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Thoughts on the General's cricket pitch

Thoughts on the General's cricket pitch

Author: Tarun Vijay
Publication: Organiser
Date: April 24, 2005
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=75&page=13

The only thing that comes closer to a Hindu in General Pervez Musharraf's India visit is his jiyarat (pilgrimage) to Ajmer to pay obeisance at Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti's dargah. Radical Islam prohibits such expressions of faith which Maulana Maududi said are a la Hindus. This is a Hindu tradition to pray at samadhis, which has been followed by Muslims of the subcontinent, nowhere else. Otherwise, the General seems to be having his way-to negotiate Kashmir and put the so-called cricket visit on the backburner. Dr Manmohan Singh has tried his best to play it cool and to give his visit a profile it deserves, but the adamant General has promised to raise Kashmir even at the Kotla. That's the way he has been so far. Pappi-jhappi now and the 'core issue' next moment.

He allowed the LoC melt under a puzzling bus service which saw Indian leaders euphoric but the General's side showed a marked aloofness, no Shaukat Aziz, and the so-called 'prime minister' of PoK too was sent willy-nilly without any marriage-like ceremonials, so visible on our side.

Now his cricket diplomacy has put India in a difficult diplomatic situation. We may have to down-play our own core issues and talk Kashmir as a first priority, which we have always been resisting with an oft-repeated sentence like, 'Let us get closer on economic, social, cultural, media issues, etc. and controversial issues can be taken care of later'. No way now. We saw a kiss-and-embrace period with terrorist attacks and bomb blasts providing the background music continuously and showed the General expressing his desire to see the cricket match. That was the day, people should not forget, when South Block showed a little inconvenience, which was on the front pages all over and a 'serious' issue of prime time discussions on TV channels. Everyone seems to be with the General. Let him come, what's the problem, after all he is coming to see an India-Pakistan match; this will further strengthen our love affair, you know! The astute Defence specialists would wink with a smile showing a great diplomatic move on their eyebrows.

Taking a cue, the MEA announced its welcome, sent a formal invite and stated that this is going to be purely a cricket-centric visit with no other issues involved. Finally, it turned out that the General is visiting for more serious matters like Kashmir and shall visit the Kotla grounds for some 45 minutes. That's really cute diplomacy, which has made the Indian Prime Minister to follow the General's line, and reports are that even Vajpayee and Advani may show up at Kotla. What else could he have wished for? We are looking haplessly at a Hurriyat with no credibility, giving the General more importance than our own PM and yet, we must smile at the traitors for the sake of an illusory peace.

While the West feels obliged to keep the General in Islamabad happy and safe for geo-political reasons, it can't ignore the Indian media going overboard to please the General for a more noble cause-peace. And it's damn serious about it. Nothing that, it feels, can hamper the peace process or even remotely displease the dear, neighbouring, 'peaceful' Army Junta is published.

And his visits to Delhi get unprecedented media coverage. His mohalla, the birth certificate, his favourite colours, his hairstyle, the way he lifts his left hand to keep his hair back, his mother's visit to the old home, emotions and nostalgia envelope the sweetness with a Kashmir stamp laced with Hurriyat and 'the brave struggles of Kashmiri people'. Everything else chalega, but Kashmir remains a core issue as ever and always. To sell this style with flying colours and still to have Delhi mandarins come to his defence saying 'after all he heads a country like Pakistan, so something has to be told for-home-consumption-the Taliban-like people you know, but he is different and genuine when he talks to us!!' That's Delhi speaking, you know! Isn't it a great success?

Major achievements for the 'General success' are distancing Kashmir from the known Indian position that it's an integral part of India, disconnecting Hindus from Kashmir and depriving them of a role in any negotiations and finally getting admired for what he is-here and also inside Capitol Hill. Having decimated the Hindu population from the Valley and putting Hindus in a junkbox in his own country, the General can now talk of sweet-honeyed relations with the neighbour.

The relations have become so closed during UPA that just a few weeks before in Islamabad, Natwar Singh's Jinnah cap fit him so snugly that one couldn't recognise who was the Indian amongst the two Foreign Ministers shaking hands in Islamabad. That's the spirit of togetherness indeed and we must not spoil the party, raising doubts either regarding the security or moral. In spite of the continuous bomb blasts and avalanches, the mood is depicted by seculars as upbeat in the Valley and rarely have we seen such celebrations and prayers in the Muslim shrines, celebrating a bus to Muzaffarabad.

