The recent revelations in the Delhi-based The Times of India that the union government is ‘wading into the sectarian duel between Barelvis and Wahabis in Kashmir, if true is a matter of grave concern. The perilous folly can have serious consequences in the long run. Managing the people of Kashmir and bringing them close to the Indian mainstream and weaning them away from rebellious ideologies and desires may be the objective of the state and its agencies. Creating and fanning discord in the societies however, in no case can be the way out.
The Indian government never seems to learn from its mistakes. The almost similar kind of a project in Punjab to tackle Akalis ended with an armed insurgency burning the state and leaving scars that may not erase for centuries. Operation Blue Star is a bad chapter in the history of the Indian state. Everybody knows the cost of propping up Bhindrawale to counter a rising Akali leadership. Ideally, a state, any state, should refrain from resorting to such tactics even if it is to control a rebellious population. But that would be so if this was an ideal world. The game – well, for a state it seems to be a fair game – being played out in Kashmir with the help of some officials by the union government and its agencies will end the same way as it happened in Punjab. By employing such dirty tricks with the backing of the state’s resources including the state owned media, they can have some short term gains but in the long run no one will be the winner.
India has always boasted of being a secular democracy. Though many in the country would disagree with that claim and many others would want to change it to suit their narrow agendas. As the state wades into sectarian differences – accentuating or creating them- it is surely taking the country away from its secular moorings. The periodic communal clashes that break out in different parts of India have been contained to a large extent. But a policy shift will send all the gains down the drain. What would a sane brain call such a policy? Hara-kiri, we suppose.
The Government of India is already laden with problems in more than 250 districts. The so called socialist capitalism practiced in India has marginalized a large number of people. The economic disparity is getting more acute with some making billions and more than 836 million living on less than Rs 20 a day. These are real serious issues. And the government which should have been working to bridge the gap is creating more differences in the society.
Common sense would have forced a policy rethink when the policymakers found they were wrong in supporting one group and chose to support the other later. A state with immense resources can afford to be arrogant. It can play both sides. Many suspect it is. But the ultimate losers will be the people who make the country.