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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 30 New Delhi July 14, 2018

Rehashing the ‘Divide and Rule’

Sunday 15 July 2018

by M.A. Sofi

The country called India is going through a great churn right now but alas, not for all the good reasons. The reference is surely to the British ploy of ‘divide and rule’ in its new avatar as an inspiration to those who are now in charge of running governments across large swathes of India. The manner in which politics is being played out both in and away from the corridors of power raises certain disturbing questions which, unless addressed, may lead to an apocalypse in the country from which it may never recover. The reference is certainly to the questionable ways in which every single development coming about in any corner of the country is sought to be (mis)presented in a manner so as to fit the electoral calculus of the political party that is using every single trick in the trade to win election after election and to cling on to power for as long as it could. The unending cycle of brutalities as is being witnessed in Kashmir, where raids are conducted on a daily basis on suspected hideouts to target and kill those who are invariably non-combatants, is an exercise in overkill. Not the least because of the latter not offering even a semblance of resistance during such a confrontation. This is a clear manifestation of a devious mindset at work which has no use for engaging the adversary according to the rules of the game that entail resort to armed action only in the event of an attack from the opposite camp.

With the theatre of action being located as it is in the disputed territory of Kashmir where, like it or not, the majority of those living there happen to be Muslims, the sole motivation for this overkill is to polarise the society purely on communal considerations with the petty aim of reaping electoral dividends. Which is why no thought is spared for the ominous spectacle involving well-placed, highly educated and professionally competent young Kashmiris finding themselves being pushed to the wall and being forced to seek refuge in such a thing as the resort to a path of self-annihilation. A path that they still fancy as a better option than the unending cycle of death, disgrace and despondency that have come to characterise their daily lives in what has been turned into a hell called Kashmir. Their willingness to embrace death as a reliever of pain and agony should alert even the diehard sceptics to the bitter truth that the use of strong-arm tactics has a short shelf life and has since run out its course. It would be grossly counterproductive to fancy that these tactics would wean away an entire population from the cherished goal of seeking their fundamental right to a life of honour, peace and dignity which has been squarely denied to them since, what in reality has been the forced annexation of their land by India. In these and similar such developments unfolding in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, one beholds unmistakable signs of this country teetering on the precipice and well on its way to the bottomless pit of authoritarianism with the fear of the attendant chaos and conflagration threatening to engulf the entire region.

Of a piece with this diabolical gameplan is the recent unseemly controversy surrounding the Jinnah portrait in the Students Union hall at the AMU, Aligarh that has been created by the Right-wing chauvinists owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar. The ugly scenes involving these thugs from outside the university having stormed the campus and unleashing violence upon the students there have been unprecedented during the entire history of the university.

Whereas the issue of the portrait hanging over there remains beyond controversy in view of the time-honoured tradition of putting up the portraits of those in the union hall that have been bestowed life membership of the AMU Students Union, there are those amongst self-proclaimed Indian intellectuals who are seen to be apologetic about this episode. Their contention that the Jinnah portrait in the AMU would continue to be there and shall not be taken down as long as the one of Savarkar continues to be hanging on the walls of the Parliament is uncharitable, lacks merit and objectivity. This is so because those drawing such a comparison between the two betray an atrocious lack of history, considering that the twain had come across as individuals who shared nothing even remotely common between them regarding their approach and understanding of the events as they had unfolded in pre-independent India.

That the comparison is grossly unfair is also because people like Savarkar and Golwalkar, who were amongst the chief ideological mentors of the RSS and now its political wing, the BJP, had all along espoused the idea of the two-nation theory and believed in the impossibility of the two communities living peacefully together in India.

