THE NARRATIVE ON Kashmir has been subverted so comprehensively that Muslim majoritarianism in the Valley is regarded as acceptable; Hindu majoritarianism in the rest of India is not.
Both are not. And yet the narrative normalises one and condemns the other.
Fixing the narrative is now a full-time business. Its putrid practitioners are journalists, politicians, activists and analysts-on-hire.
Between a subverted narrative and a treacly pro-government narrative, the space for neutral journalism has shrunk. Bias must go. Balance must return.
Consider China. The country has serious problems: a slowing economy, an ageing population, a broken real estate sector, soaring public debt, growing totalitarianism.
And yet, again, the narrative ignores these and instead warns darkly of how China’s “encirclement” of India is getting “tighter”.
Obviously, the standoff with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has been costly and tiresome. But India has stood up to a regional bully for over 18 months.
Encirclement? Tightening? This is subversive journalism.
Back to Kashmir. Here the narrative has always been held hostage to a cabal of communal appeasers and secular poseurs. The genocide of Kashmiri Pandits by Islamists is given short shrift.
The corruption of two feudal families who have run—and ruined—the Valley for decades is buried under a thick veil. Muslim majoritarianism as practised in the Valley is a protected narrative. Disturb it not.
For years, the same cabal treated Pakistan with velvet gloves and a touch of the Stockholm Syndrome. Imran Khan, well before he became prime minister, was lionised in Lutyens’ living rooms. Conclave and leadership summit organisers lavished praise on him at their glittering 5-star hotel think fests. In return, Imran used their platform to taunt India, showing early signs of his deranged radicalism.
Today, shamed by their naïveté, Imran’s favourite Indian TV journalists no longer worship at his altar. The love affair with Pakistan has ended. The Fai seminar circuit, popular with a particular breed of journalists and activists, is dead.
Pakistan’s renewed perfidy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts in Kashmir does not allow Pakistan-love to be displayed openly anymore even by hardened journalists who made the Pakistan High Commission their second home, lapping up every opportunity to go on ISI-conducted tours of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
That subversive narrative rudely ended after Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama though the occasional ember of hope for a return to the good old days burns bright in some benighted Indian minds.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan briefly offered them new opportunities. This was surely Pakistan’s big moment. Afghanistan, the prize Islamabad had long coveted, was finally within its grasp.
In New Delhi’s subverted circles, eyes lit up. Back in business, we are! Off we go to Islamabad, and thence in triumph to Kabul! Hope sprang eternal.
The Taliban unfortunately turned out to be what they always were: brutal, medieval Islamists. Pakistan may have created them, but the Taliban had moved on. They had outgrown Pakistani ambitions to treat Afghanistan as a backyard. With rival terror groups running amok, strategic depth in Afghanistan was looking more like a strategic liability.
The exhalation of breath in Delhi’s puddles of the nouveau power-riche at this shocking setback for Pakistan could be heard all the way in Lahore.
No matter. Subversive narratives, like cockroaches, are survivors. New crevices open up when old nooks and crannies close. The bent narrative always finds a way through.
The economy is usually a safe bet to turn the narrative against India. Unfortunately, the economic numbers are disappointingly good. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects India’s GDP growth rate at 9.5 per cent in 2021-22 and 2022-23, nearly double China’s projected growth rate.
There’s worse to follow. The US brokerage house Jefferies says India’s economy is set to expand at 9 per cent a year for the next decade.
That is a dagger through subversive Indian hearts. No worries. The narrative is easily deflected to instead focus on India’s fall in the hunger index (ignoring the survey’s questionable methodology), the possibility of rising inflation (though the consumer price index is actually falling, but facts never intrude into subversive thoughts) and increasing polarisation ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and dead bodies in the Ganga no longer riveting the public imagination, pre-poll UP is the place to be. Over the next four months, the narrative will be twisted, bent and kneaded till, misshapen, it bears no resemblance to the truth.