Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When everyone comes out looking bad

I woke up this morning wondering what happened to the BJP walas trying to hoist a flag at Lal Chowk. You know, when I think of the BJP, I can't help but get confused at exactly who these actions are meant to impress. Don't get me wrong, there are enough Hindu nationalists who will be pumped up at an India Yatra and charging into Kashmir to "re-claim" it (seems to me what they are doing) but at the same time, if the situation dissolves into violence, with innocents killed, what will it get them exactly?

But to a more basic point. When I heard about this proposed flag hoisting at Lal Chowk, like so many others, my initial reaction was "why are they messing with Kashmir?" It seemed like a situation tailor-made for disaster, and looking at images to these well fed hoards of men, walking in a big crowd, one can't help but feel nervous at the potential for violence. Some of the Hindi news channels showed footage of the BSF jawans lining up at the Punjab border, ready for a showdown, and I couldn't help but wonder why they needed to waste their time saving India from, well, India.

But outside of this PR stunt, there were other news items that rung alarm bells. The government was not allowing BJP leaders to proceed to Kashmir. All of us read the tweets and saw on the news when Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley & co were detained at the airport. There was an incredibly funny (read:slapstick) story about how some BJP workers from Karnataka were heading north and the train engine was switched at night to the back, so they ended up back in the south! What kept bothering me about these stories was the blatant violation of our freedoms - of expression, of movement - especially when ostensibly, this is a peaceful march to hoist a flag.

Another point that just bugged me was, as an Indian (even though I don't actually support this PR stunt), why should we be nervous of it? Why couldn't the government in the state say we welcome you to join us at Srinagar, or failing that, we would love to join you to do this together. It was just a few weeks ago that I saw a report in the news that hundreds of young men showed up to join the police force, their reason being a solid job. One can't help but get frustrated at the treatment Kashmir is given by the rest of the country. It almost seems like the Valley being held hostage by separatists is the only situation that is acceptable and any move to treat it much like any other state is met with a harsh NO.

But this stunt itself doesn't make sense to me. I can understand this India Yatra (and as Ravi Shankar Prasad said, the rest of the yatra has been peaceful, no one even got slapped) but I'm not sure what it gets the BJP. I'm a young educated voting Indian, so I understand that no party is particularly interested in wooing me, especially not by appealing to my intellect. But at the same time, I keep hearing about this move to developmental politics (hell, I see enough indications of a rising country when I travel) so why didn't the BJP, or the Congress, or anybody else announce a charity, or expel tainted leaders, to show that we are changing as a country?

Last night I was watching The Daily Show and there was an interview by this Indian-America journalist who said that there is a growing culture in this country, one of creativity and this sense that we need to move forward, and this culture will be a bigger threat to America than economics. In contrast, he felt that America's uber-capitalist culture would be its Achilles heel. While there are so many Indians, now finally allowed to play with their entrepreneurial and development-oriented instincts, if you look at the headlines in this country one can't help but feel sad at how much politics and government lets them down.

At a meeting with a senior government official last evening, he told me that I must take on the issue of how the UPSC exam is letting the country down. How bureaucrats are promoted on the basis of how much they oblige their seniors, rather than competence. He told me that most custom officials keep a few wives and families, with assets distributed equally, to hedge bets. He talked about e-government projects trying to curtail this rampant corruption. "It is the government which has let the people down," he kept repeating, and I honestly don't know who would argue with that sentiment.

But back to my BJP/Kashmir quandary. I'm not really sure what is the right thing here. Should the BJP mess with a volatile region (and possibly lives) for a photo-op? Should the Government of India be this nervous of its own state? And especially when Yasin Malik, separatist leader makes statements like "BJPs flag hoisting won't destroy the resolve of the Kashmiri people". It seems the government is protecting those who want to burn the flag rather than hoist it. What does this say about us?

I think the people of India, one by one, are creating a culture of progress and prosperity which is completely divorced from what our political leadership seems to be pre occupied with. The people I work with, in the digital empowerment and ICT4D sector are the real leaders today. The people I see on my TV every night, really, really don't understand what it is to lead by example. Happy Republic Day!

Edited to Add: So, Omar did finally invite the BJP leaders to his official flag hoisting. Right now, I have no idea what their reply is.


