When Prashant Bhushan first made his remarks supporting a referendum in Kashmir to decide whether Kashmir will stay in India, a hooligan had gone to his office and slapped him. The Aam Aadmi Party made it clear that these were Bhushan’s personal views and were not endorsed by the AAP, but the stick was too good to ignore. At a loss of words to see the rise of the AAP, somewhat dimming the euphoria over the rising fortunes of Narendra Modi, the BJP has gone on and on over Bhushan’s views on Kashmir. Even when the AAP was proving its majority on the floor of the house, the leader of the opposition, Harsh Vardhan, made Prashant Bhushan’s personal views out be somewhat of a national security threat to India. Just saying that a people should be allowed to decide their fate is anti-national because we know that making such an allowance would bring results we’d rather not see.
But are the critics, within and without the BJP, deaf that they can’t hear the AAP’s repeated protestations that these were not the views of the party? Is it fair of us to expect every political party to be run on the diktat from the top, such that its members can’t express views different from the party’s?
The critics, of course, know this. But if they don’t pick on the smallest things such as the personal opinion of one party member on one issue, how do they get the goat of the new kid on the block?
How do they discredit a party that 30 per cent voters in Delhi thought was a better idea than the Congress or the BJP, even though it is just a year old? How else do they discredit a party which seeks to rid us of corruption and thus destabilise the mechanism with which the ruling elites loot India?
Then there are the other critics, the five or seven people strong defeated army of the Indian radical Left which will now deliver us holy sermons about how the Aam Aadmi Party fails the test of radical purity. How is the AAP different from any other party if it is unable to take a courageous view on Kashmir? For the radicals this is not simply a moment to further the noble cause of the democratic rights and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This is an opportunity to say ‘I told you so’ and hit out at the AAP. You see, the radicals have been saying from April 2011 that the Anna movement is right-wing, fascist, an RSS conspiracy and a BJP ploy. Their relentless criticism and scrutiny of the Janlokpal movement and the AAP was abruptly halted by the AAP’s spectacular debut, its alliance with the Congress, and its perceived dampening of the alleged Modi wave. So how do they let go of an opportunity to re-assert that the AAP is right-wing? How do they not exploit an opportunity to defend the secular corruption of the Congress party?
India needs a national conversation on Kashmir. But it’s absolutely unfair to expect such a conversation to be begun by a fledgling new party that seeks to reform India. It is not as though the Kashmiris are going to vote for AAP. But you never know, if India does begin a conversation with itself about corruption, the economic interests that keep alive the Kashmir conflict may be hurt. That could a beginning to our introspection on Kashmir.
(First published in DNA.)