Kashmir, Manipur, and the Art of Yawning

Kashmir, Manipur, and the Art of Yawning

In his Eid sermon at Srinagar’s Eidgah prayer ground, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq appealed to Anna Hazare and his team to launch a campaign for seeking answers from the government regarding unmarked graves in Kashmir. He said later that he planned to send a formal letter to Hazare and seek his help.

Three days before this, The Hindu reported Irom Sharmila, the iconic civil rights activist from Manipur, inviting Anna to visit her state, calling it “the most corruption-affected region in the world". Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for nearly 11 years now, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which she blames for violence in Manipur and the Northeast. However, a few days later, she termed Hazare’s campaign against corruption as “somewhat artificial", and said: “His struggle has been for a very, very short span but all the bureaucrats support it. I know those, those very prominent persons are corrupted."

It’ll be interesting to see how Anna Hazare and his advisors react. Their movement touched a national chord because it attacked something -- corruption -- hat affects the lives of every common Indian. It tapped, with uncanny efficiency, the simmering hatred the average citizen feels about politicians, and was fueled by an extraordinary frenzy in the electronic media, which found in Anna just what the doctor ordered to boost TRPs.

But mass graves in Kashmir, with more than 2,000 unidentified bodies in them? For most Indians, I think, Kashmir is just a sort of droning noise in the background, that refuses to go away. And Manipur—how many of us can even name its capital? But this border state is where the Indian State has failed horrendously and totally: Manipur is a basket case, blighted by extreme corruption; zero development; non-existent infrastructure; multiple insurgency groups which, when not fighting government forces, fight one another or loot the citizens; massive drug and arms trafficking; unabated illegal immigration; human rights violations.

But neither we, nor our electronic media, with which we have formed a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, are concerned about tragedies that last too long. We yawn too easily.

Meanwhile, the BJP is planning two rath yatras in Uttar Pradesh next month. UP BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak told the Delhi newspaper Mail Today that the aim was to “maintain the impetus of Anna’s movement against corruption". So what if on 26 August, at the Ramlila ground, Kiran Bedi, while doing her clown act on stage about Indian politicians, suddenly spotted BJP leaders Gopinath Munde and Ananth Kumar on the premises, insulted them and exhorted the crowd to force them to leave with shouts of “Chor chor…"

I suppose we’ll be seeing a bit more of the rath yatras on TV than Kashmir’s unmarked graves or Irom Sharmila’s unending odyssey.