Amarnath Yatra Attack: Conspiracy Theory Sours Kashmir’s Shock
The attack on yatris on Monday night elicited two kinds of reactions within Kashmir. The immediate reaction all over the place was shock, anger and horror. One could see it on faces; some were ashen, even seemed close to tears. One could hear it in the muted tones of voices.
Then, within hours, apologists of terror swung into action, giving their view on the matter.
A trend that has become the bane of the situation in Kashmir followed: even peaceable Kashmiris who generally want democracy, women’s rights and modernity, started echoing those questions and allusions. They had quickly understood that this was to be the party line.
This sort of denial by deflection has become one of the reasons why Kashmir remains bogged down in violence and whataboutery. People talk past each other, giving divergent versions of history – even of lived memory.
The bizarre argument that anyone would leave their hearth and home, and all their belongings at the urging of an administrator is put forward as if it were the most logical thing in the world.
So, a few hours after the attack on yatris, even a few low-level government employees in Srinagar were repeating questions about whether Indian intelligence agencies might be behind it.
A string of factors were listed: Gujarati victims, upcoming elections in Gujarat, an unprotected bus, etc. Factors that could indicate the opposite – radicalisation of militants and teenagers, for instance – were studiously ignored.
The false flag theory presumed that an attack on yatris would benefit the BJP electorally. My take is that the BJP’s supporters have already bought the idea that Muslims in general and Kashmiris in particular are anti-national, and inimical to Hindus.
If one accepts that this is their view, the corollary is that party supporters expect the BJP-run Centre to repress Kashmiris harshly. So, party supporters would see the attack on yatris as evidence that the BJP had failed to act strongly enough – to secure the yatris against jihad-oriented anti-nationals.
The reactions of leading figures in the central and the state governments after the attacks indicated that they were eager to bring down tempers rather than stoke anger and resentment. I would have expected that, if the BJP sought political advantage, the Centre would have blamed the state government, and put it on notice.
I have no doubt that political parties and intelligence agencies promote, even organise, polarising riots, terror attacks, and fund insurgencies and ‘terror’ groups all over the world. But I also see that radical ideas (both political and religious) have gained tremendously in the minds of Kashmiri teenagers, and have become the norm among militants active there.
I may be wrong, but my assessment immediately after the attacks was that both governments would be weakened by any attack on the yatra.
Even 17 months after the fiasco at JNU, those who think of themselves as liberals seem to have learnt no lessons. Loose talk and reflexive attacks on the government of the day only strengthens the government. Supporters of those in power smartly portray such positions as anti-national – a category that has gained tremendous political vitality.
The student leaders who led the agitations at JNU have become heroes in their echo chambers, but also symbols of the despised ‘other’ among their critics – symbols around whom a singular vision of the nation and the world is being constructed.
It is tragic that those who were presumed to be the country’s smartest intellectuals failed to see the constricting frames into which they were inserted. Not only has the intellectual norm shifted to the right, they have little space in the discourses that affect the large majority of Indians. In fact, they have been turned into pariahs.
Polarised, narrow-vision trends across the world call for reimagining discourses. The rut in which many of us are stuck helps polarisation.
(David Devadas is the author of The Generation of Rage in Kashmir. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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