While the three months long popular agitation, following the death of Hizbul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, and the recent killings of 18 soldiers in the border area of Uri, has plunged the region into a war hysteria, some sensible individuals, instead of relying on the information provided by the Government and the media, have on their own been trying to reach to the depth of the situation. I am experiencing this almost every day in Delhi.
Recently a journalist, working for a Hindi language magazine, barged into my office and showered onto me, in one breath, a series of questions like pallet guns. I advised her to, instead of depending on my responses, travel to Kashmir herself and then personally apprise me of the situation as well on her return.
Similarly, few weeks ago, prominent Hindi and Marathi journalists Santosh Bhartiya and Ashok Wankhede, were also curious to know about the situation. They were perplexed why on earth the Kashmiris have stood up against the country’s democratic setup?
I advised them too to travel to Srinagar and, if possible, go to the regions of Chenab valley and Peer Panchal, with open minds.
These two journalists and the known analyst, Professor Abhay Kumar Dubey, spent four days in Kashmir.
Santosh Bhartiya has also served as a Member of Parliament and is known to be very close to BJP leaders, specially the Minister of State and former Army Chief Gen. V.K .Singh (Retired). After his return Mr Bhartiya wrote a detailed letter to his former colleague, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The difficulty for news channels is that they cannot even condemn these guys as rebels and unpatriotic because until recently all of them had been supporting the government and the army on Kashmir through these very channels. All three intellectuals said that this visit has opened their eyes and minds that had, until now, been blocked and blinded by the national media and the government. I am here producing some excerpts from Santosh Bhartiya’s letter written in Hindi:
‘Dear Prime Minister, I have just returned, after a four days’ tour of Kashmir. During these four days I stayed in Kashmir valley and feel that I should acquaint you with the situation there. I am certain that the news that reaches you about Kashmir, specially the valley, comes from government officials and is overly sponsored. There is very little truth in such news. If you had some kind of system that could, after talking to the people of the valley, apprise you of the situation and you could learn the truth directly, I am sure you will not be able to ignore this reality.
‘I have been greatly perturbed after visiting the valley personally. We do have the land because we have our army there but the people are not with us. I say it with full responsibility that from an 80 years old man to a six years old child, everyone is angry at the Indian establishment; all of them are so much angry that they do not want even to talk to anyone associated with the government. They are angry to the extent that with stones in their hands they are facing such a huge machinery. They are willing to risk anything, no matter how big and the biggest of which is a [possible] massacre.
‘I am writing to you because you have the most important role in saving Kashmir from the [possibility of] biggest massacre [in its history].
‘A sense and feeling is developing within our armed forces that if anyone who raises his voice against the system in Kashmir is killed, annihilated and mopped off only then the separatist movement in the valley can be crushed.
‘The movement being dubbed as a separatist movement by the government is not a separatist movement. This is a movement of the people. If everyone, from an 80 year old to a 6 year old, chants “Azadi” [freedom] then we should admit that during the last 60 years we have committed a lot of blunders.
‘Security forces fire pallet guns but aim the upper part of the body not below. That’s why there are 10,000 lying inured there.
‘Dear Prime Minister, during my Kashmir visit I went to see the hospitals. In Delhi I was told that 4-5000 security personnel have also been injured. It is our propagation system that has been reporting these injuries that no one believes. If these injuries have taken place, then please take us the journalists to see where thousands of injured jawans are being treated.
‘We have seen young children who have lost their eyes and they will never be able to see again. It is this reason why I am writing this letter to you with deep emotions and feelings. On a number of occasions all three of us cried at the situation of Kashmir that we saw there.
‘Kashmiris are saddened and anguished because not a single bullet was fired at as massive [and violent] protest as the one launched by the Jats in Haryana and no one was killed. In the Gujjar protest in Rajasthan no one lost his life and no fire was shot at [by the police]. Most recently there was such a huge demonstration, regarding Cauvery river water, in Karnataka, Bangalore but not a single shot was fired. Why then bullets are fired in Kashmir, why at the upper part of the body and why even a six-year-old child is not spared?’
