Is the BJP’s plan to unfurl an Indian flag at Lal Chowk a political stunt? If a “political stunt” is defined as a strategically-planned event, of almost exclusively symbolic value, whose sole purpose is to get attention for a political cause, then a political stunt it is. Will it cause unrest? Oh yes it surely will. So should it not be done then? Well, my answer is in the form of a question—“Do you think the Dandi March was an undesirable act of provocation—-after all it too was a political move, of purely symbolic value (like the flag-hoisting), one that everyone knew would cause trouble, whose express intent was to aggressively mobilize public opinion?”
“Wait wait”, you say. “Are you comparing Sushma Swaraj et all to Gandhi?” No not at all. No equivalence between the nobility of the principals of the two acts is being assumed. Neither is their significance in history being equated. I am not crazy. All that is being compared is the principle behind backing away from a legal act (to be honest raising salt was illegal as per British laws but we can all agree that being draconian it was morally legal to raise salt) on the grounds that it may cause trouble.
At this point, I expect the “you”s to be split into three groups.
Group A will say “Raising the Indian flag, while legal under Indian law, is not legal in Kashmir. Being part of Pakistan/ an Islamic state, the Indian flag is an affront to the local population.” To them, I say “I see your point. Then yes what BJP is doing is untenable. Please do not bother with the rest of the post.”
Group B will say [and I faced one today, as those who follow me on Twitter would know] “You are a BJP supporter, people see the world through saffron glasses when you stay outside the country.” To them, I would just say “I am not a BJP supporter.I disagree with Hindu right wing activists on most issues which is why I have been called “confused Hindu” on this blog and have been proudly put in Twitter lists that tag me as pseudo-secular, which to the Hindu right wing activist is the worst abuse you can give to someone. My support has always issue-based, and does not come from any deep well of blinding political/religious conviction. As to the whole “staying outside the country” thing….ahhh……I thought we had moved beyond Manoj Kumar rhetoric.” Perhaps not.
Now Group C will stay silent for a second. Then they will recover their voice.
“Principles-shinciples are all right. But what the lives that may be lost? BJP is willing to put blood on their hands for politics……” To them I ask “Why will there be violence?” If you think violence at the Indian flag being unfurled is justified, you then are in Group A. If you think it is not, then it is not the BJP’s fault. If violence results from a legal act, the responsibility of that cannot go to those who are “in the right”. As an example, if a woman walks in a short skirt and gets molested, is it her fault for “provoking” men? Or would you say that the illegal act here is the molestation and not the wearing of the short skirt? Which is why it is the perpetrators of the molestation who are at fault and should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. Not the woman. To carry this analogy forward, in many cities, women participate in “Take Back the Night” initiatives where intentionally they walk the streets in clothes they chose to, make eye-contact with men, with the intent being to show, symbolically, that they will not let fear inhibit their own lawful behavior? Would you call such “Take Back the Night” programs as incendiary abuses of personal freedom, like “crying fire in a theater”, a dastardly act whose sole purpose is to provoke a rape and a consequent standoff?
“But still you ask why? Why this symbolism? What purpose will it serve?” To this, I repeat what I said in my last post. There are many, in Kashmiri politics and in the media, who have held Kashmiri Pandits responsible for their own exile and who say that Pandits are craven in not going back. Well if the mere raising of a flag is cause for violent provocation, how would the influx of Hindus (who, having been gone for a generation will be looked upon as outsiders in every way), looking for their jobs and businesses, be perceived ? If a piece of cloth is such a grave affront, what would these people be, who would be competing for scarce resources? Would they not be considered as the advance guard of “Indian colonization”? Looking forward, would they have the independence of flying an Indian flag? Would they be able to walk down Lal Chowk wearing an India jersey? In that context, the effort to put the flag in a public place (as opposed to the highly-secure, hermetically sealed government organized events) by non-Kashmiri Indians takes on great significance.
“No no. The Indian flag is different than Hindu Pandits. The Kashmiris hate India but love their Hindu Kashmiri brothers and sisters. The two things are not comparable”. What? Is that what you said? Well, how about “Kashmiri” protesters hoisting the green flag of Islam in Lal Chowk ? Where in that flag is even symbolic room for their Hindu brethren? Or room for pluralism and recognition of alternative religious identities in their Islamic chants? In contrast, the Indian flag is an inclusive emblem where all religions of India are accommodated. How come then one becomes “the color of defiance” (Tehelka uses these words) and the other “the color of provocation?” How come flying one is a genuine expression of dissent while the flying of the other an act of grave provocation? The only way you can resolve this logical conundrum is to accept that the Pakistani flag is the “local flag” and the Indian flag “the foreign flag” and so they cannot be compared.
Once you say that, you belong to Group A i.e. who those who believe that Kashmir should be an Islamic nation or Pakistani vassal. And didn’t I tell you that you should not bother with the rest of the post?