And surely, when some pandits of suspicion said the bus will bring Jehadis and all the unwanted people freely now, a friend sniped back, "Are there still any left?" Those who want to come for bomb explosions and other-related Jehadi holy rituals like killing innocents at the DC office last week, who never wait for the sarkari buses and would rather feel embarrassed taking a legitimate route simply for the fear of losing excitement they get in negotiating rugged, snow-bound passages through deep forests, the way Gulzar depicted so romantically in Machis. In any case, lesser the items on Pakistan's list to create turmoil, greater the chances of peace in the region. Even eliminating the need for a passport is a brotherly gesture we may repeat with China sometime later, which has consistently refused visa to people from Arunachal, saying 'you are our own, why need a passport for home coming'?

In the backdrop of this 'Basant', it remains intriguing why the aboriginal inhabitants of Kashmir, the Hindus, have been totally forgotten. Nowhere in the negotiations on Kashmir, or the efforts to improve relations with a neighbour who was till the other day a base and a bloody sponsorer of barbaric Jehadis, it's relevant to remember the Hindus, whose ancestors gave the Valley a name-Kashmir-and who have been forced to lead a miserable life in their own motherland as refugees since last 20 years. Those who reported distribution of sweets and jubilations among the Valley Muslims didn't find it useful to speak to any Kashmiri Hindu about his reaction to such a 'great' achievement for the Valley, a place that belongs to him as much as to the sweet distributors. Though, for the sake of peace and amity the media, the human rightists, the candle-wallahs, and even the professional demonstrators for anything related with communal combat of the Left hue have kept a studied silence on Pakistan's human rights record and not even the painful memories of the 1948 assault through Mirpur and Muzaffarabad on 'our' Kashmir are mentioned in passing. 'We all have become peace messengers and a monolith for encouraging good times between the neighbours', quipped a journo. Otherwise, in other situations, these very worthies act as if they don't belong to even a concept of a nation and report the 'truth' going beyond the lines of a 'despicable' sense of 'national interest'. 'We are not what CNN is to the US interests'-that's what a proud mediaperson would love to claim. But here for peace, forgetting anything that may create ill-feelings in the hearts of Valley Muslims have to be kept in mind. So, while a bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, with some semblance of checks and control like a permit is an in thing, Hindu refugees in Jammu's tent colonies should wait for a bus back home. That bus service does not provide any glamour of 'peace' the way Muzaffarabad route radiates with a different charm, excitement and headlines that can be forwarded globally for the country's image building.

Even while Kashmiri Hindus try to find a space in national newspapers, their books also get scant notice. Recently Panun Kashmir brought out a significant documentation on Kashmiri Pandits in exile. It is the first of its kind-a valuable contribution to the understanding of their status, presenting the struggle of Kashmiri Hindus in a straight-forward manner without any emotionalism and rhetoric, including their memorandums to National Human Rights Commission, a comprehensive list of the killed Pandits and organised massacres, demographic changes in the Valley, properties dispossessed and areawise details of the desecrated Hindu shrines. They have yet to see a proper review of this documentation in any mainline newspaper.

Nothing hurts more than a discriminatory attitude, that too in the name of secularism. Do everything to bring peace and even the refugee Hindus know that a cool, peaceful Valley means a warmer place to ensure their return. So where is the need to make them feel isolated or unwanted? Why this government should make Kashmiri Hindus' issue entirely a forgotten matter? Is that a good secular move? The bus to Muzaffarabad should not become a salt to rub on the Kashmiri refugees' wounds. While Kashmir Assembly still has seats reserved for those living in PoK and maintains their properties in the Valley, Kashmiri Hindus cast votes in special booths in Delhi and Jammu and are forced to sell their properties in the Valley for a pittance. The peacemakers should remember: the more you share happiness, the more you get return smiles. And the more you rub salt....

(The author is Editor of Panchjanya weekly and can be contacted at tarunvijay@vsnl.com)

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