Antics of political understatement

By K.N. Pandita

We all know what an ‘overstatement’ means. But good examples of political ‘understatement’ are few and far between. Defining the latter is rather arduous if not elusive.

Mehbooba Mufti’s statement on the militant attack on BSF convoy in Bejbehara resulting in the killing of three jawans and wounding seven others is a classical example of political understatement.

She indirectly and subtly linked it to the façade of return of Pandit displaced persons and carefully avoided any reference to the impending elections to the vacant assembly seat of Bijbehara for which she has filled her nomination papers.

The new narrative is about ‘disrupting the Amarnath yatra’, another twist to understatement syndrome.

CM says in all pristine innocence that she does not understand why the militants and their handlers across the border are indulging in violence in Kashmir and what they want out of it.

I am reminded of an Urdu verse: is sadgi peh kaun na marjaega asad/larhte hain aur hath main talwar bhi nahin

Indeed, a fine example of understatement this is. One could ask at least she knows why she and her late father were applying “balm to the wounds of the militants”. Who had inflicted wounds on them and why she wanted to apply balm to what purpose?

She says she does not understand why Pakistan is playing this dirty game in Kashmir. I hope she has not forgotten what her late father said when his party won the assembly elections. He had thanked Pakistan for allowing Kashmiris to elect a government. And still Mehbooba ji does not know what interest Pakistan has in foisting armed conflict on Kashmir. Who will not appreciate her innocence?

Armed militants, obviously hiding in some nearby hideout and monitoring the movement of BSF truck carrying the personnel to the BSF Headquarter, seized the strategic opportunity and attacked the moving convoy that resulted in the killings. After committing the crime they disappeared in thin air.

The Chief Minister, in her innocence and honesty, has not a word for those providing logistics and hideouts to the militants in and around Bijbehara, her hometown and traditional constituency. Mind you! it is her constituency where elections are impending. That explains the nature of political understatement.

The Chief Minister looks at things from a specific prism. She is at a loss why Pakistan and its sponsored militants have been indulging in disrupting law and order in the State. This feigned childlike simplicity is to show that the Chief Minister is not in know of the reasons of rise of militancy and fundamentalism in Kashmir during past twenty-seven years.

That is why she doles out very pious pontification to Pakistan to explain to her what Pakistan gets out of it. Even if she knows, she very politely and mildly, like a true statesman, invokes logic and common sense in the affairs of bilateral relations with neighbours and the quality of good neighborliness. She asks the militants to think over on what they are doing especially after her late father and even she herself had applied the “marham” on their wounds.

As a chief minister she is pained to say that lives of fifty to sixty thousand people including security forces and police have been lost during the proxy war. It is a great humanitarian approach. However, the culture of political understatement prevents her from asking the source of these fatalities. To leave the people guessing she only sticks to her inability to understand what they want.

Madam Chief Minister, to put it simply, they (militants and Pakis) want to snatch from you the throne on which you are sitting and the crown you are wearing. You want to save these symbols of royalty through softened and chastened understatements. Those are not the ways of monarchical icons.

But they enjoy your softened understatement, as do we, the ordinary mortals, without need for in-depth analysis just because you are incapable of doing any harm to them even if you are disposed to strain your conscience.

In her feigned innocence the CM pretends not to know why and how militancy emerged in the State that led to the destruction of so many lives. In feigned innocence she finds the ploy to cover the question of the origin of the gun in Kashmir.

Like the Chief Minister, the common man in the valley is also at a loss to understand the purpose of the militants and their handlers in indulging in killing, and disruption of life in Kashmir.

However, the notable thing is that the chief minister does not feel it at all important to ask the peace-loving people of the state to denounce such atrocious activities of the militants, refuse logistics and safe havens and even guidance to them. Making any appeal like that would, in all probability, polarize the constituency on which she and her party depend.

A calculated understatement on the killing of three BSF personnel and wounding seven others merits the environs of local politics, which is endorsed by the powers in New Delhi.

By not retaliating to the militant attack, the BSF has averted what is called Handwara like situation. This is perfectly right for a government that must keep its vote constituency in tact especially when the election is round the corner for a crucial vacant seat. Cowardice is an art after all.

As regards the issue of rehabilitation of displaced Pandits back in Kashmir valley, the subject touched upon by the CM a couple of times in recent days, the commitment made in the Agreement of Alliance could not be implemented by either party as was clear from what happened after late Mufti and PM had made an announcement. This raises the question whether the new formula about which CM is speaking is palatable to the Hurriyatis and separatists with whom her government proposes to enter into consultation according to the recent statement of the spokesman of the government.

Therefore it may be premature to comment on the possible response of the majority community of the valley which has assigned to itself the final verdict on the return of the minority to their native land.

If it is only the will of the majority to decide whether a minority is allowed space and right to exist wherever it likes, and not the constitution of the country or the State, or the norms of democratic dispensation and international law, then India as a home o hundreds of millions of minority community members is standing on the edge of a precipice that leads to chaos and destruction.

BJP – led government in the centre and in coalition in the State should hang its head in shame for succumbing to the diktat of a fanatical and rabidly communal majority of an 80×35 miles strip in the north of the country. Who is Mufti Mehbooba or any other political figure to decide taking the ten thousand years old indigenous citizens of Kashmir back in pigeonholes and dump them there as prisoners of the majority community. If she has vision and personality, she must announce a new city for the entire displaced community, come what may. Pandits are not the people in whose eyes dust can be thrown. Modi in the centre must come out of his frozen turbulence and assert as the arbiter of country’s destiny. He has a massive mandate of the Indian nation and trivializing it means trivializing the Indian nation.

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