‘The Right Wing Fringe’ And The Impossibility Of Kashmir
By Rahul Pathak
13 August, 2010
A group of three hundred Shiv Sena cadre came out on the streets to protest against Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s statement on autonomy to Kashmir and then an inflammatory editorial appeared in the party mouthpiece Samna which led me to think over the possibility or impossibility of Kashmir, if seen from the perspective of Shiv Sena. Since, I am pre-occupied with the people whom the governments refer to as ‘fringe elements’, I was compelled to explore Shiv Sena’s capability to undertake a political mockery of Kashmir and to indulge in some imagination about the possible common ground (if any) between the ‘the fringe elements’ from India and Kashmir.
However, personally I believe that Shiv Sena is not much of a ‘fringe element’. It is so engrained in us in differing proportions and degrees and from time to times manifests itself in different forms, quantities and colours. Shiv Sena is manifested in the national pride we seek in the Common-wealth Games, It is manifested every time we are made to stand up to the tune of national anthem in the cinema halls and it is manifested every time we talk of the impossibility of Kashmir. It is just that Shiv Sena is the extreme ultra-violet part of the Indian VIBGYOR of which Kashmir and Naxals are the infra-red part. We are somewhere in between and with varying wavelengths which determines the colour of our existence, some are striving for red, some for blue, some for orange, some for green and there are also few who are still striving towards the merging of the wavelengths into white. But white, you see, is a difficult colour to maintain, blots come up quite often.
My love for Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) goes back to 2007 when I was a student in Mumbai (or Bombay?) during the MNS protests against ‘Bhaiyyas’, one of whom I am. Since then, I have tried to explore and understand the psyche and imagination of Thackeray’s, which is certainly not an easy task. The best trait of the Thackeray clan is their extraordinary potential of lampooning the political processes, probably owing to the quintessential capability of cartooning of the senior Thackeray and his nephew. The recent editorial of Thackeray in Samna said "Due to the strong opposition by MPs, even the remaining hair on Nehru's bald head started falling and he had to abandon the idea of autonomy to Kashmir”. Is there any dialogue possible with this political language?
The question of Autonomy to Kashmir ‘within the ambit of the constitution’ is an old debate and unviable solution for the present crisis since it has been discarded long ago by the majority of Kashmiris themselves. However, the Prime-Minister’s statement is certainly a step forward in the Indian political discourse on Kashmir which has been in denial of the ground reality of Kashmir till now. It was expected that right wing parties would start a political drama reaffirming their stand that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that national sovereignty will not be compromised. That extreme right wing organizations like Shiv Sena who still dream of Akhand-Bharat, will come out in open in less than twenty-four hours of the statement, was not so expected.
The protest of Shivsena is suggestive of a very important hindrance to the dialogue on Kashmir as these are the people who are not even ready to talk within the ‘insaniyat ka dayra’ (the ambit of humanity) which Vajpayee had suggested. Vajpayee has probably been the most liberal voice among the right wing political parties but we cannot expect the same from others in the spectrum. To understand the views of others, we will have to understand the views of the parent organization of these right wing political formations i.e. the Rastriya Swamsewak Sangh which has a significant influence on the Indian political space through its political arms. They will be indirectly an important stakeholder in the dialogue process on Kashmir as they control the largest party in the opposition. The U.P.A.’s challenge in taking the dialogue further will not only lie in creating an enabling environment for a dialogue and getting the mandate of the Kashmiris, but it will also have to work out its political equations with these elements which are not so much the ‘fringe elements’.
The Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh met in March 2010 in Kurukshetra and came up with a resolution on Kashmir which reaffirmed very strongly that Jammu and Kashmir is Pakistan supported problem of terrorism and the ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ of the U.P.A government will not be accepted at any cost. They also warned the government that “the nation will not tolerate any wrong decision or compromise on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”. The resolution included a five point agenda of RSS on Kashmir:
(1) The accession of J & K to India is final and non-negotiable
(2) Separate constitutional mandates and flag for J & K is against national integrity and should end.
(3) Article 370 which was a temporary and transitional provision has become the tools in the hand of separatists and secessionist elements and thus should be abrogated.
(4) Questions like Surrender Policy, open borders, repeal of A.F.S.P.A. should be seen from national security perspective.
(5) Withdrawal of the army and demoralization of the security forces will weaken India’s position.
An editorial in the August 15, 2010 issue of RSS mouthpiece The Organizer concludes its tirade against ‘the weak position’ of UPA on Kashmir by saying “…Peace is the last thing the politicians want in Kashmir. There are not many options here. India has to resolve with finality that nobody will be allowed to play with the integrity of the country. The writ of Delhi has to run in every part of the country. It has to be enforced whatever the price we have to pay. Only that clear message will douse the so-called fire in Kashmir”.
Shiv Sena and other political parties of its kind resonate these voices on the streets. They have the proven potential to create ruckus, discontent and murder. It is very difficult to be an optimist on the front of a sudden transformation of these parties at the behest of U.P.A.’s initiative. The confrontation of ‘the opposite fringes’ I do not want to imagine since there is hardly any common front on which both can agree, a non-violent confrontation seems a distant possibility. Kashmir already has drained a lot of blood, no one wants more. The dialogue process has to be peaceful and there is no second opinion on that, what we can probably do is to only hope for a better sense to prevail on the ultra-violet fringes.
(The author is with Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed are personal)