Anonymous said...

why can't the bjp hoist the indian flag in kashmir ? kasmir belongs to india , is the govt admiting that they have no control over its own people ( in kasmir )

kashmir is in trouble becase people who were in a position to govern , did not do a good job of it . while most indians will not go to kashmir ( hear about it from their parents , since pretty much every body went there for honeymoon ! ) , kashmiris visit various part of the country and see the disparity in growth , the opportunities that are avaiable to other "Indians "

This whole kasmir problem is very unfair , kasmiri pandits are as much kashmiri as Yasin Malik , they were butchered and made to leave their homes in their own country and nobody even raised a finger , almost accpeting it as inevitable to being a minority in a state . If we admit to this , the very idea of India being a secular state falls flat.


mahima said...

IR, the problem is the BJP seems to want to do this simply as a stunt (and perhaps violence will feed into some rhetoric they made have saved for tomorrow and dayafters new cycle).... that seems offensive.

but if the motives are really pure, nationalistic, then i agree with you 100% why the hell can't they do it

either way, the state should not stop them they way they have.

btw im a kashmiri pandit, so you're preaching to the choir here :)

Anonymous said...

sure BJP is trying to pull off a stunt , i have no problem with that , they are in politics , this is their business model .

ordinary Indians might share the pure sentiment but you cannot expect them to march to lal chowk ?

i know you are a kashmiri , i have been regularly reading your blog , besides your last name is a give away :)


mahima said...

hahaha... right!!

you know someone tweeted that why doesn't the BJP go to Dantewada next.. to hoist the flag... that would be some PR stunt.

anyway BJP needs new tactics as much as the congress needs a backbone!

Roy said...

more than tactics what BJP needs is new leadership who can rise above religion and nationalism to garner votes. Its getting stale!

Roy said...

and India needs an end to this nehru-gandhi monarchy!

mahima said...

agreed roy. like i said in the blog but didn't really harp on it... people like us.. no one is wooing us... we dont care about dynasty and rahul baba being the ONE and nor do we care about mosques and temples.. and as india sees more people doing well... this demographic will grow. so can these 2 parties PLEASE stop focus on the LOWEST common denominators and elevate their politics, positions?

Roy said...

I hate to say this but it will take something very radical for our politics to improve. Some people like us keep away from politics and those who want to change the system by joining see no way to rise (gain mass popularity) other than these beaten issues. People like Jairam Ramesha and Arun Jetley are really brilliant people who know what needs to be done but what are they up to now? The IITian party disappeared as soon as it appeared. Only Nitish Kumar and Modi (for all the crap we throw at him) seem to do any real good in the country.

mahima said...

ive been told 2012 is not as much about the movie but a change in our political systems, values,,,, who knows :P

mahima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roy said...

haha! fingers crossed :D

egg style said...

Should the BJ Party ‘mess with a volatile region just for a photo op’? No, most certainly not. But that would be if it wants to break free of being a party whose RSS-assigned job is to blow the saffronist ego till the point that voters erupt boukake style upon the ballot box.

Kashmir remains important to saffron diehards for reasons that seem apparent from their ideo-visual construct of Bharat Mata, a deity that features this one-time-Saraswat-Brahmin-majority state as the ‘crowned head’; recovering the Motherland’s pristine prestige requires a reversal of any ‘alien’ influence that may have insinuated itself.

Since cheap land-fakir tricks are all the party can summon, you get this silly spectacle of an attempted flag hoisting. Is there a clearer sign of mental exhaustion? It was the 1991 exodus of the Valley’s Pandits that helped the BJP get its first big rise (the Riot Yatra came soon after). Devoid of new ideas, they think they can do it all over again.

If any Indian opposition party wants to pose a real challenge to the Congress, which has not exactly kept its Aam Aadmi promise, it needs an education in another sort of 'inflation'. Prices. Then it can ask questions of a governance system that has happily let inflation soar for the sake of a growth-growth-growth trumpeting elite that cares mainly for its cost-of-funds, debt burden and wage bill falling nicely (in real terms, taking into account inflation) and pricing power and bumper profits rising robustly (in real terms, ahead of the rising curve of all numbers).