On the contrary, Jinnah was a thoroughbred secularist who had stood like a rock for Hindu-Muslim amity, but was driven to the wall by those in the Congress party who were completely reluctant to cede political space to the Muslims as dictated by a number of considerations including their proportion in the population. The comparison is also farfetched in view of Jinnah’s sterling role in the freedom movement in contrast to Golwalkar and his outfit, the RSS, having played second fiddle to the British rule in India. It is also well documented that the latter had sung encomiums in praise of Hitler for his atrocities and the persecution of Jews. And regarding Jinnah’s role in the partition, the fact remains that the idea of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims was a choice that was thrust upon him as much by the conspiracy of circumstances that had played themselves out in the run-up to the partition as by the shenanigans of the Congress stalwarts spearheaded by Nehru, Gandhi, Patel etc.

With this latest act of perfidy having been engineered to play out at the AMU campus, the BJP and its Sanghi affiliates have done it one more time and done it what they do best: to communalise the society and polarise the polity to reap, as always, the electoral dividends!

The question arises: how is it that their resort to such devious tactics as a dependable tactic has almost always delivered at the hustings in India. The simple but uncomfortable truth which has been brought forth elsewhere by this author is this: the people in India, at least a substantial chunk of them, are comfortable with the prospect of the Muslims being pilloried, punished and put in their place by those who stand to gain by the politics of identity characterised by deceit, subterfuge and hatred of the ‘other’.

This politics of deceit and deception is pursued to its perfection in the State of Jammu and Kashmir where one is witness to acts of depravity like one would encounter nowhere else!

Where else would one have to suffer the mortification of watching the ghastly spectacle of the BJP party leaders participating in a procession in support of the rapists and murderers of an eight-year-old child? It is here, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir! And it’s here where the party has been pitting one community against the other by using the Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in its devious effort to vilify the Kashmiri Muslims (KMs) as the real villains of the piece and thus seeking to justify the reign of terror that has been let loose upon them, especially over these past few years of its rule. What is indeed paradoxical and deeply distressing is the high decibel level of noises accompanying the web of calumny and utter falsehood being spread by some KPs owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar against the KMs who are being demonised by making it out as being responsible for the migration of KPs from the Valley.

An important piece of arsenal being deployed by the party against the KMs is the myth being spun by them that all this was part of a conspiracy to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Kashmir where KPs were being viewed as the main stumbling block in pursuit of that idea. And this campaign of hatred against the KMs is being run and fuelled by “none other than this Sangh-inspired ’privileged’ class of KPs who have nothing to lose for their own selves as they are safely ensconced in their jobs and businesses elsewhere and who surely have no plans whatsoever to return to the Valley now or in the distant future. But in the process, they must understand that they are merely ending up hurting the members of the other less privileged camp of their community by helping to throw a spanner in the works of those who are sincerely working to ensure a safe and dignified return of these less privileged mortals to their roots.

The point is that if indeed they are genuinely serious about returning back to the Valley, they are well advised not to allow themselves being used as their proxies by the Sangh brigade as part of the latter’s divide and rule mantra. They should desist from mouthing venom and vitriol that typically characterise their conversation involving KMs during debates on the sundry news channels which have been tasked by the Sangh to do its bidding. Muslim bashing is surely the flavour of the season for these TV channels who have wedded themselves to the Sangh ideology. The ‘divide-and-rule’ ploy is a petty-minded gimmick that they should know is doomed to fail, as the protagonists of the British raj had learnt it to their cost.

On the contrary, it augurs well for restoring that fabled communal harmony back to Kashmir that the KMs have not allowed themselves to ‘return the favour’ by spewing venom against their KP counterparts. Only because they have been ever so keen to welcome them back to their matri-bhoomi.

It is in the supreme interest of all the parties caught up in this quagmire to understand that the time has come for all of them to leave the past behind, look up to the future, refuse to be used as pawns by the vested interests and mend fences to herald a new beginning. The sooner they wake up to this hard reality, the better would it be for sanity to restore to this place which stands vitiated, vandalised and vulgarised by the enemies of what used to be the land of saints!

Prof M.A. Sofi is an Emeritus Professor, Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Srinagar. He can be contacted at e-mail: aminsofi[at]

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