The time of mourning is over. The martyrs will live forever in our memory. But it is important to ask questions however unpleasant and heartless they may seem. Surely, there were security lapses or laxity in observation of SOPs. Unfortunately, past experience isn’t very reassuring in cases like this. For obvious reasons there can be no public inquiry or disclosure of sensitive information that can jeopardise national security. The cloak of secrecy allows defaulters to disappear with a trace-unpunished. Some would argue that there can never be hundred percent secure impenetrable defence against a suicide bomber. Others will clamour for swift and stunning retaliation striking surgically demonstrating our capability for covert action without bothering about consequences or collateral damage.
There never has been a dearth of arm chair strategists and couch commandoes in our country. No point in wasting breath on restless army of analysts. We should be asking questions to ourselves. How long are we going to point fingers at Pakistan blaming it for all our sorrows? Isn’t it the patronage of the US, China and some Islamic countries that has encouraged the failed rogue state to carry on its thinly disguised aggression against India? Civilian governments come and go, it’s the army and the ISI that called the shots.
They have reasons to be satisfied with what the ‘War of Thousand Cuts’ has achieved so far. India may shout itself hoarse that it has isolated Pakistan in international arena, it is India that appears isolated. Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to dreaded terrorists and allow them to launch attacks through brainwashed youngsters in the Valley. How long are we going to delude ourselves that unilateral Confidence Building Measures are going to help restore peace and stability on the subcontinent?
The Failure (with a capital F) of India’s Pakistan Policy or handling of the situation in Kashmir is shared equally by all political parties, different governments in the Centre and that strife-torn state. None can escape the blame. The leaders of the Hurriyat have been pampered and the BJP’s greed for power sharing in J&K has resulted in fatal appeasement of PDP. The dynasts in the Valley are the ones most responsible for the plight of the common people. Legitimate demand for autonomy has been allowed to distort into secessionist threats. Dream has turned into nightmare.
Seven decades after independence, can we continue with the appeasement of pampered elites in some states with continuance of special status encouraging other constituents of the federation to raise similar demands that threaten the unity and integrity of the country?
The terrorist attack in Pulwama should make us think that how a single incident like this can derail the whole developmental agenda. How quickly it can change what is fashionably called the narrative! This is no time to bicker or blame. Let’s all unite and speak in one voice to repel the enemy. All such exhortations are fine with reference to the external threats to our security. What about the enemy within? The news about attacks on Kashmiri students outside the state and targeting of Kashmiri traders and their shops is extremely distressing. Isn’t this what the terrorist design is—to divide Indians along ethnic, religious and regional lines?
It is unrealistic to believe that political parties and leaders will resist the temptation to milch the tragedy for electoral gains. It is for us to shame and tame anyone who attempts this. We must hasten to add that there can be no parity between martyred men in uniform, innocent civilians and terrorists killed in action. Human rights can’t be exclusive to violent dissidents spearheading insurgency. A distinction must be made between juveniles in conflict with law and fanatic young adults who challenge the sovereignty of Indian state.
And last but not the least we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by ‘good news’ that is splashed across headlines and small screens about driverless trains that splutter to a stop on the trial run or unprecedented interim dividend announced by the RBI to welcome back the Finance Minister. Our government doesn’t tire reminding us about resurgent India’s pursuit of excellence blended with social justice. Let’s not lose sleep over how others rate us or berate us. Statistical sleight of hand can never be a spellbinding spectator sport. No circus can keep the people amused without an assured supply of bread to quell hunger pangs. Grumblings about jobless growth are growing.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University