Sonia Gandhi visits Jagti

By K.N. Pandita

This week, Sonia Gandhi paid a flying visit to Jammu. It was essentially a precursor to election campaign in the State. She addressed a women’s gathering in the Parade Ground and categorically told her audience to vote Congress to power. Democracy is a fantastic political arrangement and even those who work in an arbitrary and rather dictatorial manner, feel the necessity to go to the electorate as a process of reaching the seat of power.

She chose or was advised to make not more than 15 minutes long symbolic visit to Jagti. The chief of the party that rules over a human mass of a thousand million souls, or one fifth of the world’s population, had one full day to loiter around Tulip Garden of Srinagar but not anything more than 15 minutes to visit the 20-year old languishing lot of thousands of internally displaced people in Jammu. Why this visit to a dismal and dark habitat whose inmates are non-existent in terms of vote bank politics? Did anybody ask that question?

The element of humanistic approach as the underlying reason of the lady’s visit should be ruled out at the very beginning. A humanistic sense finding expression after nearly two decades of continuous suffering by the victims of Theo-fascism means nothing. It can’t be called even an eye-wash.

In the ensuing election in the state, Congress will be pitted against National Conference. The latter has made deep inroads in the valley electorate judging from analysis made by veteran political commentators. It offers no prospect whatsoever to the Congress because majority voters in the valley have traditionally though very erroneously identified Congress with Indian Hindu segments. At micro level, valley voters fully concede that the Congress in power has been more Muslim-centric than even the Muslim political parties of the country.

The real election battlefield is the Jammu region, actually its two and a half districts with Hindu majority. Even as this Hindu majority segment has been penetrated by National Conference, the ground situation favours Congress only minimally. Therefore Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Jagti is a clear indication of Congress Party’s serious apprehensions of near electoral debacle in Jammu region. As such the visit is nothing but a premature damage controlling exercise for the Congress Party. The question is will this exercise be helpful in any way and will it bring the desired result? It is a moot question.

A handful of Pandit groups paraded a few dozen of their womenfolk in Sonia’s rally of women wing of Congress party on the parade ground. Through their respective channels, they may be feeling highly satisfied that they managed to convey the CM and his patron that the Pandits in exile are for Congress.

It has been reported in the print media that representatives of some Pandit organizations were given short audience by the Congress supreme leader and they put their demands before her. Perhaps they are under the impression that Sonia Gandhi is not aware of their demands and having heard it from them she has now got the first-hand apprising. The Pandits are free to make a thousand vain surmises: it is not a bad pastime for an idle lot.

Reportedly their demands are: employment opportunities, declaring them IDPs, return and rehabilitation, increase in relief doles, and other relief measures that have become their well-orchestrated rhetoric. May be the great lady may have exuded a couple of subdued nods to give the impression that her human sensitivity has been touched. But in fact she must have been laughing in her sleeves at their political naiveté and inexperience.

It is a pity that a host of Pandit organizations almost converge on same demands that are repeated season in and season out for last two decades. Nobody from among them asks what has been the net achievement after beating the drum for so long a time. Their compatriots in the valley have earned nearly four lac jobs for the unemployed youth in the State government. Instead of asking for job opportunities for Pandit unemployed youth, should not they have insisted on asking her what was the share of the Pandits in 4 lacs of vacancies filled by the State government over the years? Chief Minister Azad recently said in a public rally that during the past one year and a half of his government, more than 70,000 vacancies in the government had been filled. He meticulously avoided giving any clue of the share of the internally displaced persons. He would not mention a word about the protest rally of the valley-based couple of thousand of Pandits against discrimination in employment opportunities.

Some circles among the exiled Pandit community have been increasingly feeling that by making numerous superficial demands, these organizations will be hardly doing any substantial good to the community. We know and have no doubt that the State government is not at all in any mood to do anything beyond mundane red tape exercise in the case of the exiled Pandits. It is so because the process of destroying Pandits lock, stock and barrel is the desk book principle of all political parties especially the Congress and its protégés.

The long list of peripheral demands of the Pandits comes to the Congress as a heaven-sent boon. The party is too willing to throw them a few crumbs, albeit grudgingly, and then blow up in balloons their close fisted munificence to its New Delhi Sultanate. As long as the Pandits do not touch the core of the entire problem, as long as they circumvent the crux of the matter, it is fine for Congress or any other political party on regional or national level. Once the Pandits unite to converge on the core issue, and begin to demand the resolution of that issue, there will be neither any visits to Jagti nor audience to any Pandit delegation by the Sultans of modern India.

And what is the care issue about the exiled Pandits? It is the why of their extirpation from their homes? This is a bombshell. The Congress, its cohorts like the Left and the State political parties, one and all, then will declare the Pandits as political untouchables, worth detestation.

The core issue, if at all focused, wills, in all probability, open the Pandora’s Box. It means carrying the dirty linen to public washing house. A close examination of the why of Pandit extirpation will explode the bottom of the Congress’ myth of Kashmir being India’s model of secularism. Unraveling of this question will prove that this slogan carried in its womb the death warrant of the Pandits. The core issue, therefore, is sadist exposition of “Kashmir secular model” to total destruction; the core issue is the false and demagogic propaganda of Congress about secularist Kashmir; the core issue is ethnic cleansing of the valley of its small indigenous segment. Did not the Congress that was partner in the government in 1990, run away from Srinagar and leave the Pandits to the bayonets of the “freedom fighters”? Is not that the core issue, and should not the Pandits demand addressing this core issue before their fate is decided?

Sonia Gandhi visited Jagti to put a seal to the core issue for all times to come. Surely in next few weeks she and her vast ruling paraphernalia will fling crumbs in the face of Pandits who will break each other’s head in a scramble to grab the crumbs. Alas, by and large people get the government they deserve.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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