Bulleting Patriotism


When Kashmiri students studying at a Noida university were beaten up this week after having been made to shout bharat zindabad and pakistan murdabad, chief minister Omar Abdullah got a twitter-op. He swiftly punched in 140 characters to condemn the authorities concerned, advising that ‘beating patriotism into students’ would not work, and asked them to admit to their ‘inability or unwillingness.’ He also said that he would send the state government’s resident commissioner in Delhi to the university to assess the situation and report back to him.

Whenever Omar has tried to score points through apparently angry rants at the central government or the administration in India, of which he is a proud and loyal servant in Kashmir, Indian liberals are awestruck by the Kashmiri CM who stands up to the Indian State. Remember the speech on Gujarat that he gave, we are told. (Recently, even his father, Farooq Abdullah, said that Kashmir would not remain a part of India if Modi comes to power. Takes guts to say that. Actually, it runs in the family. (Wasn’t the father-son duo part of the BJP-led NDA government not so long ago? What was Kashmir a part of then?)

In a HardTalk interview a few months ago, specially recorded in a Delhi studio, Omar admitted, to an invited, cheering audience, that there were people in Kashmir who would like to see him killed. Outside Kashmir, he is able to project an image that wins him many admirers who see hope in his ‘boldness’ and attitude, and inevitably, the greatness of Indian democracy that allows space for such leaders to rise. The narrative is as selective as the questions asked of the darling of the Indian media.

He did not tell them that in 2010 while the Indian CRPF and police were busy killing youngsters in the streets, he was sitting at his Gupkar home, ruing his helplessness in front of the cameras. He did not tell them that at one point he ‘advised’ Kashmiri parents to keep their children inside lest they get shot on the streets. He did not tell them that when he eventually tried to meet the injured at the SKIMS hospital it Soura, after some Indian leaders criticized him for not having reached out to victims,  he had to fly those few kilometres through the Srinagar city in a chopper than risk going in a cavalcade. The whole city must have wanted to kill him that time? No, wait, the whole of Kashmir, since he did not go anywhere else either? He did not tell them so.

He did not tell them that he had to run away from the hospital soon after arrival because a woman, whose injured son was admitted there, grabbed him by the lapels.

So, while Omar criticizes authorities outside the state for discriminating against Kashmiris, what model has he been following inside? That beating patriotism into Kashmiris does not work is pretty clear. Does Omar imply that bulleting and pelleting it into them will?

On April 30, when parliamentary polls were held in the Srinagar constituency which saw a 74 per cent boycott, a young man, Bashir, was shot dead in the Nawa Kadal quarter of the Old City. Bashir was an auto-driver who earned a meagre amount to feed his family, and was preparing for the marriage of his sister next month. Many others were injured who still lie in hospitals trying to cope with bullets and pellets that riddled their bodies. One boy, Momin’s finger had to be amputated. Another, Sahil, got a bullet in the ribs, but has survived. A woman, Haleema, got pellets all across her body.

The events of that day were just a link in the long, long line of incidents: incidents routine and normalized as rains every now and then. It has to happen after a while. No one bats an eyelid. So, in 2008 about 70 boys were shot dead. The number went to over a hundred in the summer of 2010. In between and after that, there were regular killings – more bullet and pellet injuries, pepper gas, PSAs, beatings, torture in police stations and CIK centres, denial of travel documents being only a footnote. Will the CM frankly admit to all that in Kashmir? On the Nawa Kadal killing he even said that he was not responsible since it was election time and things were functioning under the election commissioner. Who is the ‘election commissioner’ at other the times?

“I am currently CM of J&K; tweets are my own but more often than not the line blurs…” is how he introduces himself on twitter.

Will he tweet ‘where’ the line blurs too?