Mayankote Kelath vs. Madhu Purnima

This is what the former National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan wrote in THE HINDU:

Radicalisation rather than militancy and alienation should thus be seen as the new threat in Kashmir.The danger is real. Far more than ceasefire violations, actions of the Pakistani Deep State, terrorist incursions, and the separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, the looming threat that can no longer be ignored is the inexorable move towards extreme radicalisation.

On the current alliance in the State of J&K between the BJP and PDP, he wrote the following:

New Delhi must, first and foremost, shed its pet illusion that the so-called alienation of the Kashmiri people can be overcome by providing larger and larger tranches of funds at every opportunity, on the plea of economic development. Another idea that has to be dispelled is that by building alliances and coalitions, it is possible to paper over fundamental differences in viewpoints, as also difficulties in implementing policies.

This piece follows an earlier piece he wrote in THE HINDU:

The rest of the world may also not mind a diversion of attention to Kashmir, to take the pressure off the current migrants’ crisis’ that threatens to undermine the fragile unity that underpins the European Union (EU). A Kashmir crisis at this juncture – which has the potential to spark a nuclear conflict — is just the kind of remedy that many European strategists could be looking for, to divert attention from a collapse of the Schengen system and dreams of a borderless Europe.

It was incredible stuff from a former NSA to write something like that openly.

In his more recent piece, he added the following:

Rawalpindi, hence, feels emboldened to raise the stakes in Jammu and Kashmir. There are other factors as well such as the China-Pakistan Economic — as also military — Partnership, which has added to Pakistan’s confidence to meddle in Jammu and Kashmir.

He thinks that Ms. Mehbooba, the daughter of Mr. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the current CM of J&K State, is a problem:

The latter’s sympathy for anti-India forces — including militants like the HuM — is well known, and her elevation would add yet another disturbing element to the current chain of developments.

He also points to the Chief Minister’s remarks when the PM visited the State on 7 November:

Mufti, unwittingly or otherwise, is also playing to this gallery, and incidentally making common cause with the separatist forces in the Valley (including both the Hurriyat factions). The fact that Mufti chose to raise this while on a common platform with the Prime Minister during the latter’s November visit is hardly a coincidence, and must not be brushed under the carpet.

Mr. Narayanan’s solution, alas, is all too vague:

What has to be achieved is to prevent such radicalisation from attaining a far larger dimension, by taking steps to limit the attraction of such radicalist and extremist ideas among the local youth.

Now, let us move over to Ms. Madhu Kishwar’s article in ‘Swarajya’. She is with Shri. M.K. Narayanan on the radicalisation:

The state and Central governments do not seem to be working in a coordinated manner to deal with the fast-growing Islamist radicalization of Kashmiri youth that makes even a hardliner like Geelani appear a moderate in comparison. The radicalized section of the youth, though minuscule at this time, does not hide its fascination for outfits like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Unlike the old generation of secessionists, the neo-militants are not just anti-India—they are also anti-democracy, which they openly condemn as being un-Islamic. This process of virulent rejection of democracy and adoption of a jihadi ideology has been brewing for over two decades now. Although it was conceived and nurtured in the womb of the Pakistan-backed secessionist movement, the current phase of radicalization has gone far beyond the demand for a plebiscite to a desire for establishing the global supremacy of Islam through total annihilation of all that stands in its way. Democracy is seen as an inimical distraction in this project.

Unlike Shri. M.K. Narayanan who does not offer a clear-cut answer, she is clear that the answer has to be found in making the political alliance in J&K work. From a purely practical standpoint, what she wrote makes sense. There is a government in J&K and it is essential that it works.

Her specific points:

While the separatists want to keep the youth on the boil and forever traumatized, Mehbooba approaches them as a caring sister qua mother figure and acts as a healer and hope giver. In the process of marginalizing the separatists, she has to often steal the wind from their sails by protesting louder than them against occasional cases of human rights abuses even when her party is in power.

That often gets interpreted as Mehbooba and PDP being indistinguishable from separatists. This misunderstanding is a major cause of tensions between BJP cadres and PDP.

