Last week's discussion in Parliament about Kashmir, where more than 40 have died and hundreds injured in the protests that followed the killing of Burhan Wani, offered an unusual side of the Lok Sabha. Instead of the usual hectoring, yelling and general mayhem, Members of Parliament decided to have an actual about Kashmir and what had gone wrong.
Tathagata Satpathy, a senior Biju Janata Dal, speaking in Lok Sabha about the fraught situation in Kashmir asked why Burhan Wani became an icon of the youth. Then Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar gave a speech that has since been seen more than 85,000 times – which qualifies as viral by Lok Sabha speech standards.
“There is no text without context and the context of the present violence lies in the roots of nation formation,” Akbar said. He went on to claim that unlike the 100 years Anglo-French war which had frequent interruptions, the war in Kashmir was a continuous 70-years-long war. “And the fight is not just one of geography but one of ideology,” he said.
“That’s why it has become such a serious issue. The fight is whether we, in the subcontinent, want to found our society on the one-nation principle or the the two-nation principle, or whether we want to unite people on religion or whether we will divide them, “ he continued. An ideology that the BJP, which Akbar belongs to, does not shy away from following.
Of Burhani Wani, the MP said that everyone needed to know the truth – that he had committed murder. He said this without speaking of the context or history in which any of those crimes took place. “Let me remind the media companies who are romanticising him that he’s taken on the media as well – he destroyed cable companies,” he said.
For the present situation in Kashmir, Akbar shifted the blame to Pakistan. “It had been only six weeks after independence. Our then Prime Minister wrote a note to Mountbatten, we will talk of the Kashmir situation next March when spring comes.” But since the option “Pakistan chose was war, it has haunted us ever since”. He went to say that since Pakistan lost the direct wars of 1965 and 1971, they decided to begin “wars by other means” by undertaking “covert terrorist operations in the 80s not just in Kashmir but also in Punjab”.
To applause from his party members, he quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that “talks and terror cannot co-exist”. That until Pakistan stops terror in India, there can be no discussions about Kashmir. He compared the responses to terror situations in India and Pakistan. “After the shootings in the Peshawar school, India offered condolences but after Wani was killed, they celebrated a ‘Black Day’,” he said.
"It's my hope and belief that there are people in Pakistan who understand this terror problem," he said. The real issue, according to a UN representative Akbar quoted, was that "you have occupied Pakistan-occupied Kashmir".
He went on to say that he sympathises with the "boys from Kashmir we see on TV" who have "lost their way or been influenced to take a wrong path". But he went on to add that "the situation in Kashmir is temporary".
He ended by saying, "In 1947, the tricolour flew high over Delhi and in October, it flew high over Srinagar and that flag will never be taken down."