his school and men from the counter-insurgency forces “stopped him and made him draw a circle around their jeep with his nose on the ground.” Stop a moment and think about what such an act means. Is it not like the systematic feudal humiliation to which Dalits are subjected? But unlike Dalits, Kashmiri youth are not allowed to organise, agitate, and demand dignity. They are not allowed even to hold even the most peaceful public meeting or silent demonstration. Even funeral processions receive bullets.
Dar’s father also pointed out that Adil’s cousin who was a surrendered militant, was jailed under the draconian PSA even though he had given up arms. Dar’s father blames the politicians: “Nobody talks about the daily blinding of civilians, killings and encounters. Why don’t these politicians invite all the parties and find a solution to Kashmir issue?”
The fact is that the blindings, killings, encounters, rapes, and demonisation of Kashmiris by the Sangh outfits and the media, will inevitably fuel even more militancy among the desperate and humiliated Kashmiri youth.
THE CPIML organised several condolence meetings for Pulwama soldiers in different parts of the country. Candle marches were taken out in different states to pay tributes to the soldiers and a minute’s silence was observed in several party meetings and programmes. Party leaders in West Bengal and Bihar visited the bereaved families of the soldiers from the state. Condolence meetings were also organised in several places.
In Jhunjhunu district a condolence meeting was organised to pay tributes to the soldiers killed in Pulwama and tributes were paid to Sheo Ram, a soldier from Jhunjhunu who was also killed in the attack. A high level inquiry was demanded to investigate the security lapse. The meeting also demanded status of martyrs for the jawans of the paramilitary forces, and implementation of the increased pension for the paramilitary forces. An appeal was issued to people against the war frenzy and to resist any attacks on Kashmiris residing in different states. Similar meetings and programmes were also organised in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tripura, Jharkhand and other states.
The party also expressed concern about the reports of threats and attacks on Kashmiri youth and traders, as well as the Muslim minorities in various parts of the country, instigated and organised by Sangh outfits to divide people and spread hatred and violence with an eye on the forthcoming elections.
In Patna, a team led by CPIML MLA Mahboob Alam visited Kashmiri wool traders who had been attacked and injured by a Sanghi mob. The team met police authorities and demanded measures to protect Kashmiri people in the state. In Udaipur in Rajasthan, the party met a large group of Kashmiri students who had faced threats and violence. The party coordinated with the police, railway police and administration to facilitate the travel of the students who wished to return home. Party leaders also helped coordinate the collective country-wide efforts to help Kashmiri youth and traders who were in need of accommodation, transport and legal help. The party demanded withdrawal of sedition and other grave charges being levelled against Kashmiri youth under pressure from Sanghi groups who interpreted their social media posts as “anti-national.” The party demanded stern action against independent Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra, and Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy for violating their oath to uphold the Constitution of India and openly instigating genocide and hate crimes against Kashmiri people.
(Excerpted from Shafaq Shah, Feb 20 2019, Greater Kashmir)
AS Kashmiri people found themselves at the receiving end of violence and threats in many Indian cities, not a single case of anyone being threatened came to fore as people from those places working and living in Kashmir felt safe.
Vikram, a street vendor from Bihar who sells popcorns from in the crowded Goni Khan area here said he feared the same fate as that of some Kashmiri people who were threatened and beaten up.
“We are five people living in one room. All of us are street vendors. As we were getting calls from family that tension is escalating in entire India and Kashmiris are on target, we sat in our room for two days,” Vikram said.
“An elderly man who has a shop in Goni Khan noticed that we are scared and are not coming out. He came to our room and said, ‘no one will dare to touch you. You are our guests here’ and after that we resumed our daily work.”
Prasad, a shoemaker from Haryana who has been working in Kashmir for nine years, said, “I am ashamed how madly our country is behaving. But this is all politics. Though in my village in Haryana no Kashmiri was harmed, but still it’s shameful. No Kashmiri even touched us here.”
While narrating an incident, Prasad who lives in a slum area of Lasjan said, “My family is also here – wife and two children. We were feeling cold yesterday and one of the neighbours who live in a three storey house saw that. He gave me some clothes and kerosene to burn the firewood and warm ourselves. Isn’t this slap on those goons who harass Kashmiris?”
Closer home for people of Kashmir valley, in Jammu fear can be gauged by the fact that Jammu Muslim Waqf Council has closed its doors for the Kashmiris who are facing attacks in the city.
In Nowhatta area of downtown, a toy seller near Jamia Majid said, “Recently some boys came and shot my video wherein they were asking me ‘Has any Kashmiri harassed you ever? And I gave them a detailed interview saying, Kashmir is like a second home. I also told them that during the unrest of 2016 no one harmed us.”
WE appeal to every citizen of India to work to uphold our unity and protect vulnerable minorities and Kashmiri people from hateful, politically motivated mobs. We appeal to every citizen to defuse and defeat this last-ditch desperate design of the Sangh-BJP establishment. Citizens of Pakistan too have come out to condemn the Pulwama attack and demand accountability from their own Government. We appeal to every citizen of India to recognise that war is no solution and to reject cynical election-time war-mongering.
The Pulwama attack must not be allowed to be used to silence and divide the people. The Modi Government, which was already in the dock for its failures and betrayal on every front (the Rafale deal, cronyism and corruption, unemployment, farmers’ and workers’ distress, communal lynch mobs) is now even further in the dock for the Pulwama attack. The Modi government owes an answer to the people for the huge lapse in security leading to the attack, as well as for its disastrous policies which have led to a drastic deterioration in the Kashmir situation. As responsible citizens it is for us to hold the irresponsible govt to account and demand answers and change.
- Issued on behalf of CPIML Liberation Central Committee