December 12, 2000


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Arvind Lavakare

'Get Back POK'

Even as fidayeens or IEDs killed or crippled our security forces as well as civilians while Vajpayee in Delhi kept playing his fiddle of J&K cease-fire, a bunch of people sowed the seeds in Mumbai of an exceptional movement called "Get Back POK." In concept, it's a daring movement the like of which one cannot quite recall in the last 53 years since Pakistan, courtesy the United Nations, merrily retained some 40 per cent of the territory it invaded and has ruled over ever since, having the cheek to call it "Azad Kashmir."

By a strange coincidence, that launch in Mumbai occurred on December 6 -- the date when, eight years earlier, a primitive army of Hindus had culminated their own unique movement by razing Babar's monument to the rape of Ram's heritage in Ayodhya.

While it has been quite a few years now that getting back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir has been talked about by many -- from Mumbai's domestic servants and taxi drivers to Delhi's parliamentarians -- it is probably the first time now that somebody has actually put that agenda on a public platform.

The credit for that must go to Mumbai-based Shiv Raaj Ratnam, 32, who became a member of the Indian Foreign Service in 1987, rose to the position of deputy high commissioner, and then, lo and behold, resigned in 1995. Said to have made some acclaimed documentary films in the USA, Ratnam has also very recently canned the muhurat shot of AK-57 which will have the theme of "Get Back POK." Ratnam's script for that film has been whetted with a tooth-comb by J N Dixit, India's former foreign secretary, and has, reportedly, got the approval from the Government of India's home ministry. Much else about the film is under wraps but Ratnam feels confident right now that it will be ready for public screening by June 2001.

If Vajpayee hasn't capitulated to Musharraf by then --- fiddle and all --- the film may well be the catalyst to arouse India's common folks to the concerted demand for POK unheard of in the past.

Ratnam's thought process behind this his movement is clear. He believes the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir is bleeding, and bleeding profusely. He estimates that, on an average, India loses about 2,500 people every year through Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

"I have seen with my own eyes," he says, "the plight of the Indian ambassadors in the United Nations, whenever Pakistan raised the Kashmir issue. We feel helpless and guilty as if we are thieves called to the police station. The Indian diplomats use all their resources and skills to gather support on this issue and when the UN session is over, we feel happy as a thief feels happy after getting bail from the court."

Ratnam cannot comprehend and stomach this. "Why should we feel guilty?" he asks. "Why? Why should we be defensive all the time, as if Kashmir belongs to Pakistan and we have snatched it when the fact is totally opposite?"

He reiterates the legal position known to the whole world but which, alas, is swept under the carpet by our own "secular" fundamentalists including newspaper writers, editors and columnists. "The entire Kashmir belongs to us," says Ratnam. "Plebiscite and every other thing is secondary" he believes.

Observing that "Pakistan is offensive both militarily and diplomatically in the United Nations while we have always been meek and defensive on the ground as well as in the United Nations" he proceeds to ask the all-important question "How long should we behave like impotents?"

And he answers that question himself. "I feel enough is enough and the time has come to tell Pakistan clearly that 'Hand over POK back to India' or else we will take it by force as we have got the right as well as the might to take it back."

That is why, a good seven months before his film AK-57 can create the national mood for an altogether different version of the misguided Mission Kashmir of Hrithik Roshan, Ratnam brought an assortment of speakers at a public auditorium in Mumbai the other day.

While freelance journalist Muzaffar Hussain was eloquent -- albeit melodramatically so -- about the need to physically and civilisationally integrate POK with the rest of J&K, and while General (retired) P N Hoon indicated how the Kargil conflict last year could have been exploited by us to get more than a toehold in POK, it was Ratnam who advocated a proxy war by India to attain the objective of recovering POK. Tit for tat was Ratnam's prescription with targets being POK, Sindh and Baluchistan so that Pakistan was hastened on its road to extinction. And his comparison of cross-border terrorism to a couple of mice let loose in the drawing room was explicit. You will end up destroying your furniture running after the mice but the mice will escape, he said; when you do catch or kill the two mice, some more will be sent.

Maker of films and television serials, Ashok Pandit, 37, chose to deviate from the theme, but his was a devastating deviation for all those who have little idea of just how three hundred and fifty thousand Hindus of the Kashmir valley have become refugees in their homeland.

Though Pandit himself migrated to Mumbai from a village 30 kilometres from Srinagar in his school days, the experience of his blood relations and close friends there has filled him with wrath.

His narration of Hindu women being raped and of being literally butchered on machines; his narration of threatening phone calls to quit or else, of similar notices pasted on house doors, of aggressive physical intrusions into homes -- all this will curdle the lay listener and, as Mark Anthony, might have said, ruffle up thy spirits and move the stones of Jammu to rise and mutiny.

What's more, he did not hesitate in blaming V P Singh and all the successive prime ministers from turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the gruesome events even as the Farooq Abdullah gang was left free to indulge in their diabolical ethnic cleansing that began some 11 years ago and, Pandit says, is still continuing. Why, he alleges that Vajpayee's human resources minister has had no time for weeks together to hear out 3,000 Hindu school children who found that even as they were forced into transit camps in Jammu, their names were removed from the Srinagar Board of Education list, thus blocking out their return to Srinagar for educational and attendant benefits. Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, says Pandit, is busy talking peace to militants even as Advani has started aping Nehru in releasing peace doves in the sky.

It was a pity therefore that not more than 200 people in Mumbai attended the "Get Back POK" launch that day.

To some extent, the cold response due to Mumbai being insulated from the gravity of the events in J&K. The government and the media are responsible for this lack of communication just as the media was culpable of not reporting Ratnam's launch.

The organisers must share a part of the blame why "Get Back POK" got off to a bad start.

First, the day chose -- December 6 -- was most inappropriate. That day is when the media stir up a communal fear psychosis among the public by recalling the razing of Babar's "memorial" to the rape of Ayodhya's heritage. That day is also the one when thousands of Ambedkar's fanatic followers choke the roads and suburban trains of Mumbai to descend noisily on the city's Shivaji Park, there to defile the maidan's turf and environs.

Secondly, the organisers erred in sending out invitations almost exclusively to the Hindutva brigade. This was a cardinal error because recovering POK should be a universal cry encompassing every Indian everywhere, here and abroad.

It is also clear that Shiv Raaj Ratnam's movement must be more imaginatively managed. Professional event management is a must.

A clear strategy is also needed for spreading its objective widely enough so as to pressurise the government to cease and desist from its current aimless course of action. An active association with a daring political outfit like the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal therefore seems imperative. Also, the "suited-booted" and stiff upper lip approach of the Indian Foreign Service will just not do. Kurta pajamas and kurta dhotis must share the space with safaris and bandh galas.

Ratnam better hurry directing preparations on these lines. If he doesn't, he could well find Vajpayee, yearning for the Nobel Peace Prize, conceding the valley even before AK-57 hits the screen in June.

Arvind Lavakare

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