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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 51, New Delhi, December 5, 2020

Misusing political power - In service of personal pride and prejudices | MA Sofi

Saturday 5 December 2020

by Prof. M. A. Sofi *

What is leadership supposed to achieve for the people after all? Surely, not capitulating to what the crowd wants or acting as demanded by the public pulse and conducting politics accordingly. Mainly because the people, more so those sections of them who are either uneducated or may come across as otherwise, but who are completely clueless about what it takes for the society to qualify as being robust, happy, healthy, open, tolerant and egalitarian.

Come to think of it, the main objective and perhaps the only mandate of a leader is to guide the people out of the morass of backwardness, the darkness of ignorance and to beckon them to the path of emancipation: from prejudice, hate, rancour, intolerance. Surely that is the sort of leadership that would naturally lead to a healthy society and to progress, prosperity and happiness of the people, all of which combine to lead to genuine development of the country, and in a manner that is not only acceptable across the board, but is also decent, all-inclusive and above all, cost effective. Unlike, of course, the manner in which problems are created and proliferated by the ‘leaders’ where sections of people are being pitted against each other in pursuit of a goal that is presented as a dream but that is destined to be a nightmare if ever it was realised.
A glaring example of how problems are created or how otherwise relatively manageable issues are made many times more complex and ’sold’ by these dream - merchants to the unsuspecting masses is to be witnessed in Kashmir where a political issue that has been festering ever since it was created by the Indian rulers in 1947 has been allowed to snowball into an extremely complex and fiendishly intractable discord of startling proportions. In the process, the unwillingness to come to grips with the issue has led tens of thousands of precious human lives being consumed on both sides of the fence, apart from being a drag on the public exchequer. As such, it should help to take a dispassionate view of the manner in which the issue has been, not handled, but exploited and milked dry by the leaders and their policy pundits in pursuit of goals which are purely personal and self-seeking. Exactly similar is the manner in which the Establishment is going hammer and tongs after those who have been involved in massive scandals, scams, surreptitious financial deals and similar other irregularities. Such cases of graft and corruption by the high and mighty as much by the ordinary Indians have been unearthed by various investigating agencies in India, especially over the past six years. Fair enough. But we are missing an important point here.

Much as it’s nobody’s case to plead for leniency towards those who are involved in such cases of financial fraud, the fact remains that most of those involved in such cases invariably also happen to owe fealty to the other side of the political divide. The question that stares us in the face is this: who and which independent investigating agency is going to probe such mysterious contretemps as, say the arrest of the J&K DSP Davinder Singh in June 2020 while he was travelling in a car to Delhi accompanied by two HM militants and his alleged role in the parliament attack in 2001. How about those who had conspired the 2014 Muzaffarnagar communal riots in U.P or more pertinently, the humanitarian disasters like those witnessed during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 when 3000 innocent Indians were massacred, many more maimed for life and properties worth thousands of crores destroyed? How is it that the dance of death was allowed to go on for days there even as scores of women of a certain religious community were raped, then killed and many of them being pregnant whose foetuses were ripped open and, in a macabre show of ‘bravery’, hoisted on the tip of a Trishul to display valour in teaching those lesser mortal victims a lesson of their life? Who do we trust to probe these and many other conspiracies in an unbiased manner, without fear or favour?

What we have seen in the past few years involving the manner in which the democratic institutions in the country have been appropriated, politicised and subsequently monopolised by those wielding and misusing their unbridled power over these institutions, leaves little doubt in our minds that justice is and shall continue to remain a far cry, especially to the teeming millions of Indians who, unlike the likes of venom-spewing Arnab Goswami, can’t boast of having the right connections, the resources and the leeway to seek redressal from the system? In such a scenario, the usual reference of such cases to a thorough investigation by an honourable, unbiased individual or an institution to dispense justice is anachronistic. This because the adjective “unbiased” has since ceased to be applicable to those honourable individuals and institutions that could be entrusted the job of conducting what is supposed to be an honest and impartial enquiry into such conspiracies.

