Greater Kashmir June 2, 2007
A propaganda mill which lives on lies
They feed their audience with everything except reality and the subject gets even more complicated when it is Kashmir, comments Rauff Mustaffa
Indian audiences are obsessed with multi-starrer, huge budget, big banner films particularly after post liberalization period. They are used to watching stories of happy and affluent families, floss candy romances, die-hard patriotism and overwhelming violence to achieve the wishful, in such a way that they are unable to differentiate between Reel life and Real life. Indians stand convinced that their country is what is depicted in their films and daily soaps.
The Indian government in Kashmir is acting like post 90’s big banner director, who is dishing out multi-starrer, emotionally charged, big budget patriotic films to its people. This director has an unlimited budget to woo the best actors which include wily politicians, ambitious bureaucrats, corrupt police, subservient judiciary self-serving NGO’s as the protagonists of the film. It has highly professional distributors (media) which will help him to sell the fill to masses. It has offices everywhere in the world capitals (embassies) to showcase the film at an international level. The director has managed to organize a staggering seven million extras (army/paramilitary) that will provide action and highly charged patriotism to give this film an epic form. The camera rolls and the audiences watch all the actors working in absolute harmony giving some remarkable performances according to the prepared script.
The film starts with the introduction of chief protagonist who is also the director (Indian state), actors in leading role (bureaucrats and intelligence agencies), actors in supporting role (Kashmiri politicians, Army, police and judiciary), character actors (renegades). As the plot unfolds other actors join in to add spice to the movie. All the characters are well managed by dedicated technical staff, scriptwriter (policy makers), cinematographer (strategic analysts), make-up artists (NGOs) and a genius of an editor (media).
The chief protagonist (Indian state) is highly powerful, self-righteous character who thinks that Kashmir epitomizes the very idea of secular, democratic India at the core of which lies the ideals of multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic concepts of post-independence India. Kashmiris reject these ideals as deceitful perversion and accuse India of distorting facts on the ground. They question India’s legitimacy over Kashmir on the basis of it being unable to inculcate these hollow ideals to its own people at the time of its independence, which resulted in the partition of India. The ‘chief protagonist’ rejects this theory as subversive and mutinous. He becomes furious and summons his powerful forces for an epic war (Dhram Yudh) against bigoted, mutinous Kashmiris. He sends his able generals, seasoned politicians, a vast network of spies and highly motivated 700,000 soldiers to crush the Kashmiris who have challenged his legitimacy. Its forces will be ably assisted by collaborators, by those Kashmiris who have been scrupulously employed to enforce its occupation from the past 50 years.
In order to keep its forces constantly motivated, the SUTRADAR (Director) introduces a beautiful, virtuous heroine “Bharat Mata” (Mother India) for whose honour and dignity this war need be and must be won. Bharat Mata admonishes his forces though she is pure and virtuous, but for the sake of her dignity and honour she can transform herself into goddess Kali to wipe out the demons (Kashmiris) who have dared to question her legitimacy and self-righteousness. She instructs her forces to act as innumerable arms of goddess Kali, riding on a hungry and vicious tiger, a chain of bleeding heads round her neck, blood dripping tongue hanging out of her blood dripping mouth, one foot raised gracefully like a bharat natayam dancer and the other firmly digging into the blood soaked body of a dying Kashmiri, young white skinned Kashmiri, his head half severed, his dark eyes still recounting the visions of elusive freedom before death.
The Director along with his actors motivated by pervasive ideology move into the Ran Bhoomi (war front), Kashmir to reclaim sovereignty of Bharat Mata. This aggression is glorified as the war of good against evil. Parallels are drawn with mythological epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. But unlike those epic wars which were fought between supposedly weak but virtuous armies against powerful and immoral kings, this epic was antithesis of the previous epics. As happens when two antipodean armies go to war, the weaker among the two suffer regression. The overwhelming military and economic superiority of Bharat Mata prevailed over weak, impoverished Kashmiris forcing them into submission but unable to enslave their sprit, their free souls which yearned for freedom. Domination doesn’t mean victory! Doesn’t?
