The mischief that Pankaj Mishra created lives on
Six years ago, Pankaj Mishra managed to get himself published in the rarefied spaces of both the New York Times op-ed column and the New York Review of Books. He wrote of the controversy surrounding the Indian Army’s killing of five men in Pathribal in Kashmir. The army claimed that these men were the terrorists who had carried out, a few days earlier, the massacre of 38 Sikh villagers in Chittisinghpora. This account was challenged, and exhumations, investigations and controversy followed.
But then Pankaj Mishra-the novelist triumphed over Pankaj Mishra-the journalist. He went on to call for an enquiry into, in effect, whether the Chittisinghpora massacre was carried out by Indian security forces. And suddenly the conspiracy theories, the misinformation and the mischief that usually confine themselves to credulous circles became ‘world-famous’.
So much so that six years on, while India’s slow—but nevertheless wonderful—process of public accountability is getting to the bottom of the Army’s conduct in the killing of the five suspected terrorists, it is being used to continue to obfuscate and amplify Mishra’s dubious assertions (via email from Patrix). Lies not only take a life of their own, but they also breed mutant offspring. What were Indian intelligence agencies for Mishra became Hindu militants for Bill Clinton (see Abhi’s post on Sepia Mutiny). Never mind that the New York Times interviewed a jihadi from Sialkot, Pakistan, who confessed to having participated in the massacre. Or that it would have been patently stupid for the security forces to carry out the massacre wearing their uniforms and insignia if the intention was to pin it on jihadis.
Sure, the Indian army deserves to be condemned and punished for carrying out the Chittisinghpora massacre. After it has been proven that they committed it.
And Pankaj Mishra’s articles may have helped establish his career. But they do not establish the Indian army’s culpability in the massacre.
(Note: Some parts of this post were modified in response to Pankaj Mishra’s clarification, the thrust of which is in this article)
Update:An excerpt from a comment on Pickled Politics blog sums this up nicely:
The fact that British killed an innocent Brazilian man doesnâ€™t mean the British intelligence services blew up those trains last July in London. Police around the world routinely arrest the wrong people for crimes or seek to unfairly pin crimes on people under pressure. Does this mean the police themselves committed all those crimes to begin with? [Pickled Politics]