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Prison: the birthplace of great political leadership

Perhaps the Jammu & Kashmir governor’s jolly answers to journalists were — no doubt unintentionally — far from the point

  • Published 4.09.19, 2:25 AM
  • Updated 4.09.19, 2:25 AM
  • a min read
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Being detained is the best thing — or close to best — that could happen to politicians, according to Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik (PTI)

It must be assumed that the government of the country always has the good of the country in mind. So it should come as no surprise that the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, appeared so cheerful when questioned by journalists regarding the prolonged incarceration of politicians of the state, including three chief ministers, whether at home — Farooq Abdullah, for example — or in a hotel turned into a temporary jail, or elsewhere. Being detained is the best thing — or close to best — that could happen to politicians, according to the governor. Those who are imprisoned have more to claim during the next elections; the prison is the birthplace of great political leaders. Deeply concerned about the welfare of Kashmir, as he should be in his position, Mr Malik asked with patronizing good humour whether Kashmir did not want new political leaders in the future. He must be very pleased with his own political career, for he said he had been to jail 30 times, including during the Emergency. His political importance must be commensurate to that.

Perhaps the governor’s jolly answers to journalists were — no doubt unintentionally — far from the point? In a democracy, incarceration purely for political reasons, except in cases of extremist attacks, can happen only when rights are suspended — as during the Emergency, which the governor was so good as to mention. The prolonged struggle against foreign occupiers, when nationalist leaders were repeatedly jailed, is long over. It is ominous for India if such dynamics are recalled in the Kashmir situation. In the politics-red-in-tooth-and-claw environment of today, rival politicians are detained often enough, but usually with criminal or civil charges against them. But it is not just politicians, activists and workers who have been incarcerated in Kashmir. The whole state has been locked down and since, as the governor has assured the country, the internet and mobile phones are weapons of terrorists, there is no need for the good residents of Kashmir to have them. It is impossible, therefore, to compute the numbers of those actually imprisoned. Reports of inadequate space in jails and of prisoners being transported to other states may be alarming, but the governor no doubt is looking forward to thousands of new political leaders created by imprisonment.

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