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SRINAGAR

It was Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatama Gandhi who saw “the ray of light” in Kashmir when the partition had blackened the subcontinent. This year it was observed slightly differently in Kashmir.

Most of the states had decided to observe the day as the day of cleanliness. Gujarat, the state that made Prime Minister Narendra Modi famous, declared nearly 170 towns Open Defecation Free (ODF). Not far away in UP, the state’s on which is based the future of BJP, a group finally installed the bust of Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Gandhi, in Meerut, an event that was in limbo for last four years.

In Delhi, Information and Broadcasting minister K Venkia Naidu was asking people to join Modi as swachhagrahis, the same way people joined Gandhi as satyagrahis. “The other day you have seen what is Modi. Our neighbour is funding, aiding, abetting, training terrorists,” Niadu was quoted saying in Delhi. “They have been given a befitting reply by our forces…. swachh man, swachh dhan, swachh tan and now swachh border, swachh LoC has been done. Now all have to come together to take forward Swachh Bharat.

The contrast existed in Kashmir too.

A Gujjar mother and her daughter at the army medical ,medical camp in Shopian (Picture by the army)
A Gujjar mother and her daughter at the army medical ,medical camp in Shopian (Picture by the army)

In Shopian, early in the morning, soldiers set up a medical camp in Kathohalan village. The objective, according to statement, was to help locals who were “denied the medical facilities due to prolonged bandh calls”. The camp, in commemoration of Gandhi, the statement added, involved “medical officer alongwith trained medical staff including veterinary doctors from Army” for “free medical checkup as well as free medicines”. The response was “overwhelming”: 109 men, 49 women and 18 children visited the camp. “Village elders of Kathohalan appreciated this goodwill effort of the Army for well-being of the awaam,” the statement said.

In the main town, the Deputy Commissioner, the top most civil servant, presided over a function that launched a week long sanitation programme. He told the municipal officials about the importance of basic health and hygiene and listed the objectives of the campaign.

Deputy Commissioner Kulgam on a cleaning operation
Deputy Commissioner Kulgam on a cleaning operation

Slightly, down the hills, there is Kulgam. The young Deputy Commissioner was personally carrying the traditional duster and clearing the dusty patch of some place in the fringes of the town. There were many officials accompanying him and many more guards dominating the spot for obvious requirements of security.

A woman in Mohammadpora Kulgam carrying the broken door of her home
A woman in Mohammadpora Kulgam carrying the broken door of her home

Almost 15 minutes drive away, is located Mohammad Pora village, where a night-raid by government forces had damaged various houses. There was a woman carrying half of the door that cops had broken leaving her modest home almost door-less. There were cars broken, and windows damaged.

A picture of the destroyed state run Higher Secondary School in Katrusoo, Kulgam
A picture of the destroyed state run Higher Secondary School in Katrusoo, Kulgam

Inside by around 10 kms is a major village called Katrusoo. The Higher Secondary School that was main source of education to a huge population for decades had gone up in flames during the same night.

Women in Havoora trying to rescue grains from the paddy stock that was destroyed well before thrashing
Women in Havoora trying to rescue grains from the paddy stock that was destroyed well before thrashing

The much gorier pictures were being clicked by locals in a vast belt of Kaimoh, Havoora and Redwani belt where cops arrested seven or eight people. They laid a siege of the belt and left many granaries, un-thrashed heaps of paddy, cowsheds and even a house smouldering,as alleged by the residents.

A short clip, recorded from a cell phone, has gone viral. It shows the heaps of paddy on fire as there are shots being heard and the security men moving through the same smouldering fields.

However, the police has issued a statement. “The District police administration Kulgam has clarified that today morning after the withdrawal of the deployment from Khudwani, Redwani and nearby areas miscreants assembled and set on fire two heaps of paddy straw at Redwani,” the statement issued by the police said. “Miscreants also set on fire a truck at Khudwani which suffered some damage. It has further clarified that there is no report of damage to any structure in the area as has been claimed in the news story. The news is baseless and far from the facts and is therefore refuted.”

Some of the houses which went up into flames included that of a widow
Some of the houses which went up into flames included that of a widow

The most telling photographs were the peasants trying to collect some of the grains of paddy if the fires could save it. Mostly, however, they were still in the process of putting the fire off. This was the peculiar contrast that could happen in Kashmir on the day Gandhi was born. Later in the evening, fires re-emerged in city periphery near Souzeth from the fields where the un-thrashed paddy heaps went up in smoke.

But there is some explanation, coming from Meerut, the town where Pundit Ashok Sharma of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha installed the 2 x 2 ft stone statue of Godse for which he personally contributed Rs 45,000. He said the government has already made a shift from Gandhianism.

“Do we follow Gandhian principles these days?” Pundit asked the Times of India reporter. And then gave her the answer. “The recent surgical strikes done by the Indian Army gives my answer. All of us follow Godse’s principles, but still praise and worship Gandhi.”

 

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