Lower depths: A spokesperson speaks
Silence articulates the unspeakable far better than words. The spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Sambit Patra, a doctor no less, did not need his leaders’ speeches to be assured of their full-hearted support; their silence was eloquence itself. Mr Patra himself was cryptic, just invoking ‘Pulitzer lovers’ as a query below the photograph of a three-year-old Kashmiri boy placed on — and crying over — the blood-soaked body of his dead grandfather. The reference was to the Pulitzer Prize that three Kashmiri journalists had won for their photographic record of the sufferings of the Valley’s people — a phenomenon non-existent for Mr Patra’s party. The prize obviously rankled. Hence the tone of triumphant irony was not unexpected, especially since Mr Patra felt that the agonizing image, stripping the dead man and his little grandson of all dignity, should be displayed and crowed over. The two are Indian citizens.
The incident was the kind of tragedy that Kashmir has become reacquainted with in recent years: a militant ambush in Sopore which killed a soldier and injured others. The police claim that the man in the picture died in the crossfire; his family says the police gunned him down. The facts remain unclear as often in such events, but it must be asked who positioned the child, who took the picture and, most urgent, what kind of moral bankruptcy allows its repeated display. In the case of Mr Patra and his triumphalism — apparently he was condemning Pakistan-inspired militancy in some esoteric way impossible for the uninitiated to follow — it would not do to marvel at the depths to which politics has sunk, because whatever else his reaction was, it was not politics. It was an expression of hatred pure and simple, which was silently supported by his party. It had nothing to do with either political engagement or governance. In the case of the carefully arranged image and its propagandist use that reduced a helpless child and an unknowing man to the status of objects of polemic — irrespective of how and by which ‘side’ — the sequence is just a broader manifestation of the psychology Mr Patra is so proud to represent. It is the brink of an abyss; the way back can only be forged by the Indian people’s wisdom and humanity.