By Sushil Kutty
Avanti and Chetna Jadhav had no choice but to go to Pakistan. Their emotions were tied and nailed to the man in Pakistan. And the control was in the enemy’s hands. The last time the two saw and spoke to Kulbhushan Jadhav was 22 months ago. One was the mother and the other the wife of the man on death row in Pakistan. It was now or never.
Unaware of what was in store for them, they stepped on enemy soil. There was an agreement between India and Pakistan. An Indian High Commission official would accompany them and he would not be separated from the two women even when they met Jadhav. Islamabad broke every word on that pact. It allowed things to happen that civilized countries would not have. The enemy could not be stopped from being an enemy.
The wife and mother of the Indian national held in captivity were subjected to indignities reserved only for the condemned. Pakistan allowed a hostile pack of journalists to heckle and hector and humiliate Avanti Jadhav and Chetna Jadhav as if they were the ones on death row in Pakistan.
The “humanitarian gesture” of Pakistan was a stunt, a sham, an orchestrated pantomime that signalled Pakistan’s intent, an imitator of all that was ugly in the ties between India and Pakistan. The enemy was eager to draw blood but was held back by what would be international condemnation. It was not for nothing that stories floated in Pakistan of the inhuman treatment meted out to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto before he was hanged to death. And he had been Pakistan’s Prime Minister!
Was it a surprise then that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan disregarded religious and cultural sensitivities, basic human dignity? Avanti and Chetna were strip-searched, to change clothes and take off all signs Hindu, including their mangalsutra and bindi – what more proof that Pakistan hated everything Hindu?
The two women closest and dear to him were presented before him as if he was dead and cremated. The man who sat before them on the other side of the glass screen was for all purposes a corpse. The symbolism and deadliness of the intent could not have been more telling or missing.
The biometrics of Avanti and Chetna were taken as if they were common criminals. What use to any country the fingerprints and iris scans of two women who had not committed any crimes on its soil? The statements made by several Pakistanis of note on Indian television answered that question. “But they are the mother and wife of a terrorist who killed hundreds in Pakistan, aren’t they?” asked a former Pakistani envoy to the United States. Condemned and punished by association!
By that token Jesus Christ’s parents should also have been crucified. It was after all on Christmas day that all kinds of insults were heaped on the mother and wife of a man on death row. Maybe the dark side in the nature of the Pakistanis came out like lava because it was also the birth anniversary of Quiad-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of a nation spawned over scotch and pork, on the two-nation principle based on religion.
They even took the footwear of Jadhav’s wife Chetna and kept it with them. She had to leave the Foreign Ministry in her socks. Inside the steel container where they were allowed to “meet” Jadhav, his mother was not allowed to speak to her son in her mother tongue Marathi. Avanti was repeatedly interrupted while doing so and eventually prevented from proceeding further. Not surprising coming from a people who have killed many of their own languages. Ask Nawaz Sharief to write a sentence in Punjabi or Kashmiri script and he would look askance!
Avanti and Chetna were forced to a change of attire as if the clothes they wore from India were soaked in arsenic or anthracite. And later after the glass cage encounter was over, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman in a command performance said, “Pakistan keeps its commitments.”
On the strictly diplomatic level, too, the Pakistanis, as was their wont, reneged. The understanding was that India’s deputy high commissioner J P Singh would be allowed to be present at the meeting. But he was kept at arm’s length throughout, as helpless as the women he escorted.
The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman had earlier claimed that Pakistan allowed the meeting because Pakistan being an Islamic nation was compassion-incarnated. That compassion did not show in the atmosphere of intimidation inside and outside the steel container where Kulbhushan Jadhav was presented to his mother and wife.
The government of India on Tuesday said the family members of Jadhav “handled the situation with great courage and fortitude”, begging the question could they have behaved any different? And could Jadhav do anything else other than “thank Pakistan” for allowing him the chance to see and talk to his mother and wife?
Tutored or not, what can a man say when in the custody of medieval barbarians dressed in coats and ties, men who held the Islamic sword? The coat and shirt Jadhav wore were only for the world’s consumption. In the dark cell of his solitude, in his prison clothes, he must be fair game to all his captors, to be heckled, hectored and intimidated, much worse than his mother and wife were subjected to outside the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad. Pakistan cannot afford to let Kulbhushan Jadhav leave Pakistan alive. Not after the Christmas crucifixion.