The Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh was surely economical of the truth while speaking recently before the US Congress on Human Rights in South Asia. I have read her speech in detail. She has put the entire blame regarding the situation in Kashmir on Pakistan and its agents, and for this she has received fulsome praise and plaudits in India. I regret to have the unenviable task of pouring some cold water on all this bonhomie and hoopla.
A reading of her speech indicates that Aarti believes that
(1) The villain in Kashmir is Pakistan alone and Pakistani inspired terrorism
(2) The Kashmiri people are with India, and they wish to remain with India
(3) The abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 will benefit Kashmiris.
Now I agree that for long Pakistan was supporting terrorism in Kashmir. I also condemn what was done to Kashmiri Pandits who were hounded out of the valley. But it is misleading, fallacious and a gross oversimplification to blame Pakistan alone for the present situation in Kashmir.
What Aarti conveniently overlooks is that due to the continuous stupidity of the Indian Governments for decades the situation today is that almost the entire Kashmiri people are totally alienated and bitterly hostile to India. Aarti totally ignored this fact in her speech, and that is why it was disingenuous.
Aarti blames Lashkar-e-Toiba for Shujaat Bukhaari's murder. But what proof does she have that Lashkar-e-Toiba was responsible for the murder?
She also blames Jaish-e-Muhammad, again without proof. She has sought to create an impression that but for Pakistan Kashmiris are hunky dory, cozy and gemütlich with India. This is false. The truth is that almost all Kashmiris (except Pandits) hate India.
Arrest of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders have blocked any space for democratic dissent. Will this not drive more Kashmiris to militancy?
As regards abrogation of Articles 35A and 370, Aarti praises it. However, my own opinion is that it was a gimmick (like Yoga Day, building Ram Mandir, cow protection, Swatchata Abhiyan, etc) by a beleaguered govt to divert attention from the terrible economic crisis looming before India, which the government has no idea how to solve.
To say that now businessmen will buy land in Kashmir and set up factories there thus providing employment to Kashmiris is silly. Businessmen are not fools, and will never set up factories in a disturbed area where bullets may be flying around.
Aarti was utterly mendacious when she said that abrogation of Article 370 "would provide Kashmiris with equal protection under the law, and all the rights other Indian citizens enjoy, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or social class. It would give Kashmiris access to educational and economic opportunities". Here she is clearly toeing the Govt of India line.
Aarti no doubt refers to the inconvenience caused by the restrictions imposed in Kashmir after 5th August when Article 370 was abrogated, but let me ask her: will she not feel miserable if deprived of mobile and Internet facilities for even one day? Internet and mobile are not luxuries but necessities today. After 72 days post paid mobile service was restored, but Internet is banned even today in Kashmir. Curfews are still in force in many parts of Kashmir.
Many forms can be filled in online sitting at home, but now Kashmiris have often to go 20 kms or more for doing so. Same with air and train reservations. Emails can be sent by Internet, but not if the facility is unavailable.
These restrictions, apart from curfews etc have made lives miserable for Kashmiris. Arrest of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders have blocked any space for democratic dissent. Will this not drive more Kashmiris to militancy ?
I regret to say that Aarti Tikoo Singh has acted more as an agent of the Govt of India rather than as an objective, neutral and fair journalist in her address to the US Congress.
Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.
A Kashmiri Pandit expert Dr Nitasha Kaul, giving testimony before US Congress committee about human rights violations in Kashmir.
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