The importance of Mehbooba can be better understood if we take into account the politicians challenging her. Pitched against her are the likes of Yasin Malik, Masarat Alam, Asiya Andrabi, and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. All these separatists are brazenly acting at the behest of Pakistani agencies and are on the payroll of ISI.

This is an important point. Behavioural types will understand the point she makes. One may be unhappy with status quo but one has to be practical. The alternatives are worse. It is a subtle game of ‘be trustful and be watchful, yet’ stance that the BJP has to adopt with its partner in J&K. Is it up to the challenge?

The following points that she makes of Ms. Mehbooba are worth keeping in mind:

She appeals to Kashmiri pride as opposed to Islamic separatism. She challenges the Wahhabi version of Islam by her own example. She and her family are Sufi by conviction. They even visit and owe allegiance to Hindu spiritual gurus. Her two daughters have all the freedom that youngsters in other parts of India have. They don’t even cover their heads, leave alone wear burqa or hijab.

This is the first time Kashmir has thrown up a genuine grassroots-based woman leader—that too at a time when the state is tilting towards Salafism that denies women basic human rights. She is the only self-made woman leader in the entire Islamic world who is triumphantly challenging the Salafi version of Islam. Even as a symbol, the rise of Mehbooba Mufti in a Muslim-majority state under siege by Pakistani terror brigades is a tribute to Indian democracy and traditional Kashmiri culture.

Further, Madhu Kishwar makes a very important but verifiable point. IF this is true, then it is a powerful argument for the BJP ‘hotheads’ to give the ‘benefit of doubt’ to their coalition partner, PDP:

The BJP hotheads would also do well to remember that PDP is the only force that has never internationalized the Kashmir issue—something even the supposedly mainstream NC is guilty of doing. Neither Mehbooba nor any other PDP leader has ever gone breast beating to America or Europe demonizing India as the separatists routinely do. If they have grievances or complaints, they insist on a hearing within India.

The following is an interesting point in which her angle is different from that of Shri. M.K. Narayanan:

PM Modi’s open snub to CM Mufti Sayeed at the joint rally they addressed in Srinagar on November 7 has created a furious wave against the alliance with separatists on the offensive. Even if Modi did not like Mufti’s advice regarding reopening the dialogue with Pakistan, there was no need to humiliate the CM in front of his people. If nothing else, Modi should have respected Mufti’s age and experience and handled the matter more deftly. Apart from damaging the prospects of the alliance, Modi damaged his own image by coming across as arrogant and disdainful of his party’s most vulnerable but valuable alliance partner.

Very similar diagnosis and yet very different conclusions. Purely from the point of facilitating a constructive and cogent discussion or a counter-response, Madhu Kishwar’s (whom I know well personally) article is better than that of Shri. M.K. Narayanan’s article.

Apart from that, her article makes some specific arguments and they seem to have a compelling logic behind them. I have highlighted them above. If she is wrong and if PDP is not to be trusted, what is the alternative? End the alliance, impose Presidential rule and call for fresh elections? What will be the outcome? Will elections be allowed to conduct? Will it be fair? Will it not lead to more inimical forces coming to office directly or through proxies? What has been the previous record of governments ruled directly from Delhi with the Indian army in charge of law and order in the State?

Doesn’t it make more sense for both the BJP and PDP leadership to realise how crucial and important their government is, for the whole country and hence, display extra understanding and maturity? That should result in more regular and frequent communication that develops trust and understanding of each other’s public positions and compulsions and private beliefs.

It is not easy being a leader of a country like India. It calls for superhuman abilities and attitudes, extraordinarily high levels of personal judgement and loads and loads of luck. Some bets have to be made. They may go wrong. But, choice are made under uncertainty only. Having decided to form the alliance, calling it off in acrimony would be a huge political setback for the parties concerned, for the leaders, for the State and for the country now. That may very well pave the way for the very radicalisation that both writers see as the biggest growing challenge in J&K today.

(Well, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that ‘to lead India’ is almost an impossible task)

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