Soft State, Fickle Political Morality

“Negro equality! Fudge! How long in this government of God, great enough to make and maintain this universe, shall there continue to be knaves to vend and fools to gulp so low a piece of demagoguism as this?” These are not the words of a member of Ku Klux Klan. These were the outpourings of the Great Emancipator of a few years later, Abraham Lincoln. Those, who see a contradiction between these words and Lincoln leading his country into a civil war shortly thereafter against those who opposed abolition of slavery, confuse political morality with morality per se. The two are as distinct animals as Prince Charles is form his ancestor Queen Victoria. Political morality is a matter of expediency and can change overnight. Alignments change, friends get converted into enemies and the actions of such erstwhile friends that were pious till yesterday become the work of Devil. We, in India, see it every day on our political battlegrounds. Morality on the other hand comprises the values that an individual has internalized to an extent that he is prepared to suffer and even die in defence of those values. When a large number of individuals internalize the same values, these become social morality.

It is in this context that the issue of the burqua diktat in Kashmir should be seen. Without this background, one wonders, how any women’s group would support such oppression of women, and that too of her own community. Let us take a look at what this female terrorist, called Syeda Aasia Andrabi, who claims to head the women’s outfit Dukhtaraan-e-Millat had to say to Bilal Bhat, an interviewer:

“As I know that in early nineties ladies were not observing purdah. There was a least (sic) number of Burkah worn (sic) women in Kashmir at that time. On the contrary girls in teenages (sic) today are observing purdah. Undoubtedly girls of our organisation used hard methods to force Kashmiri women for observing purdah but that too proved catalyst to the Islamic cause……….During the initial phase of our activities, we started throwing color on the non-purdah observing women. Regarding this activity I sought permission from Ulemas and they permitted us to use color for (sic) the women, who don’t respond for (sic) purdah call.”

I will desist from making any comments on the self-confessed, Ulema-sanctioned virtuous conduct of this woman who is a handmaiden of the Pakistan apparatus for disrupting life in Kashmir. If this last statement appears presumptuous, I offer you the taste of some more pearls of wisdom from this woman, who does not talk of mere freedom for Kashmir. For her, nothing less than accession of Kashmir with Pakistan will do. “Islam does not believe in geographical boundaries and accession to Pakistan will strengthen the Muslim brotherhood,” she said. Kashmir and its culture are not to her taste. This is what she wrote in Alsafa:

“Your land Islam, your tribe of Mustafa; creating any platform for nationalism (Kashmiriat) tentamounts to paving the way for furthering the interests of infidels.”

Then she told the correspondent of The Guardian

“I oppose traditional Kashmiri culture. We want to return our women to Islamic culture.”

And she will not stop with her goal of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. “I believe the whole universe should be governed by the laws of Islam, and Allah says all Muslims should be united as one,” she told New York Times. As for Pakistan, she has an agenda for that unsatisfactorily islamised country. “We want Pakistan,” she says. “Then it will be our first and foremost duty to Islamise Pakistan.”

Some of the armchair liberals will object to my use of the term terrorist for Ms. Andrabi. They would say that she has not indulged in armed violence and throwing colour on girls to terrorise them into submission falls short of the standard. Let me just repeat a small part of her interview given to The Guardian:

Does she support the killing of Indian police and soldiers? “Not only the police, but all the Indian politicians, too. We support that.” Does she back a call made by a Kashmiri militant group for the assassination of India’s prime minister? “We’d be very happy, inshallah ..”

This is mere wishful thinking, the liberals would say. She has not done anything in pursuance of these statements. But I have this bit for you:

“The U.S State Department Report of 1995, held a Dukhtaraan-e-Millat activist responsible for a parcel bomb blast at the BBC office in Srinagar in which one person was killed and another two injured.”

This is not a biography of Andrabi. I started with the political morality of Lincoln, the tune of which kept pace with the requirements of electoral arithmetic. Ms. Andrabi is also singing a tune that gladdens the hearts of her Taliban friends who have already enforced the burqua code and a lot more for the hapless women of Afghanistan. A group believed to be a front for Taliban has given the deadline for burqua in Kashmir. If tomorrow she starts drawing support from a relatively moderate faction, political morality will assist her in singing the condemnation of burqua and all that it stands for in regard to women.

It is time we start seeing the difference between political morality and morality per se. The acceptance of the former has brought the world to a situation where convictions have become endangered species. In another age, Napoleon was quite candid. “If I were Black, I would be for the Blacks; being White, I am for the Whites”, he said. Unlike Lincoln, he did not have to seek an election. And if some of you think I am being too harsh on Lincoln for a stray remark, let me quote him once more:

“There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of white and black races.”

So where does it lead us? Statements of people with political ambition should not be judged with a moral perspective, as these are devoid of any moral content. The goal of terrorists’ burqua diktat is to weaken the image of the State in the minds of the common man. This is what the terrorists tried in Punjab. The common man is scared easily. These cowards had chosen young girls as the object of their no-skirt diktat in Punjab; they are doing the same in Kashmir. The State cannot be omnipresent physically to protect each and every girl. What should be omnipresent is the knowledge that the State will throw its might against those who try to lay down such extra-legal codes. It should be axiomatic that the State, acting as the collective will of its people, will not let a handful of unscrupulous persons with clever tongues to take control of the common man’s freedom. Once this expectation of the man in the street is belied, the raison d’etre of the State vanishes. Protecting its citizens against those who profess to be the enemies of the State is the primary purpose of its existence. History tells us that whenever the State has failed to perform this role, the roles are reversed.

One who declares war on our society should be confronted not with platitudes but with superior weapons, political and military. Let us remember the difference between a criminal and a terrorist. A criminal is motivated by greed or revenge. He is wayward, but he has not declared war on the society. It is expected of the society to try to reform him. A terrorist, on the other hand, is the instrument in the hands of the enemies of the nation. The enemy wages a low-cost war through these terrorists and we as a nation and our soldiers pay a heavy price. Andrabi and those of her ilk who feed on the soft state and softer hearts of people deserve to be treated for what they are – terrorists per se. The time for platitudes is long past. For long, we have heard of misguided youth and bringing them into mainstream. For long the blood of our soldiers has flowed down the Jhelum. Punjab has shown us that when the State decides to take on these mercenaries, it does not take long for them to abandon their patrons across the borders. After all, these mercenaries are not out there to lay down their lives for a moral cause. They are, like Lincoln, using fickle political morality as the road to political power.

The writer RN Prasher is a retired IAS officer of Haryana cadre | Personal Opinions

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