The month of August was characterised by protests that continue to rock Kashmir, the historic address by the Prime Minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, the Olympic games and the Scorpene papers leaks.
The protests in Kashmir followed the death of a local terrorist named Burhan Wani, who was the nominated commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. It would be more realistic however, to view the death of the terrorist as a catalyst to undercurrents that were already playing in the Valley. The separatists had lost steam, tourism in the Valley was at a peak and Pakistan was under pressure by world bodies to cease support to organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, which are based in Pakistan and are being used as strategic assets to destabilise India. With the Kashmir issue losing relevance amongst the world bodies, Pakistan was desperate to keep the issue alive. Stone throwing is increasingly becoming the tactics of choice of the separatists and their Pakistani handlers as they can hide behind the fig leaf of waging a nonviolent struggle, and through a firm Indian response, attempt to show the security forces in a bad light. By using children, they can extract further mileage, especially if a child is injured or if the child dies as a result of counter measures taken by the security forces.
The death toll in the ongoing violence in Kashmir is now nearing fifty, some of whom are children, and an increasing number of rights groups and the media are questioning the use of pellet guns by the security forces as a crowd control measure. While such questioning is part of the democratic process, it is amazing why the leaders of such protests are not being called to account for using children as a front. More importantly, even the parents appear to have abdicated their responsibility. They too must be held accountable for allowing their wards to participate in activities at risk of life and limb. The opposition political parties too need to introspect, before issuing statements to the press. What is happening on the streets of Kashmir are not spontaneous protests but a cold calculated intervention by Pakistan, using its agent provocateurs to revive the Kashmir issue on the world platform. Some statements emanating from such worthies are hard to distinguish from the vicious propaganda that has been unleashed by the Pakistani media. The Prime Ministers address from the ramparts of the Red Fort signalled a major shift in India’s Foreign Policy. For too long, India has been coy about using the Human Rights platform to extend support to the weak and oppressed of the world. That stood changed when the Prime Minister expressed his solidarity and sympathy with the brutalised public of Balochistan and with the people living under the fear of the gun in the entire Pakistan occupied territory of J&K, especially those living in Gilgit and Baltistan. This support extends in the political, moral and diplomatic space only but even so it marks a first step in India asserting its rightful place in the region. To view it as an Indian quid pro quo against Pakistani interference in India’s internal affairs would be myopic.
It was left to our women athletes to save India the blushes in the Rio Olympics. But the fact that we got only two medals should not take away from the fact that we came tantalisingly close to getting many more. In archery, shooting, gymnastics, tennis and hockey, India performed creditably and on another day could well have found their way to the gold medal. Sindhu’s medal as indeed the sterling performance of some of our top athletes was indeed the silver lining to an otherwise forgettable Olympics.
Finally, the end of August saw reports emerging of leaks of documents pertaining to the technical data of Scorpene submarines which India is building in collaboration with France. While the leaks in all probability have taken place in France, it still brings to the fore the need for information security. A few years back, a leak of a Top Secret document from the Prime Minister’s office found its way to the front page of a major daily. That affair has been quietly buried though rumours abounded that a Joint Secretary ranked officer in the PMO had hand in the murky business. While security in government offices has tightened over the last two years, people at the helm of affairs, especially top bureaucrats must be held accountable for lapses in their respective departments.