According to Santosh Bhartiya, from a policeman to businessman, student, members of the civil society, journalist, members of political parties and government officials all told them that each individual in Kashmir has risen against the Indian Government. ‘The one in whose hands there are no stones, has a stone in his heart instead. This agitation has become a peoples’ movement exactly like the Quit India Movement of 1942 against the British rule. Or like Jayaprakash Narayan’s agitation in which the role of the people was more important than of the leader.’
This delegation has repeatedly questioned the veracity of the allegation levelled against Pakistan by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and members of the ruling BJP. According to Bhartiya, ‘Does Pakistan have the capacity to afford to pay Rs 500 daily to each and every stone pelting child? And is our system so weak that it has not been able to catch even a single person distributing Rs 500 to these children?
He asked Modi to ponder over who is going out on the streets to distribute Rs 500 during the curfew? Is Pakistan as big [and powerful] as to be able to raise all of the 60 lakh people against a country like India with a population of 125 crore?
He said that these statements and the allegations against Pakistan sound to him, and the Kashmiris themselves, like a joke.
Commenting on the role of mainstream media he writes, ‘Our colleagues have been so much dazed by their desire to be nominated for Rajya Sabha and to have their names registered in the history of journalism as first class journalists that they are playing with the unity and existence of our country. But, Dear Prime Minister, history is emotionless. It will see [dispassionately] these journalists not as patriots but as disloyal to the country because those that name Pakistan for each everything and see Pakistani hand in everything, are in fact [themselves] Pakistani stooges. They are creating an impression upon the minds of Indians and Kashmiris that Pakistan is a very strong, powerful and far reaching country.
‘Dear Prime Minister, when the reality dawns upon these lot—as a matter of fact I don’t care if they will ever be able to comprehend and understand it—what I am worried about is the dear Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi himself. If history records Narendra Modi as someone who managed to keep Kashmir with India at the cost of allowing a big massacre, that will perhaps be a very sad part of [our] history for future generations. [Instead] history should record Narendra Modi as someone who won the hearts [and minds] of Kashmiris and fulfilled the [unfulfilled] promises being made with them for the last 60 years. Kashmiris do not ask for gold or for silver. What they want is just the fulfilment of promises that we have made with them.’
According to Mr Bhartiya, this year Kashmiris did not celebrate Eid and did not wear new clothes. There were no festivities in any house. ‘Is it not a slap on the faces of all of those Indians who swear by democracy. What on earth has happened there that has turned their protest against the political leadership into a rebellion? The Kashmir where elections were held in 2014 and people had participated in it, in that very Kashmir not even a single sole is ready to utter a soft word for the Indian Government. I am apprising you about the situation because you are the Prime Minister of whole of India, so that you may find a solution to the problem.’
The delegation observed that in Kashmir most of the people light only one bulb in their houses. Most of the households believe that there is too much to grieve about in Kashmir. So many people have been killed, more than 10,000 have been injured by pallet guns, more than 500 have lost their eyes and in a situation like this why should they brighten their houses by lighting four bulbs instead?
‘Dear Prime Minister, I have seen people lighting only one bulb in a house. I have also seen in Kashmir how stones are put on the streets at 8 AM. Those very boys who put these stones remove them at 6 PM. In the morning they throw stones and in the evening sleep inside their houses fearing being picked up by security personnel never to return back. Such a situation was not seen there even during British rule. Whatever we have read in history such fear was not there [during British rule].
‘This is the first time when the agitation has spread to villages as well. On every tree, on every mobile tower Pakistani flag has been put up. Many people do not feel embarrassed in admitting that Kashmiris celebrate the victory of Pakistani team over Indian team to tease and taunt at India and its government. They do not celebrate the victory only of Pakistan but rejoice at our defeat the same way by New Zeeland, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They express their opposition and disapproval for us by rejecting the happiness of Indian government in any and every way they can.
‘Prime Minister, does India not need to understand this psyche? If Kashmiris are not with us, then what will we do with keeping the land of Kashmir with us?’
Let’s pray that what Santosh Bhartiya and his colleagues have said make way into the hearts of Indian leaders and thus South Asia really becomes a land of peace and tranquillity.