Careless whispers: Kashmir, women, minorities
Omar Abdullah never disappoints. The people of Jammu & Kashmir may not think the world of this ski resort, tulip garden, motor sport promoter as chief minister, but his comments are either sharp or loose cannon. One such example of the latter is this:
“In closed rooms they (separatists) meet different people. They take tea with agency people in restaurants and five stars and hold secret talks. But they don’t want to talk with Centre in the open."
The separatists have no reputation to guard, but what is his source of information regarding the intelligence agency officers? What secret talks can they possibly have? Are Indian intel agencies not working for the GOI?
He is so completely confused about what relationship his government should have with the Centre, and to an extent his position is certainly not a pretty one.
• He wants the separatists to contest elections "in open instead of fielding proxies”.
Politicians too field proxies.
• "They (Jamiat-e-Islami) give boycott call and use militants to threaten people who want to vote in free and fair manner. Then they ask their own people to vote for those parties (PDP).”
Is he not expecting a bit too much from militants? What about politicians rigging elections?
• "It (Afzal Guru's hanging) has an impact on the minds of people of Kashmir. If someone thinks that there will be no impact, he is wrong."
As the CM he should hold his horses although, from whatever one has read, he is indeed expressing the prevalent sentiment. But the only people who would make it into an election issue would be the separatists. Surely, he cannot ride on this wave if he has to keep alliance partners in mind.
• “The CBI has found evidences against the Army. If the Centre wants to win the hearts of people of Kashmir, they should punish the guilty. People have lost their faith in the institutions because of such issues.”
So, he has to deal with the army, opposition parties, separatists and the Centre, whose attitude he is questioning. And yet he expects the separatists to meet the political leadership, that too with their demands!
“Our party MP... is a Gandhian, simple and an honest leader. She keeps going from place to place in her constituency. I am a seasoned smith of politics. (name sau tunch maal hai."
— Digvijaya Singh, Congress leader
I find this comment objectionable for a simple reason — it objectifies a woman. Various reports have only added to it by explaining what the word means, from unblemished to sexy to pure gold. Given that he is a senior leader, such colloquial references will not be grasped by the media. Besides, the term 'maal' is about a thing. Anytime it is used for a person, it denigrates her or even him.
He used a public forum, so such a 'compliment' would amount to addressing all those who are exposed to it. We object to ads and film scenes and soaps. This is way more serious.
She has said she understood and felt it was not offensive. This would have been fine then had it been said in private. Also, if he could use the word "dabanng" for a male minister, could he not find a similar equivalent for the lady? That it has become a political issue, however, has to do with opportunism. Yet, I do not see why what a BJP minister says should work as a quid pro quo. We are discussing gender here.
Misogynistic comments are not relegated to politicians, and in some ways quite a few of those flaunting concern for such disgusting comments seem to get a vicarious thrill, which is why they make jokes about it and it permeates into their phraseology on unconnected issues. This is the unfortunate story of how news spreads and temporary morals rear their head.
That is the reason nobody in the public sphere can expect what they say by bringing in intent. Intent is invisible. Perception is what is seen or what it is seen as. Not everyone can be wrong, just as not everyone can be right.
I have not mentioned the name of the MP, even though most people know and can click and find it, because I want to make a point: Do not objectify her again and again.
"There is a perception among Muslims that IM (Indian Mujahideen) does not exist. Nobody knows what it is, who runs it, where it was formed and how it was formed. That is what the Muslims feel and they come and tell me."
— Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan
It is true that the majority of Muslims would not know what IM is and who runs it. Why, even the government is not sure. But to suggest that Muslims think the organisation does not exist and tell him about it is an utter falsification.
Although he has since expressed regret, I find this curious because he had specifically spoken about dealing with terror suspects a few weeks ago. According to a report:
Khan wants the government to form an all-powerful task force to monitor and review terror cases against Muslim youth, arguing that it is needed to ensure justice for “innocent Muslim youth” languishing in jails after being framed in terror cases.
“It should be the highest body with powers to review terror cases. I am finalizing the proposal and will soon write to the PM and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The existence of the panel will deter police from indiscriminate arrests in terror cases while ensuring that those arrested do get justice.”
This is most shortsighted. While it cannot be disputed that many members of the community tend to be hauled up on the slightest pretext of suspicion, this would only draw attention to the 'Muslim terrorist' as opposed to terrorists who might be from the community.
It is unfortunate that such an idea has come from a minister. Had it been human rights organsations one would understand. There are several pending cases against young people, and years later it has been found that they were innocent.
If only we had a justice system where people's faith did not even need to be mentioned.
Talking about minorities, a survey suggests that in cities Sikhs top the unemployment rate. This chart explains the breakdown:
The report goes on to say:
"The high unemployment rate among Sikhs in urban areas may be attributed to the fact that they are more educated and also work with their hands and are vulnerable to economic slowdown..."
I don't understand this. The educated might find it difficult, but if they work with their hands, what do the rest work with? Almost all skilled and unskilled labour requires the use of hands and the economic slowdown affects everyone.
Interestingly, the Hindu rate of unemployment has remained static in rural areas, while all other communities declined.
Reminds me of a line from a song, "Look, ma, no hands..."
© Farzana Versey