Kashmir whataboutery

Kashmir has been simmering with violence for a long time now. The recent escalation and killing of civilians in Handwara brought in a fresh wave of grief for most Kashmiris. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and frustration again surged to a peak. As usual, the deliberate apathy from authorities, criminal silence from most media houses and hardly any noise from international community came as no surprise. While all this was happening, there were many people who started condoning the brutal acts. Some could not hide their joy as evident from the social media responses and sadly among these people were some fellow Kashmiris.

One could understand that Indians who are constantly fed lies by the media and politicians in the alleged national interest may not show any sympathy but it is hard to understand why would a Kashmiri of any faith, knowing what is going on, even think of condoning cold blooded murders. People take to the propaganda channels and shamefully defend what is being done under the garb of draconian laws. Surprisingly, most of these people are well educated and liberal in their beliefs when it comes to matters other than the plight of common Kashmiri. Before I say any further, let me make it clear that I am not trying to generalise or paint everyone with the same brush. Most people irrespective of their faith are humane and feel the pain of other human beings. There are many Indians and fellow Kashmiris from every background who condemn the brutality on civilians and share the common grief.

The army and state machinery actively shifted the blame and attention to the minor girl and all sorts of excuses started coming through. But whatever the situation, there is never any justification for killing unarmed civilians that too by armed forces of a democracy apparently proud of its secular constitution. It is not the first time when gross excesses and use of undue force has been excused by the very same reasonable people who leave no stone unturned to seek justice, provided it is not about Kashmir. By using various buzzwords like global terrorism, Pakistan, Islamophobia, and whataboutery every attempt is made to justify the brutalities on the civilian population.

One can still understand or dismiss such evasion by those ignorant of facts or those with malice of any kind. But things really get bizarre when some fellow Kashmiris start with ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’ argument. Lately, this has become a common discourse on social media. This has put me in a moral dilemma. Should I respond using the same very rhetoric, what bad things have you done that lead to migration from the homeland? Would that be a reasonable argument? I do not think so and I believe few of bigoted minds do not represent the whole community. What are they actually trying to achieve by telling a mother that your son died because of your sins and not a bullet from Indian army? Many things can be disputed but the fact remains that Jammu and Kashmir was divided amongst themselves by India and Pakistan and the local population on every side of the divide deprived of a dignified existence. They are even excluded from being a party to their own destiny. Hence this mouthful of ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’ does not hold any ground as lives of Kashmiris were taken over long back by neighbouring countries and whatever is happening now is just a manifestation of a long unresolved dispute.

All Kashmiris have suffered whether Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs or others. We are being used against each other and some of us are so gullible that we fail to see the deception. Whenever there is a brutality by the armed forces or police against common people, many armchair intellectuals come up with counter arguments of whataboutery to justify the acts. What about Kashmiri Pandits? This is the most abused question in our history. It is often asked for justifying de-humanisation, brutal attacks, rape and torture of common Kashmiris. Do you not think it is the time tested divide and rule policy? Does it not trivialise the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits that they are being used to defend horrific human rights abuses by the Indian forces towards a particular population? Unfortunately, many of the Kashmiri Pandits themselves have become victims of this whataboutery and refuse to see beyond hate and revenge politics. I do not understand how the suffering of one human being can be used to justify atrocity on another human being. Do these champions of whataboutery think of those Pandits who decided to stay in the valley? During the devastating Kashmir floods in 2014, when people were crying for help and millions were submerged under water, the same argument of ‘what about Kashmiri Pandits’ was often used by some of our brethren to cover the failure of state machinery. Sadly this question has been asked so many times even on petty issues that probably people do not take it seriously anymore. I wonder how long will the well-educated and intellectually rich community allow such people to belittle their suffering and continue to act as a political punch bag. Is this not creating further division among Kashmiris? Are they not poisoning the thoughts of their own children? How would there be any trust if people are not mindful of each other’s pain?

