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Fifth column

July 24, 2016

Mufti’s cosmetic compassion


July 24, 2016

The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, is back! Once again, she is wallowing publicly, displaying her puffy and syrupy eyes. Wailing to the rolling cameras of her propaganda machine, she is supposedly mourning those brutally murdered by the trigger happy troops commanded by none other than herself.

The joke will remain on the bereaved, long after she retreats to her posh comforts inside high and barricaded walls, only to be surrounded by a group of mime artists and a round-the-clock vigil maintained by the lethally armed and menacing commandos determined to keep her safe from the very people she supposedly represents.

On Thursday, 21 July, according to an official propaganda release, Mufti visited Anantnag “to offer personal condolences to the families of the youth killed by [the paramilitary] forces” and “expressed grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives”. The communiqué was accompanied by a set of carefully choreographed photos showing the bereaved women apparently being comforted by Mufti.

While the kinfolk of those dead remained faceless, in line with the official policy to deny any human persona to the victims and thereby reduce them to mere statistics, the snapshots revealed enough to draw attention to Mufti’s sullen-looking face with sodden eyes. In this farce, she retained the role of the hero and the conqueror in a space of her choosing. The others, including those she supposedly met for an interaction set on purely humanitarian terms, were reduced to nothing more than props. Mehbooba Mufti’s war machine has taken propaganda to obscene levels of intrusion with impaired empathy and no remorse.

In this heartless display of ruthless mimicry, the bereaved were denied the dignity of mourning their loved ones in private as their shattered and grieving bodies were paraded in front of the prying ‘sarkari’ cameras as directed by the soulless communication consultants hired to make misery look attractive.

An officially released short video showed Mufti’s engagement with the mourners as flippant and her tears bore hallmarks of psychopathy. In the brief sound bite, despite her parade of dismal looks, her words felt toneless. This display of cosmetic sympathy was outrageously obscene – like Judas weeping after betraying Jesus. She even brought her overly opportunistic father from the dead, invoking his prophecy of her, to justify her continued role as a vendor for death on behalf of a party that claims to be the largest democracy in the world.

Her theatrics of grief has invoked sharp public criticism as her Lady Macbeth like characteristics were not lost on the brutalised Kashmiris. The Facebook posts showing the photographs of Mehbooba meeting her victims elicited long comment threads that showed anger, rage and resentment. Mohammad Kaleem responded with one word: ‘crocodile’, which was elaborated by Mohammad Yaseen as: ‘crocodile tears, murderess of Kashmiris.’

Faiduu Yussef added a little more context to his feelings: ‘Shame on this government. First they kill to appease BJP, then they start healing touch..... Malla’s [Mulla’s] dual policy’. Syed Shafqat Bukhari’s post is twaddle and too profane to be mentioned, while Nasim Ahmed tried to deny Mehbooba’s character DNA as a Kashmiri. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani’s characterisation of Mufti as a ‘rudaali’ – a professional crying woman – sums up the sentiment and is not off the mark.

Crying is etched on Mufti’s DNA, a tradition deeply embedded in her family’s vocation. As ‘pirs’, her brood has employed it successfully for all sorts of situations – from the pulpit, sermonising the gullible to the field when collecting alms from the public in fear of the otherworldly. To her credit, she has harnessed it to another level – weaponised it to take on her opponents and victims alike – to mesmerise, hypnotise and immobilise. It forms the mainstay of her political tactics and strategy.

In mid-1995, when Mehbooba Mufti was about to embark on her political career, she was lost negotiating the maze of worries and gremlins. Although the ruthless onslaught of the Indian state machinations supported by the counter-insurgent group Ikhwan and the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police had opened some space for pro-India politics, the dangers abounded. Unlike today, the militant resistance posed credible threats and the informer network that her father developed in his first term in office into a coordinated and lethal force was yet to be developed. In this milieu, Mehbooba went back to a simple idea from her family tradition: crying.

Her test case was Fayaz Ahmed Shah, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander from Srigufwara in the Anantnag district. When he was killed, Mehbooba, with some little groundwork from the local Jamaat-e-Islami unit and her father’s former workers, arrived at the scene. Draped in a crumpled dark grey shalwar kameez with a green duppata fashioned into a hijab, she looked genuinely grieved. Without losing a moment, she hugged the wailing crowd of women and started crying, with real-looking tears flowing down her slightly puffed face.

At an opportune moment, she rose up and started wailing in a raucous and loud voice: “yeh hamaray bhai hein. In ko bay dardi say shaheed kiya ja raha hey. Aakhir in ka kya qasoor hey? Kya yeh insaan nahin hein? Kya hum sab insaan nahin hein? Aakhir kab tak hum yeh zulum bardasht kartay rahein gey?” [These are our brothers. They are being martyred ruthlessly. After all, what is their fault? Are they not humans? Are we not human beings? How long shall we tolerate these atrocities?]

After a few more laments, she moved to the men’s quarter and repeated the sequence with an engineer’s precision. The performance was an instant hit. A couple of weeks later or perhaps little more, when another militant from Khiram village in the same locality was taken out, Mehbooba joined the mourners in no time. She reiterated her earlier performance albeit with a more polished recital. Another couple of performances sealed her place as the champion of Kashmiri sentiment.

As Kashmir enters into the third week of mass uprising, the carnival of destruction continues unabated. The number of the dead has surpassed 50 with almost same number on ventilators; most of them are unlikely to survive. Thousands more have been injured, including those maimed and blinded. Amid this raw display of ruthless force, Mehbooba’s so-called humanitarian metaphors laced with vague political overtones are nothing more than a crude affront to our collective intelligence and the centuries old tradition of sincerity.

In Henry Purcell’s famous opera, ‘Dido and Aeneas’, when Aeneas informs Dido about his plans to abandon her to found Rome on the Italian peninsula, she ruefully utters:

“Thus on the fatal banks of the Nile,/Weeps the deceitful crocodile!”

The writer is a journalist, author, and communication and security specialist. He is currently stuck in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Twitter: @murtaza_shibli

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