Corrosive misinformation

Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying targets of hatred.         – Joseph Goebbels
Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda
Among the few privileges of travelling in a reserved railway coach is that you get a captive audience to hector.  Of course, it requires a little assertiveness to hog the attention of your co-passengers, but for that matter you can hardly avail of any privilege without being assertive.  A few days back, I was travelling by the Jammu Rajdhani from New Delhi.  The dinner had been served and eaten; the disposables cleared and the serving boy given seva-pani.  The train had picked up speed.  Yet, the men occupying the 2-tier compartment did not seem to be ready for sleep any time soon.
‘Are you going to Jammu?’ A burly middle aged man asked the man of a military bearing who sat on the lower berth opposite him.  The opening gambit proved successful.  In the next few minutes, everybody knew where they were headed for, what they did for a living and even what future they had in their minds for their children. Then, by a sudden twist, the topic changed to the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. A dapper man in his mid-thirties, who looked like a Kashmiri and spoke fluent English without anynoticeable accent, said that the youth in the State are disaffected with politicians.MLAs, MPs or Ministers – they all are bothered only to fill their own pockets, and the public be damned for all they care.  Junaid (name changed) gave his own example.  A graduate in Mechanical Engineering, he ran from pillar to post for a job in anywhere in the State, but to no avail.  He had then to be content with a job outside the State – in far off Bangaluru.
Seeing that he had won the attention of the other men present in the compartment, Junaid warmed up to his theme.  Those in high places in the State Government, he said, are a servile lot.  ‘They don’t have any self-respect.  For personal advancement, they sir anyone from outside.  Why should the young respect such lackays?’  Carried away by his argument, Junaid threw a question to his listeners.  ‘Do you know who this Hari Singh was who bought the territories of Jammu and Kashmir – with all its populace, beasts, birds and abundant resources – for mere seventy-five lakhs?’ Keeping quiet for a few moments to build up suspense, he proclaimed dramatically, ‘He was a dacoit, a daku!’
It is beside the point that Junaid was immediately corrected by his listeners for the absurd statement he had made about (Maharaja) Hari Singh and the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.  As the facts are, it was not Hari Singh, but his forebear Maharaja Gulab Singh who, after the defeat of the Sikh Empire in the First Anglo-Sikh war, agreed under the Amritsar Treaty of 16 March 1846 to pay to the East India Company a sum of seventy-five lakh Nanakshahi rupees.  In return, the British victors ceded to him ‘and the heirs male of his body all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and westward of the River Ravi, including Chamba and excluding Lahol…’
Gulab Singh was a valiant Dogra soldier, who by dint of his raw courage and shrewdness, rose to the highest stature of his times.  He was ambitious and a shade avaricious too (which autocrat is not?), but to call him an outlaw would be a blatant calumny.
That is the issue. Can an educated, well-heeled mainstream Kashmiri like Junaid be really that ignorant of the history of the State?  If so, it is a matter of grave concern.  Worse would be the case if what Junaid said was intentional. Deliberately confusing Hari Singh -the ruler who acceded to the Indian Union, with Gulab Singh -the Raja to whom the British ceded J&K territories and then using a pejorative term for the latter is a mischievous attempt to cast a slur upon J&K’s accession to India.
The separatists do not fight with guns and grenades alone.  They use words where bullets would fail.  Using every conceivable platform, they propagate lies, projecting themselves as victims and the rest of India as their perpetual oppressor.  No wonder that today even highly educated youth and professionals from the Valley get swayed by their corrosive misinformation. We must nullify this corrosive wherever we come by it.


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