You do not condemn what happened to Pandit community is another common rhetoric to condone whatever is going on. It is a fair question and no words are enough to condemn the black spot on our history. But can you talk about it every time some brutality is inflicted on Kashmiris? Leaving one’s home is terrible and hard to put in words. At the same time living in a perpetual state of fear not knowing when the next bullet may hit your son is not easy either more so when you have nowhere to go even if you want to leave your homeland for the safety of your children. Should a grieving mother first condemn other wrongs before being allowed to mourn her loss?

I fully respect if someone wants Jammu and Kashmir as part of India. But how does it justify brutality on those who do not share the same vision? Just brushing everything as a creation of Pakistan in Kashmir is obviously an absurdity. A Pandit Prime Minister of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir was dismissed as he favoured joining Pakistan and a Muslim leader chose to trust India for help because he wanted the state independent and hoped a democracy will do justice and keep its word. History is witness to how we got here and how tactics of deceit, corruption and brutal means left us with nothing. Let us not mislead out children by giving a religious colour to the historical dispute.

Is it not time the two communities try to bridge gaps than create further division? The generations born in last few decades may fear each other; see others as monsters and probably murderers. Not that it is their fault but it is the lies which have been fed to them for one reason or other by the hyper-nationalist Indian media and confabulating writers. Some grew up away from Kashmir seeing their elders longing for homeland and some grew up under the shadow of the gun under dehumanising circumstances. Our elders have a big role to play in educating the future generations that we share same past and future.   Unless people meet and mix, talk to each other, reflect and empathise, this divide is not going to get any better.

The rhetoric of healing touch for Kashmiris living across the state and outside has failed as India is still not sincere in resolving the long-standing dispute. But let us not kill more of our children and at the same time get used by the Indian propaganda machinery for justifying such acts. Let us be fair to condemn what is wrong and give up blinding sympathy of any kind, may it be nationalism or religion. Hope Kashmiri Pandit suffering is not trivialised anymore to justify brutalities of the army and let no more blood be spilt to remove a bunker. It is time that some cogent steps are taken to recognise the human rights abuses and the dispute resolved peacefully by respecting the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. India and Pakistan cannot play with lives of people of the Jammu and Kashmir just to keep their naïve voters busy with politics of hate forever. The resolution of the dispute is the only way all Kashmiris can get justice otherwise, the blood game is going to deprive countless mothers of their children and many more of their humanity.

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Dr. Mudasir Firdosi Written by:

Dr. Mudasir Firdosi is a Kashmiri Psychiatrist, health advocate, and columnist. He writes about mental health, health policy, medical education, human rights and Kashmir.

2 Comments

  1. Jatinder
    May 7, 2016
    Reply

    Dear Doctor Sahib,
    Brutality of any kind, designed with intention or spontaneous, is condemnable in the harshest words.
    This is also a fact that we the kashmiris are just Pawns in this game of regional and international politics and we have lent our services willingly as fodder to the players.
    Whether we like it or not , nothing is going to change viz a viz the demarcated boundaries or so I believe.
    Intifada and such types of violent expression is definitely going to get a response from the administration. We may call it puppet or Occupational force or whatever we deem fit but that is not going to change.
    Everytime a young life is lost , I too feel the pain the parents ,associates and society will go through but does it help in any way.
    I denounce in the harshest terms expressions of elation and comparison to a related calamity as human suffering knows no religion/cast/creed or color.
    Having said so , I also denounce such people who want to wash their hands off the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits perpitrated directly by the “AZAADI SEEKERS”. Lately ( 25 years hence) , there is a new canard that it was Jagmohan , with his nefarious design , who organized the migration of Pandits. How do you expect the Pandits to react ?
    I would appreciate a continuous interaction with you for the cause of Kashmir.
    God Bless

    • Mudasir Firdosi
      May 7, 2016
      Reply

      Dear Jatinder,
      Thanks for your feedback. I suppose talking about who’s responsible for KP migration is hard to settle and my take is many factors are responsible although everyone would like to deny any role. But if we are talking about justice and punishing those who committed atrocities against KPs and the KMs and others, I am not sure that is going to happen unless there is some resolution of the dispute in hand. Blaming each other is the easy part.

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