As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal”. We now practically read it “All men are created equal, except Negros.” -Abraham Lincoln
Hypocrisy is defined as ‘the practice of claiming to have higher standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform’. This definition, more or less, sums up the attitude of the Indian media towards Kashmir. This is true also of most of the intelligentsia of the country. Notwithstanding claims of India being the largest democracy in terms of electorate this anomaly of ideology stands out as a stark fact and is brought to fore every time there is a debate on Kashmir as well as every time the debate is missing when it is actually needed. This attitude gives credence to the belief that India views Kashmir as a vassal state and it is this very attitude that contributes to a feeling of alienation among the people of Kashmir. Even the most ardent supporter of Kashmir’s allegiance to India finds it difficult to explain this treatment and the most prominent of mainstream leaders have time and again bitterly acknowledged this attitude to be a fact.
During the last year, cataclysmic changes were witnessed in the political scene in India. The Nirbhaya rape case brought people, particularly the youth, into the streets to protest against government apathy. The protests swiftly turned into a demonstration of peoples’ power. Since democracy is all about peoples’ participation, these protests presented India as a vibrant democracy where people are not mere passive subjects of their overlords but active participants of a living democracy who can demand a tough reckoning of their leaders. These demonstrations evoked a response in the valley as well, as evidenced by the social media, but pretty soon the response turned to cynicism as the local population perceived that the apparently visible democracy was not all-inclusive but came with riders. Following upon the protests were debates in the media, and reams of newsprint were devoted to opinion pieces, about bringing people involved in crimes against the fair sex to speedy and exemplary justice. The Kashmiri population presumed that the spotlight would turn towards similar crimes committed in their territory, but this never happened. The issue as pertaining to Kashmir was carefully skirted and chauvinistic nationalism prevailed over the notion of justice.
Recently, this hypocrisy was once more on display when the AAP leader Prashant Bhushan was literally flayed for expressing his thoughts on Kashmir. This even when what Prashant Bhushan said was a much watered-down version of his earlier stand on Kashmir: that the people of Kashmir have a right to decide about their future. Consequent upon his latest statement – that the will and opinion of the people of Kashmir should be taken into consideration so far as the presence of the army in the territory they inhabit is concerned – the media again went into hysterics. Had it not been for its damage control measures, the Aam Aadmi Party would have been lynched by crowds of Aam Aadmis before you could even say AAP. What seems to have been completely ignored by the media as well as the indignant intelligentsia is that Prashant Bhushan’s statement is part of the honesty that the AAP lays claim to and that which has made this party a force to reckon with in such a short period of time. The party has been able to storm the strongholds of two major national parties and reduce to dust stalwarts of national eminence because it has been offering an honest alternative to these parties. An honest ideology cannot stop at addressing rising onion prices; The AAP, if it manages to hold on to its ideals and transform them into practice without any transmission losses, is all set to usher a renaissance in the country. This will automatically include a review of state policy and weeding out all that is wrong with it.
Justice cannot be compartmentalized. To be really effective it has to be all-inclusive. Ultimately, good government is all about ensuring the rights of the people – ranging from the right of the fair sex to live a fear-free life, the right of the common man to affordable onions, right up to the right to express ones opinion and the right to exercise the option of free choice, i.e., a right to referendum. In fact, with its instantaneous SMS opinion polls, the AAP has clearly demonstrated that it endorses the device of referendum as an essential part of participative democracy. It is this ideology that has endeared the party to the common man who feels that he is at last being represented in the real sense. And yet the same people who are hailed as heroes for talking about peoples’ aspirations in the rest of the country are turned into villains and blackguards for suggesting the same in case of Kashmir, and in no time the ideal of democracy gets converted into an ideology of hypocrisy!