So, at the end of May, with all the hoopla about assembly elections washed out by a very poor turnout in the Parliamentary elections, ‘Kashmir-watchers’ from India were bitter. So they turned to cricket and other usual diversions. Lucky for them the Indian Premier League was going on; the Indian middle-class divided its loyalties and short attention span toward fancily-named cricket teams—Lions, Royals, Chargers, Knight Riders, Big Talkers, Useless Stinkers. News channels, to show that they also speak about the underside of their Greeeeat Democracy, chose to speak about the low-turnout in Lalgarh instead of Kashmir.
NDTV, which seems to be suffering from some kind of a cognitive disorder, in fact advised the people of Mumbai for their low-turnout(43 percent) to learn a lesson from the faith Kashmiris were putting in the Indian democracy (23 percent turnout). Mumbai attacks last November, which apparently should have stirred their conscience, hadn’t. (And, by the way, if you want more examples of NDTV’s disorder recall when William Burns came to India carrying Obama’s most recent letter to Manmohan urging India and Pakistan to start talks, adding that both India and Pakistan should determine where and when, Vikram Chandra forgot the “both” and self-congratulatingly stated that Obama said India will determine everything.) But anyway, that is how things are.
Around that time, two women were gang raped and murdered in Kashmir. It happened during the night of the last Friday of May, and by Sunday, as news reached and shook all parts of Kashmir, people started pouring out of homes to protest. Monday was total strike. Tuesday and Wednesday witnessed more protest and strikes. As the pace of the protest gathered, the young CEO of Kashmir, the darling of teenagers in India, a two-line-in-Indian-Parliament-wonder-kid (two-lines to wash away his past association with a government that gave clean-chit to Narendra Modi government after the Gujarat pogroms in 2002), said that an enquiry would be conducted but that there was not much to it as it was a simple case of drowning. It didn’t matter that the bodies of the two women had been fished out of land and not water. People got angrier still.
I don’t understand why people get angry with him. As a member of the family that has long represented the interests of Indian political establishment in Kashmir, he said what his brief from India allows him. Nevertheless protests continued.
At this point, NDTV’s polished and articulate Kashmir correspondent Nazir Masoodi came on TV (did you catch it?). With his head held high and a demeanor suggesting a lot of personal commitment, he candidly stated “NDTV’s position”: we have maintained all along that rape has happened but murder hasn’t. After that he had nowhere to go but underground. A friend suggested he might be in a bunker under the 15 Corp HQ information centre in Srinagar. His vanishing act was brilliant, giving a distinct impression that there were these imaginary murderers after his life, when no one gave two hoots about him. But, no, he failed to get attention similar to what journalists imprisoned in North Korea or Iran normally get. You might have also noticed the Sunday story in the Indian Express by Muzamil Jaleel who re-wrote the most popular family story of the Abdullahs? It reminded Delhi of whose son and grandson Omar was, at a time when doubts were being raised about his ability to rule.
People, on the other side, with no other available way to express solidarity with the victims continued the protests. Geelani and his camp followers, with very limited imagination, continued to call for more hartals. And, soon, hartals began to pinch hard. As if the Indian occupation was not enough oppression already, hartals began to look like self-inflicted wounds. I was surprised to see a national movement act like a railway union. I mean, striking is like legitimizing a government; saying that the state (or the Indian) government could address grievance. I mean the only way these governments can address grievance is by not being there; they are the grievance.
Look, how many cases of rape and murder in Kashmir have happened? Has any substantial change taken place on the ground? On Kunan Poshpora incident way back in the 90s, Indian media denied that any rape had happened at all. Then there are rapes in Pahalgam and other places. Unless events like these are woven into the larger struggle for national independence, media will always portray them as small crimes, instead of built-in systemic requirements of a military occupation.
Now that Jan Commission has established both rape and murder, and indicted the administration for carelessly letting vital evidence be lost, one shouldn’t expect any drastic changes. There will be some transfers, some suspensions, just to give an impression that heads are rolling. The draconian laws will continue. Military presence will continue. The karobar of the occupation will continue. And I don’t think evidence was allowed to be lost so carelessly!
Indian media, which was planning to spend the next few weeks celebrating Team India’s T20 victories, is suddenly speechless. Cricket was supposed to smother Kashmir. But, na, it didn’t happen that way! On top of that, the Pakistani win in cricket has come as a personal loss to India.
When a Jessica Lall or a Priyadarshini Mattoo gets raped or murdered Indian media acts as if their own sister or mother was raped and murdered, but when it comes to Kashmir they take the “principled stand.”