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Mainstream, Vol. XLVIII, No 33, August 7, 2010

Wanted: A Measure of Vision


Monday 9 August 2010, by SC


After price rise (on which finally Parliament was able to have threadbare discussion without voting as the government insisted) the scam relating to the Commonwealth Games (based on the UK money trials brought into focus by a private TV channel) has rocked both the Houses as well as the country at large. On both counts the government has been put on the backfoot by a spirited Opposition which appears to be unified in its bid to corner and isolate the Treasury Benches. As allegations of fraud and forgery are freely lavelled against the CWG Organising Committee and its kingpin, the question now uppermost in the minds of all citizens is whether the preparations for the CWG would at all be completed within the limited time-frame at the disposal of the authorities.

Interestingly, such a well-known sports personality as the noted footballer Baichung Bhutia has now been quoted as saying that India should not have at all held the CWG when it knew the infrastructure necessary for the Games would not be in place on time. Those in charge of the Games are definitely on the defensive as they have not been able to convincingly rebut the charges of fraud and forgery with even the CWGF President admitting that corruption in the preparations for the Games had reached incredible proportions. This is a matter of national shame, to say the least.

But such a development along with the issue of price rise that has caused intolerable hardship to the aam aadmi (and shows no signs of abating despite all the declarations by the UPA leaders) pales into insignificance before the gravity of the situation prevailing in Kashmir that is witnessing an unprecedented popular upsurge overshadowing even the 1989 uprising with the slogan of azadi reverberating across the Valley as the CRPF and J&K Police grapple with the people’s unrest to quell which they have thus far killed 45 persons in the eight-week-long violence. Over the last five days alone 27 persons, including a nine-year-old boy, have died thus triggering a kind of indignation which is unique even in the chequered history of the trouble-tossed region. This is best reflected in the countless women coming out on the streets to register their spontaneous protest defying the curfew.

To blame Pakistan and the militants for the present wave of protests in the Valley is not only the height of folly but also the manifestation of an ostrich-like approach. No doubt Pakistan and its trained cadres are trying to exacerbate the already tense conditions but essentially the situation has deteriorated on account of internal maladministration in which Islamabad had no role to play. We must unequivocally accept today’s reality in the Kashmir Valley: what has taken shape there is indeed a people’s movement for self-determination which cannot be suppressed by bullets and strong-arm measures.

In his statement in Parliament the Union Home Minister appealed to the Kashmiri public, saying: “Your children’s safety is our paramount task.” But the words don’t match the deeds of the Central Government represented by its security forces who are thus hated by the entire Kashmiri populace. In this scenario it is interesting to find Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the hardline Hurriyat faction calling upon the people to maintain calm and engage in a peaceful movement. This is of utmost significance and cannot be derided as just a popular gimmick.

Only by changing its tactics and making concerted efforts for political dialogue with all segments of public opinion in the Valley—in the true spirit of autonomy the people have been longing for all these years—can the Centre hope to bring about a semblance of normalcy alongside peace and reconciliation in Kashmir. But all these steps must be intertwined with the principles of justice and dignity for the people at large.

Is this really a tall order for New Delhi? Not in the least, if it has the vision to comprehend the consequences of the course it has currently opted for.

August 4 S.C.

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