The Amarnath cave, at an altitude of 12,756 ft in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir houses the holy Shiva Linga, the pilgrimage to which hundreds of thousands of devotees make each year. Legend has it that here is where Lord Shiva explained the workings of the universe and the secrets of immortality to Parvati.
Although Amish Tripathi’s imaginative rendering of Lord Shiva’s journeys gives little attention or storyline focus to that place or pilgrimage, a single line of unadulterated wisdom from his book’s character sums up everything that is wrong with the handling of the dastardly carnage wrought on innocent pilgrims last Monday: ‘It is attachment that makes people forget not only their moral duties but even who they really are.’ This holds true for the ever-justifying supporters of the governments at the Centre, the State and their ideological auxiliaries.
The narrative being woven around the attack is inexplicable at the least and downright cruel at its worst. The attachment its architects have with the halo of nationalism, so artfully designed, destroys the compass of morality under which the victims of the attack might seek justice and the well-wishers might pitch in with support and sympathy.
Until recently, any such happening would invoke a strong public outcry over the failure of the State and Central administration to prevent its happening. The best example to elucidate the point is the reaction of the RSS to a massacre during the same pilgrimage 17 years ago.
On 1st and 2nd August in the year 2000, more than 90 pilgrims on the Yatra were killed in five coordinated attacks by militant groups. The then RSS joint general secretary, Mr. Madan Das Devi writing in an article in the RSS mouthpiece, Panchjanya two weeks later, charged the administration with failure of security and mishandling of the entire incident. The then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was forced to issue multiple clarifications and conciliatory statements to try and reclaim lost ground.
Subsequently, the UPA tenure that coincided with the National Conference rule in the state, witnessed the 2006 Doda massacre where more than 35 Hindu civilians were killed. The BJP then accused the UPA of adopting “soft policies” against terrorism in the Valley. Summarily, terrorist attacks were seen as a failure of intelligence, lack of security co-ordination, absence of and the breakdown of an effective local response mechanism and all in all, the final responsibility for the incident and its handling rested at the feet of the government of the day.
This logical chain of fixing responsibility seems to have been broken in the current political atmosphere. Something that should have ideally been construed as the government’s burden and its subsequent failure to fulfil the same is now being portrayed as the fault of all those who might hold liberal or left-leaning political views. The Amarnath massacre last week is now the fault of someone who condemns attacks by self-styled cow vigilantes or targeted attacks on minorities.
The ideological offshoots of the Sangh Parivar and their army of keyboard warriors have managed to turn an instance of government failure into cheap political sledging where comparisons are sought to be drawn between the amount of condemnation an attack on minorities in other parts of the country receives and the amount that the attack on Hindu pilgrims received.
Their underlying principle is that attacks on Muslims on Christians, even though devoid of any communal angle are always portrayed by the mainstream media as instances of Hindu majoritarianism, but even explicitly targeted attacks on Hindus in places like Basirhat, Kerala and even Kashmir are replete with political correctness. This assumption is replete with glaring factual and logical loopholes.
Tentative liberal-leaning media outlets such as The Hindu, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, Scroll, The Wire, The Huffington Post and NDTV did not shy away from naming the perpetrators and victims by the hue of their religion. The right-wing needs to start a documentation database of ‘I condemn, you condemn’ to justify the trivialization of terror attacks.
Even a country like the United States of America is seeing a generational shift in public discourse. Any factually-backed criticism of the Trump administration is quickly turned into a leftist-conspiracy about Hillary’s emails. Similarly, the attack last week has generated much discussion about ‘a Muslim bus driver who saved the pilgrims’ on one side and ‘no one is speaking about the bravery of the Hindu bus owner’ on the other.
Astonishingly enough, there are even attempts to pull out conspiracy theories out of the proverbial hat that point fingers at the ‘Muslim driver’s’ action of ignoring official instructions about travel timings. This debate over one’s locus to speak out against events in our society has marginalized the core issues that are inherent to nation-building and unity.
The lack of a coherent middle-ground between the different ideologies in our country today almost always results in verbal and written diarrhoea unbecoming of the world’s largest democracy and one of its fastest-growing economies.
One should always keep in mind that a conundrum of this sort conveniently suits the government of the day. The hum of its drawbacks and failures is drowned in this cacophony of ideological blame-games. Surely, sections of the leftist and liberal intelligentsia in India are plagued with their own ills, notably a disregard for the measured pace modernism must adopt in a culturally rich country like India, an urban-centric outlook of society, ignorance of the brewing discontent against linguistic privilege and a near-total disconnect from electoral realities. But its rectification does not lie in pegging the blame for the government’s failures on them and allowing the government to shirk from owning up. India cannot heal after incidents such as these by sowing the seeds of a division so unnecessary.