Tolerating Intolerance 

At the end of Modi’s much-hyped Kashmir visit this past week Mufti Sayeed was hopeful, to at least draw some bargaining chips home, to keep his people in good spirits. Given the recent spate of incidents across Indian and Kashmir where right-winger have virtually taken the state hostage to their ideals, the time and place was ideal for Modi to send a message. A message that would have given Mufti some leverage in his home turf putting his critics on the back foot, at least for the moment. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, Modi’s ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude dashed Mufti’s hope of getting a few words of tolerance out of him. Modi spoke for almost half-an-hour, but spoke what he thought fits his vision of Kashmir and not what Mufti wanted. It was no less than embarrassing for Mufti when Modi categorically snubbed him on K-issue. “I don’t need anybody’s advice on Kashmir” was perhaps the last nail in Mufti’s efforts to bring Modi closer to Vajpayee’s Kashmir dream.

Mufti must understand, it at all that happens, that Modi is no Vajpayee and the BJP of his days has gone through a generational as well as ideological shift. There are no takers in BJP left who could endorse what Vajpayee saw as chota bhai-badha bahi rishta viz-a-viz India-Pakistan relations.

Mufti must understand that Modi’s dramatic rise to power is partly thanks to polarization in mainland India and partly to his Pakistan bashing. How can he extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan, that too from Kashmir’s Bakshi stadium, when he knows quite well how his mentors (read RSS) would react to any such offer?

Secondly Modi is aware that faces behind growing intolerance are the very people who helped him become Prime Minister of India. How can anybody risk his core vote bank? That too for a disillusioned Mufti who is struggling to strike a balance between what he wants and what he is being offered by Delhi. The hopeful Mufti did his best, even went out of his way, to please Modi by managing a decent crowd for him. He put entire valley under strict curfew to ensure hassle free transit of party workers for the big event. The only face saving was Modi’s announcement of flood relief package. But that too proved farce, and Modi was out of sight for any queries or grievances!

Interestingly, a week later Modi did talk about growing instances of intolerance in India at a press conference in London during his three day tour to England. Though half-heartedly, Modi did utter words like intolerance and India in the same breath when grilled by British journalists. But London is no Kashmir, and it was British PM David Cameron standing next to Modi and not Mufti.

The moment for Mufti was lost the day he stood like a mute spectator when RSS backed BJP legislators attacked an independent MLA inside state’s legislative assembly for organizing a beef party in Muslim majority Kashmir.

Let’s hope that not all promises made by BJP and Modi prior to entering an alliance with PDP prove as hoax as his package. Mufti cannot sell dreams for long. People want answers.

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