Had the concept of moral authority still held value, both the Union Human Resources Development minister and the Governor of the Jammu and Kashmir would be “packing their bags”. For the Supreme Court in its order on Friday directing the states to accord protection to Kashmiri students, and others, residing outside the Valley has virtually rejected the contention of those two worthies that reports of such students being harassed, assaulted, etc were fake or exaggerated. Their Lordships, CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna also obliquely reprimanded the Union Home Ministry for not doing a basic duty of protecting the lives and property of citizens. The HRD minister and the J&K Governor took the line that there was no proof of the alleged assault, in the same way that the Prime Minister of Pakistan demanded proof of his country’s involvement in the Pulwama massacre. And an indication that New Delhi was not particularly disturbed by reports from several cities was available when the government’s top law officer took refuge in the plea that maintaining law and order was the responsibility of the state government. It was also telling that the nodal officers tasked with looking into the complaints of Kashmiris were the same persons who were earlier deployed to tackle the lynch-mobs claiming to be gau rakshaks ~ everyone knows how effective they were. Critics would also point out that the Prime Minister’s silence on the plight of the students was in keeping with his silence on cow vigilantes. It was also significant that two prominent persons of the Akali Dal (a BJP ally) cautioned against blanket slandering of Kashmiris ~ in the same way that Sikhs had been targeted in 1984.

A moot question remains whether the elaborate order of the court will be faithfully carried out. Alas, it is less than likely because little of the strong language their Lordships use trickles down to the goons who project themselves as “activists”, and exploit the passions that have been whipped up over Pulwama. That even politicians considered moderate have jumped on the bandwagon is evident from Nitin Gadkari’s threat “to turn off the tap”. Officials point out that the process of utilising the surplus river water that flows into Pakistan had been initiated long ago, the projects would take years to complete. Pulwama has become a political cow that is being milked. Comparisons are never pleasant, yet no such outrage was manifest when the IPKF was having a hard time in Jaffna. Is that because Kashmir is physically closer to New Delhi than the Emerald Isle? Or because history will confirm that bashing Kashmiris-Muslims-Pakistanis will yield electoral gains? The more “divided” India appears the more successful would the terrorists deem their dastardly forays ~ while the politicians wallow in the depths that enhances the task of valiant soldiers and politicians. A row over a photoshoot at Corbett exemplifies how low our leaders aim.