Indian masculinity, nationalism, and torture videos from Kashmir

Kashmiris have known beatings, humiliation, and torture under Indian military occupation for long. During “crackdowns” on Kashmiri urban neighborhoods and villages, Indian military would pick Kashmiri men and publicly beat and torture them. It was done in front of other Kashmiris, who were forced to gather in open spaces and watch. The open-air torture theater was meant not only as a warning but also as a psychological operation to break people’s will. Tehreek was not deterred by these bloodied games; Kashmiris had no option but to resist Indian aggression.

But the visual politics behind the current Indian violence in Kashmir is different.

First, Indian military distributing videos of its own brutality in Kashmir is meant to assuage the nationalist uprising against the snobbish “libtard sickular” form of nationalism in India. The military is matching in practice what the true desh-bakhts are asking for in their blood-curdling discourse. The videos are meant to bring the Indian nation out of the closet, and unashamedly embrace the hard reality of Indian rule in Kashmir; instead of believing the wimpy ass liberal discourse which cannot see Indian imperialism in Kashmir. Indian military is telling the “libtard sikularists” that if you want to keep Kashmir, learn to live with our savagery.

Second, the distribution of these videos is also about a fragile masculinity reasserting itself against the deflation that has taken place since Burhan Wani’s killing and then on the election day on April 9, 2017. The Indian military has become inadequate to the task of keeping Kashmir subdued, or at least this is what it reads in its assessment of the desperate nationalist mood in India. It has responded with febrile displays of violence where it used to try to hide it. For long, only images of mangled bodies of dead militants were publicly displayed to assert Indian military’s masculinity. Now it is bodies of unarmed Kashmiri civilians, beatings of youths and women, the humiliation of children, and blasted houses in Kashmir.

Third, these images and videos are a symptom of a deeper malaise that still courses through Indian nationalism: an unconscious history of the British colonial project to emasculate the Indian native and the Hindu nationalist desire to reshape the “Indian man” as hyper-aggressive. But this subterranean clash not only comes to the surface but has been intensified by Kashmiri men and women fearlessly battling the Indian soldiers. Looking at the outlandish images of over-armed Indian soldiers in heavy body armor and armored cars cowering when confronted with Kashmiris, who are fully exposed and unarmed but defiant, becomes a dramatic visual reversal that Indian military as an institution had not anticipated. The Indian man would prefer to be in control of the colonized subject as well as of himself. But he loses both in Kashmir, in his crude displays of power and violence. So, if you can’t control it, just embrace it—this is what the videos are saying.

They want Indian military to kill without any compunction: “kill 1000 of them for our one;” “drop MOABs on them;” and “take Kashmiri women as slaves.”  

Among nationalists in India, who have wet dreams of global “superpower” and watch over and over videos of “Indian weapons” and “most powerful militaries” on the YouTube, seeing images of those arms and men being reduced to a barbaric spectacle against an unarmed people produces a dispiriting dissonance. “Indian man” has fantasized a genocide for long. In its eyes, a genocide has a metonymic association with “national will.” This fantasy is now a metastasized desire to act like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as ISIS in Syria. They want Indian military to kill without any compunction: “kill 1000 of them for our one;” “drop MOABs on them;” and “take Kashmiri women as slaves.”

Yet, these images might also signify a turning point in the colonial occupation in Kashmir: the occupation is now unsustainable without such grotesque violence. Under these conditions, the so-called “Doval doctrine” is not simply a “policy failure” as some Indian commentators have said. The doctrine just removed some of the soft-minded frills from the Indian state policy that has been in place since 1947. Doval is a natural outcome of a long process of a failing mission to occupy and Hinduize Kashmir that started with the Indian invasion in October 1947. Modi’s regime knows that Kashmir, with 9 million Kashmiris in it, can never become India’s. Indian military had this intuition way back in 1947 itself.

As such, the Indian military has long desired precisely the outcome that the recent elections have produced. The military has never really liked the gray zone of Kashmiri collaborationist politics to intervene in, or even facilitate, the colonialist project. At best, they were tolerable if they acted to dupe international opinion. Even the extraordinary willingness of the Kashmiri-elements in the current regime in power in Jammu has not helped them ingratiate themselves to the military, or to the Hindu nationalists, enough.

What we now have in Kashmir is a colonialism unashamed of itself. If it doesn’t end soon, it will end in genocide.

One would have expected the Muftis, after their volte face of becoming BJP’s quislings, to resign in July 2016.  Yet, understandably, PDP, which is a loosely-based kinship network that masquerades as a political party, realizes that it is better to be finished while retaining some petty privileges than being finished without them.

Hopefully, they will be cast aside. Indian man does not care about the international opinion on Kashmir anymore (only the prickly subject of poverty annoys him). The loyalist politics in Kashmir has become an abysmal void for Indian nationalists, and it has long been that way for Kashmiris.

What we now have in Kashmir is a colonialism unashamed of itself. If it doesn’t end soon, it will end in genocide. Of course, such a genocide will not be limited to Kashmir but will play out across South Asia, which is nuclear-armed and suicidal.

Kashmiris have never believed in elections, and their voting or not-voting has always been peripheral to their understanding of the absolute imperative of independence. For Kashmiris, it should now be about rethinking the orientation of the historic Tehreek. Kashmir has become independent of India. Kashmiris must think about how to let India find its way out of Kashmir while developing a symbolic and material infrastructure for the independence.

 

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Mohamad Junaid Written by:

Mohamad Junaid grew up in Kashmir. He has contributed essays in recently published volumes, Everyday Occupations: Experiencing Militarism in South Asia and the Middle East(Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights) ; Of Occupation and Resistance: Writing From Kashmir; and Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir. He is a doctoral student in anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

One Comment

  1. hellraiser
    April 20, 2017
    Reply

    Sure. Establish anti-blasphemy laws after “independence” and find young students to throw your stones at instead of the indian Army. 🙂

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