There’s a call to “reboot” the India Kashmir policy. Also to reboot the definition of ‘anti-national’. Sane voices as opposed to the “insane right-roiled” are demanding that. Shujaat Bukhari’s killing has sharpened divisions in the media and every media anchor wants to become Kashmir interlocutor.
And the Ramzan Ceasefire – whether to extend it or not – has become a test. Times Now and Republic TV are at each other’s throats for TRP. A tragedy – the killing of a journalist – of such vast proportions comes in handy.
So, if Republic is calling for a ‘no ceasefire, go all out’ Kashmir policy, rival Times Now suddenly spun on a coin and declared ‘extend ceasefire, show magnanimity.’ Others like NDTV, India Today TV and CNN-News18 remain neutral. Hindi and vernacular channels are seen but not heard by policymakers!
But it is award winning journalist Barkha Dutt who has called for the “reboot” of the India Kashmir Policy, which she affirms has “lurched wildly from jingoism and denialism (sic)” and sorely needs a relook.
The “friend and colleague” of Shujaat Bukhari also wants a redefinition of ‘anti-national’. Barkha Dutt laments the demise of the “Vajpayee vision of peace” which “allowed interlocutors to explore breakthroughs without fear of being labelled traitors.” Now, they “pay with their lives.”
There are journalists who fancy themselves interlocutors in/on Kashmir. The late Dileep Padgaonkar was an appointed one. Senior journalist Vinod Sharma made contact with the Hurriyat along with Mani Shankar Aiyar, sometime columnist. Shujaat Bukhari became one because he was Kashmiri and had a stake in the resolution of the thorny Kashmir issue.
But Barkha Dutt, she claims a special interest because she’s a Kashmir-specialist. Dutt is prone to offer advice on Kashmir to the government off and on, take it or leave it! But she demands a change in perception; that the government acknowledge that the militancy in Kashmir is largely “local” and must be handled accordingly.
She baulks from calling the trained killers pouring in from across the border ‘terrorists’, insisting that Kashmir has a local militancy going and Burhan Wani was the most familiar face of the local militancy.
Wani had a special place in Barkha Dutt’s heart. Next to Facebook, Barkha Dutt single-handedly made Burhan Wani a hero. Pakistan picked it up from where Barkha left it. That is, if at all, she left it.
Talking of Kashmir policy, some journalists and analysts are talking of putting an end to ‘military extremism/radicalism’, especially after the UN report on human rights violations in the Valley released on June 14, the day Bukhari was gunned down and Rifleman Aurangzeb was executed.
Dutt is not one of them. She sees a pattern in Shujaat Bukhari’s killing and goes back to year 2000 to stress the point. Then, too, there was a ceasefire, called by militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, and the Vajpayee government was holding talks with a faction of the Hizbul.
But a couple of planned blasts at Lal Chowk put an end to the talks. Hindustan Times photographer Pradeep Bhatia was killed in the blasts. Lal chowk then, Lal chowk now. Pradeep Bhatia then. Shujaat Bukhari now. Déjà vu!
Barkha Dutt like Shujaat Bukhari welcomed the Ramzan Ceasefire. But her idea of ceasefire is to talk to the local militants. Somebody on TV the other day said the Modi government should hold talks with the stone-pelters!
Sadly, and dangerously, nobody in media is ready to say it openly that the “uprising or militancy” in Kashmir, however widespread or not widespread, is a symptom of Islamism that has taken root in Kashmir.
And that Islamism is coming from across the border, and from places like Saudi Arabia. Barkha Dutt has travelled more miles in the Kashmir Valley than any two journalists from Delhi but it appears Dutt moves around blindsided and doesn’t see the spires of the hundreds of new mosques that pepper the Kashmir landscape.
Just this day, today, June 16, 2018, Eid-ul-Fitr, the faithful were out on the street in Srinagar and other places in the Valley, after the Eid prayers, throwing stones and waving Pakistan and ISIS flags. Nobody can deny that Pakistan is an ‘Islamic Republic’ not a democratic, secular republic. If any army is radicalized, it’s the Pakistan Army.
Any reboot of the Kashmir policy should acknowledge that. The media should stop talking of magnanimity or show any such weakness in the face of a deviant idea.