Mainstream, VOL LV No 1 New Delhi December 24, 2016 - ANNUAL 2016
Fresh Onslaught on People, Ved Bhasin on J&K
Monday 26 December 2016, by
I have just switched off the television. Couldn’t view any further, depressing and hitting news—reports of the hapless getting brutally lathi-charged when they were standing in long queues to withdraw their own money, or a young mother of four little children throwing kerosene on herself because the five hundred rupee notes in her clasp had been rendered ‘useless’ to buy even the basics for her brood, or an elderly man committing suicide in utter insecurity after his rupees were declared redundant by the sarkar of the day, or when the hearts and nerves of many others gave way to the failing and crumbling system. In fact, everyday fresh cases of people dying in the midst of this atmosphere of utter chaos and confusion—where the person entering the bank premises to withdraw his own money is made to feel like a criminal!
The state has not managed to provide the basics to the masses. Dismal reports on the malnutrition and the connected offshoots, and now this fresh onslaught. Harassed and bewildered is the look on the faces of the countless, wondering how best to survive in these hopeless times.
And reports coming in from our rural belts are indicators of the harsh times to come. In fact, even top independent economists (that is, those not in the clutches of this government) cannot make much sense of this move, which seems nothing short of a major blow to the farmers and to his agricultural output. There’s an unease and insecurity spreading out to such an extent that if not harnessed now and immediately, it could lead to many more disasters. Look around and there seems a strange eerie build-up. Never before in these recent years there’s been such a sense of upheaval spreading out amongst the masses who look apprehensive and worried...unsure what more could be heaped on them!
‘Vedji and His Times—Kashmir: The Way Forward: Selected Works Of Ved Bhasin’ Volume 1—Edited by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (Published by Kashmir Times Publications, Jammu)
The veteran Jammu based journalist-editor, Ved Bhasin, passed away exactly a year back. But even right now as I am keying in I can recollect his stark views on the Kashmir situation together with his views on the situation in the country. There was that earnestness with which he spoke and that made that required impact. There was that gentle smile playing on his face even when he was dealing with his harshest critics. Nah, no aggressiveness and none of those hysterical shrieks and not a trace of rudeness.
He wouldn’t dilute his stand and nor his views-viewpoints, swimming against the tide till the very end. Needless to add that the going must have been riddled with hurdles yet this man never gave up. And in a journalistic career spanning almost seven long decades, he had been writing, exposing the layers of facades to the political mess in the Kashmir region. He came across as one of those fearless men who were focused on the ground realities, aware of the build-ups and those backdrops.
And now as the very first volume of Ved Bhasin’s Selected Works is published by his daughter, Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, it gets absolutely relevant to highlight Vedsaab’s views on the ongoing crisis in the Kashmir region and the possible ‘solutions’ that could bring along a sense of ease for the Kashmiris. Quoting his views from this volume, “Clearly the policy of suppression pursued in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990 has not succeeded to eliminate militancy, much less to crush popular unrest or bring back the people to the national mainstream. The bullet-for-bullet policy with untold human rights violations has proved counter-productive... Unless the root cause of militancy and the people’s disenchantment with India is tackled no worthwhile and lasting solution is possible. Primarily it is a political problem which cannot be tackled with armed strength by dealing with it as simply a law and order problem. A political solution, that could satisfy the urges and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir living in all regions and areas and belonging to all faiths and communities, that could also be eventually acceptable to India and Pakistan, is called for ...J&K is not just a piece of land that it should be divided between India and Pakistan. It is the people who constitute Jammu and Kashmir... Any solution based on status-quo, geographically and politically and constitutionally, cannot be considered rationale and realistic and will not be acceptable to the people who have risen in revolt.”
How I wish Vedsaab had written his autobiography, as he was no ordinary observer of the Kashmir region and its inhabitants. He was concerned about the rights of the Kashmiris. In fact, the few times I could get to interact with him, during his visits to New Delhi, he’d speak about the human rights violations heaping untold miseries on the hapless people. All these years he had been writing for the rights of the people of the Kashmir region. And as Anuradha writes about her father in the very foreword to this volume, “A subject closest to his heart was peace. Peace to him was not silencing of guns or calm but peace with justice, peace which was people-centric and would enable the most marginalised and the poor to reap its dividends. My father was a thorough humanist not because he believed in peace but because he sincerely practised it in his day-to-day life, nursing no malice or contempt for people opposed to him or people who were not to so intellectually strong. He had the ability to carry along with him people, even his worst critics and that made him special.”
Amongst the many tributes paid to him, these lines of veteran journalist Mohammad Sayeed Malik stand out as they relay the very crux to Ved Bhasin’s personality, “The most remarkable thing about Vedji was that his extraordinary popularity never went to his head. Nor did his professional, intellectual attainments take him away from the lives of ordinary folk with whom he remained emotionally attached... Vedji launched his Kashmir Times not as a commercial or business venture but as the mouthpiece of his mission. Through it he gave voice to the deprived and depressed. He lived and struggled to keep it that way.”
And I cannot end this piece without quoting Anuradha... these lines which relay so much about her father—“When I was about six or seven years old, in my innocence after hearing friends in school speak about religions and Gods the believed in, I asked him what he believed in. He said, ‘I believe in you.’ It was much later that I understood the importance and significance of those words. He had grasped the true meaning of humanism—belief in people and the goodness of people.”