After flexing its military muscle, the Dramatis Personae move quickly to the other front, to win the hearts and minds of bruised and battered Kashmiris. To achieve this task, the chief protagonist summons his other actors to enact a mendacious deception of sympathy, love and brotherhood. The actors who perform this act are Indian bred local politicians, police, judiciary, local administration; state funded NGOs… They enact their acts in a coordinated manner by acting as upholders of Kashmiri ethos. They give them long sermons about the meaning of freedom. Of secularism. Of Islam. Of Kashmiriyat…
They exhort that Freedom (Azadi) is not some imperceptible idea meant for the amelioration of soul but a tangible commodity meaning freedom from poverty, freedom to exercise religion. They give then lessons about the beauty of “Indian Democracy”. They talk about the great institutions of democratic system, its judiciary, its executive and its free press, which were created for the redressal of their grievances. This psychological warfare somewhat achieves its goal of humanizing aggression but there are far too many skeletons in Bharat Mata’s cupboard and every now and then some pop out. A massacre, a custodial killing, disappearance in custody, fake encounter, alleged rape, reported arson causing embarrassment to Bharat Mata. In such situations, the “Discreet Editor” (media) comes to Bharat Mata’s rescue by either editing the script or by simply rubbishing the allegation on the basis that disciplined forces of virtuous Bharat Mata cannot commit these heinous crimes! The war theatre shifts from open confrontation to small battles spread over limited areas and arenas. The warriors of Tehreek (movement) who survived the initial assault are in disarray with their leadership systematically eliminated. Internal feuds for supremacy dwindling their numbers and local support weaning, they are doomed for disaster. The motivated cadres decide to fight to the finish but the feeble minded shift loyalties. They had joined the tehreek for their own self interests but the movement is asking for their blood. Too high a price, a selfish, self-centered person will pay to bring freedom to its oppressed people. Thus Bharat Mata succeeds in dividing the warriors of freedom, serving a severe blow to its opponents. It employs the same strategy of divide and rule which its colonizers had used against her. The wheels of time turn and yesterdays colonized becomes today’s colonizer.
At this juncture Bharat Mata devises a new strategy of outsourcing its aggression and terror to these renegade warriors. This way it does not have to bear the moral or legal consequences of this unjustified war. Plausible deniability for their crimes against humanity! Kashmiris are pitted against each other and the reign of terror continues unabated. Military is given a new role of conducting civic action programs to clear the perception of it being an occupying force. Operation Goodwill! This helps them to mingle with local population which in turn helps in cultivating sources (spies) and its leadership to collect the spoils of war. Rest of the actors in the epic continue fighting small battles away from the war –front. In the television stations, police stations, courts, legislative assemblies, at the funeral of slain Kashmiris, NGO offices, tourism spots, pilgrimages and international summits!
The actors have developed and matured with time. The senior actors have retired with accolades and awards, their places taken by actors in supporting roles. The soldiers have been promoted to generals, employees have become bureaucrats, small time lawyer’s judges, renegades have turned into politicians, agents have blossomed into business tycoons and foot soldiers of the movement have turned into separatist leaders, still divided and unable to forge unity of thought or actions. Frustrated extras have been denied these perks and incentives, so they feel exploited and at times in desperation turn their arms against themselves or their masters. The long drawn epic has transformed itself into daily soap so that audiences can serially relate different sequences of war. Its TRP ratings are recorded highest in the history of India. The citizens of Bharat Mata are admiring the epic, patting the director and his support team, encouraging the actors and extras to carry on until a decisive victory is achieved against these wretched Kashmiris. The director and the editor are basking in the glory of their achievements.
And enter Sanjay Kak with his Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom) to spoil their party.