Bol ke lab azad hain tere, bol zubaan ab tak teri hai

Justice Markandey Katju
Justice Markandey Katju –



I know this article will make me very unpopular among most Indians, and I may be soundly berated and condemned by the largely jingoistic and bellicose Indian media, but that does not matter. I am not in a popularity contest, and I have often said things which made me very unpopular. I believe in Faiz’s dictum ( the title of this piece ) and I will say things I believe to be true and in my country’s interest, however unpopular and hated they make me.

I have been very critical of Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in the past over his taking help from religious extremists like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, giving PTI tickets to dubious ‘electables’ and dismissing the internationally renowned economist Atif Mian from his Economic Advisory Council only because he was an Ahmadi.

But I am full of praise for him today for his remarkably wise and restrained speech broadcast on TV regarding the developments after the Pulwama attack.

PM Imran Khan said he understood the grief of the families of those killed in the Pulwama attack, and his government was willing to cooperate in any kind of investigation which the Indian government wants. He has offered talks with New Delhi for this purpose. He said Pakistan too has been a victim of terrorism, and he has visited hospitals where he had seen victims of terrorist attacks who have had to suffer amputations or lost their eyes.

He also said that there are miscalculations in wars. It is easy to start a war, but no one can predict its outcome. Both World Wars were started with a certain plan but ended otherwise. He could have also referred to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, which resulted in the destruction of the Grand Army.

In my opinion, Imran Khan has shown the restraint and wisdom of a statesman, unlike the xenophobia of most Indian political leaders, many of whom have an eye on the coming Parliamentary elections.

The greatest tragedy in this episode is of the Kashmiris. Kashmiri students studying in Indian educational institutions have been insulted, attacked and often forced to flee, though they had nothing to do with the Pulwama attack. Kashmiri traders doing business outside Kashmir have often been attacked by right-wing elements.

I was informed by a friend who lives in a small town called Kulti in West Bengal that there is a Kashmiri family living there in a rented house. They run a small shop where they sell handicraft goods which they bring from Kashmir. There was no problem earlier, but after the Pulwama attack, people who had taken goods from there on credit are refusing to pay for them. What a wonderful way to show one’s patriotism! It seems this jingoism and xenophobia has gripped even small towns throughout India.

And as regards conditions within Kashmir, internet connections are often snapped by the authorities and remain snapped for long periods, whenever there is some encounter with militants, without realizing that internet is a necessity these days. To fill a simple form, which could be done immediately online, now often requires traveling to distant office scores of kilometers away. I am informed by a Kashmiri that the internet is presently disconnected all over Kashmir.

What a way to win hearts and minds!


[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]

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