The Big Story: Doublespeak
Much of what Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Kashmir over the last few days should come as a positive sign. Singh said he went with an open mind and was willing to meet anyone who wants to help resolve the problems of Kashmir. He insisted that anyone detained under the age of 18 should not be treated as a criminal, but dealt with under the Juvenile Justice Act. He promised to visit Kashmir not just five “but 50 times a year” if necessary. He claimed that the situation in Kashmir had “greatly improved”. Most significantly, in response to a question on the legal challenge to Article 35A, which bars outsiders from acquiring immovable property in Jammu & Kashmir, he claimed that the Centre would not do anything that went against the sentiments of the people.
All those assertions give the impression that the Bharatiya Janata Party-run Centre has realised how badly it has failed in creating the political space that could lead to a peaceful solution in Kashmir, despite being in power in the state in alliance with the People’s Democratic Party. Yet, a closer look at every one of those statements reveals troubling realities.
Singh said he was willing to meet anyone with an open mind, yet as he visited, the authorities had placed several key separatist leaders either under house arrest or put them in jail. He claimed that the situation had greatly improved, even though police had to impose restrictions in some places in Srinagar to prevent protests during his visit. He spoke of not putting youngsters in jails, where they are often radicalised, but did not mention the plight of the juvenile justice system in the state. Though he claimed that the Centre would not go against people’s sentiments, it was the Union Attorney General KK Venugopal who, in July, told the Supreme Court that a “larger debate” on Article 35A is needed.
That last point is a perfect example of the dangerous game the BJP calls its Kashmir policy. When visiting the Valley, the Centre says everything is fine and it will not go against the people’s wishes. Yet, step into Jammu and the invective against Article 35A is being fueled by the BJP. Across the country, Central and BJP leaders have ramped up their criticism of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, a development so serious that it brought the ruling People’s Democratic Party and arch-rivals National Conference onto the same platform to defend Article 35A.
If there is anyone Rajnath Singh should be conveying a message about Article 35A to, it is his party members, his fellow ministers in the Cabinet and his Attorney General. Simply promising to not go against the people’s sentiments is meaningless unless backed up by the rest of the government and conveyed to the right-wing ecosystem. If, indeed, the Centre was trustworthy on this matter, it would have backed the state government’s position on a challenge to Article 35A in the Supreme Court, instead of calling for a larger debate.
If all the Centre wanted from Singh’s visit was a photo-op and positive headlines, it has got that, even as some parts of the Valley shut down in protest, while the alliance agenda of the BJP-People’s Democratic Party government lies in tatters. Only when Singh’s comments to Kashmiris are repeated and amplified – in Jammu, Delhi and for the benefit of BJP members around the country – can there be any question of trusting the Centre’s promises to do as the people of the state wish.
The Big Scroll
- Ipsita Chakravarty and Sruthisagar Yamunan explain why the 63-year-old Article 35A has now become a political flashpoint.
- Is the perceived threat to special status realigning politics in Kashmir, asks Rayan Naqash.
- Ipsita Chakravarty takes a look at three challenges to the 63-year old law on “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir.
- BJP has shifted focus from azadi to special status in Kashmir. But for how long, asks Shujaat Bhukari.
If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at email@example.com.
- “It is in the field of social policy that the failures of the central government are most glaring,” writes Jean Drèze on NDTV.
- Manas Chakravarty in Mint looks at a recent paper by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel that points out, among other things, how income growth for the lower half of the population was actually higher before liberalisation than after it.
- “The current pattern of governmental approach to rights shows opposition to individual rights,” writes Thulasi K Raj in the Hindu. “Perhaps, one cannot expect an executive that is politically averse to personal liberty to be a strong defender of constitutional rights in law courts.”
- C Raja Mohan in the Indian Express says the Narendra Modi government seems open to testing the limits of the geographic constraints that have prevented India from being more active in Afghanistan.
- “A far more radical agenda is needed, to improve basic social services at the bottom, while using competition policy and regulation to stamp out crony capitalism and entrenched corporate power at the top,” writes James Crabtree in Mint. “For all of his talk of fairness, Modi is doing little of this. If he does not change course, the Billionaire Raj is only going to grow stronger.”
- R Jagannathan in Swarajya says inequality is real, but “the answers lie not in soaking legitimately earned wage, salary and skill-related incomes, but unearned wealth passed on to the next generation which may have done little to create it”.
Divya Karthikeyan tells us how a notorious party drug from the 1960s is quietly becoming a treatment for depression in India – but it’s price might be too high.
“Ketan Parmar, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist, described the drug’s new avatar as ‘a breakthrough’ in psychiatric medicine. According to a paper titled Ketamine: A Light in the Darkness, authored by C Alexander Paleos and Stephen Ross, ketamine acts on a neurotransmitter system entirely distinct from the pathways which conventional Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor-based depression medication takes, involving serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Ketamine, instead, works on the glutamate level. Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter for the central nervous system, and it involves all aspects of the neuronal life cycle, from migration and differentiation, to the genesis of new axons, to the survival of the neuron itself.
It has been found that depressed patients have elevated levels of glutamate in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid as compared to healthy controls, and these changes can be reversed. Under ketamine therapy, a patient receives one to five infusions, calibrated according to their receptivity. A small, harmless quantity (roughly 1 ml per kg weight of the patient) is usually given – two intravenous infusions could cost up to Rs 1,500.”