Thus the conclusion is inescapable: the criminals who had masterminded and supervised the Gujarat carnage of 2002 — or those who were involved in the 1999 Kunan Poshpora mass rape of women in Kashmir — shall never meet their moment of comeuppance as long as those controlling these institutions and their satraps continue to remain ensconced in the saddle. Sadly, in the India of today, the “law has ceased to take its course” as it were, what with innumerable cases of those entrusted with upholding justice and constitutional propriety have chosen to buckle and compromise their dignity and conscience in return for crumbs of pelf and power that are thrown at them by those in authority.

That’s precisely the reason why we are witness to the outlandish spectacle involving, not the perpetrators, but the victims of violence being charged with — and ultimately punished for — such offences as the abetment to violence while the conspirators of violence are allowed to get away with it. The Delhi riots of Feb. 2020 is a case in point, as is the long regime of violation of human rights involving scores of innocent Kashmiris who are rotting in jails under the most inhuman living conditions, and for decades on end. Whether there is reasonable hope for the situation beginning to look up in the months and years ahead and thus prevent a certain descent of the country into anarchy that belongs in the realm of conjecture. However, the realisation of that hope is not likely to come about until the men and women in authority are called to account. Not until the cows come home, that’s.

The point is that all this, and much more, is a natural outcome of a culture of misplaced priorities where the sole emphasis and obsession remain on the single-point agenda of winning elections after elections while remaining steadfastly unconcerned by the plethora of issues that impact the lives of ordinary Indians on a daily basis. The other day as I was out on a morning walk, the sight of the security forces being ferried for deployment in every single nook and cranny of the town was pathetic. Not only because they are not used to such extreme weather conditions where they are required to be deployed on duty during the freezing temperatures in the wee hours of the morning, but also because of the conditions on the ground where they have been taught to look upon the locals as enemies. Such a mindset naturally breeds feelings of hostility in them which get translated into unleashing of extreme violence upon the innocent local Kashmiris as and when they (security forces) come under attack from unknown quarters. These innocent Kashmiris who are otherwise too busy with their daily lives are left to contend with the double whammy involving the extremely inhospitable weather conditions made worse by the long and protracted power cuts on a daily basis. Combined with this is the ubiquitous violence in the valley that has been taking a heavy toll of their lives, their properties and of course the business activity which has suffered grievously, especially since the mother of all betrayals was committed upon them by these self-same ’leaders’ on Aug.5th, 2019.

The point that is intended to be highlighted is this: political power has ceased to be the means to create conditions for promoting virtues like mutual co-existence, communal harmony, tolerance, understanding and empathy in the society while keeping the divisive forces at bay. For those espousing and practicing that kind of politics, it’s an anathema to invoke Occam’s razor in dealing with and sorting out issues - political, social, strategic or otherwise. As opposed to such praxis, a most natural, politically sagacious, cost-effective and a straight-from-the heart approach would have been for the ’leadership’ to reach out, say to those who have been on the receiving end of what has been gratuitous violence in Kashmir especially over the past 30 years, as much as to those who are impacted in various ways by the turmoil in Kashmir and in equal measure to those who are known to have a genuine stake in the resolution of the imbroglio in Kashmir. That would have saved the day, not only for their own security forces in terms of their precious lives, but also spared them the vast resources that are being frittered away on the boondoggle involving the deployment of a million strong-armed personnel in Kashmir. As a welcome bonus and by default if you like, Kashmiris would also get to taste the fruits of such an inclusive approach to begin to breathe freely and rebuild their lives after decades of extreme hardship, suffering, suffocation and repression.

* (Author: Prof. M. A. Sofi is associated with J & K Institute of Mathematics, Srinagar; former Pro Vice-Chancellor, Kashmir University, Srinagar)

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