Is it imperative to again remind the world, what Kashmir has been facing at the hands of occupying Indian state for the past 68 years in general and more than 50 days in particular? Nevertheless, let me try to perforate, or pellet-ify, the comfortable blindness anyways. We have been subjected to what is effectively a siege. However, unlike in medieval times, killing and maiming of civilians, destruction of the dwellings in Kashmir is not being done with canon fire from outside. The siege in Kashmir is discursive, psychological, enforced from house to house, individual to individual and therefore, undoubtedly, more brutal. A monstrous- both in terms of intensity and proportion- bureaucratic-military apparatus, one which is already inside, has replaced the canon. Thousands have been maimed and put under arbitrary detention, more than 500 rendered totally or partially blind and media, including the internet, has been muzzled. All this death and destruction is supplemented by an array of ‘awardwinning’ propaganda coming from both Indian media and political establishment .
Popular mass movement is “mindless terrorism” and Kashmiris are a flock of “instigated” sheep in “bucolic valley”, devoid of all agency. Keywords like Insaniyat (Humanity), Jamhooriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat etc. are thrown carefully at the supposed ‘inhumanity’ and ‘autarchy’ of the self-determination struggle of Kashmiris.
Kashmiriyat, not even a Kashmiri word, is a cheap rip-off of Punjabiyat. It started appearing on the front pages of news dailies post Indira Gandhi- Sheikh Abdullah accord meaning surrender of radical Kashmiri nationalism. Kashmiriyat was aggressively opposed even by many Abdulllah-loyalists. In ecological terms, consider it an attempt to fabricate an artificial ecosystem inside Indian biosphere, to emphasize on affinities between “secular” India and secular Kashmir (Kashmiriyat).
Insaniyat or humanity is what blows my mind the most. What possible humanity could there be in a state of affairs where men, women and children are being subject to beatings, humiliation and coercive control by Indian forces? Is attacking hospitals and ambulances somehow humane? I suspect barging into civilian homes in the middle of the night, ransacking them and ruthlessly thrashing the inmates is a new standard for humane action. So is perforating the retinas of hundreds with what are essentially shotguns. 50 days of unparalleled humanity. I am not sure if we can handle any more militarized generosity.
Jamhooriyat or democracy is another catchy word being thrown around. Did Iraqis feel the same way when Paul Bremer offered democracy to them? But, in any case, democracy of course is at the heart of everything that Kashmiris have been demanding for the past seven decades. An internationally, preferably UN, sponsored referendum on both sides of Kashmir can undoubtedly be one of the most powerful execution of democracy in history of state-politics. However, at present, Kashmir’s local elections, that, if one follows the campaign rhetoric of running candidates, are nothing above municipal in nature, inside what remains the most militarized region in the world are being passed as a referendum.
Right to Information, an indispensible part of Freedom of Expression, both of which are ultimately integral to a functioning and informed democracy remain hostage to whims of occupying state. Right to Protest has been transmogrified into anything ranging from death to disability and arbitrary detention. Every free opinion has to pass through Indian state’s stringent “anti-national” test, particularly when it comes to Kashmir.
Being critical of state-policy is crucial to not only preserving the “national interest” but also the existential interests of entire human society. However, takeover of right wing populism in combination with pro-capital policies in India is transforming it into a country of absolutely no dissent. Not that Kashmir has seen better days under previous Indian governments but at least we didn’t have to deal with freezer vigilantes and solidarity with Kashmir wasn’t met with such vitriol before. This has one positive effect though, of separating genuine comradeship from convenient opportunism.
95-5 equation is the latest egg in the nest of establishment ostriches. But that is not the most significant statement that came out of Ms. Mahbooba Mufti during the past few days. More revealing was her acknowledgement of the fact that Indian-sponsored forces perpetrate torture/extrajudicial executions (Chaaku say bachaya hai), forced labor (Beg’aier) and enforced disappearance/arbitrary detentions (mere bachay ko Task Force nay uthaya) in Kashmir. However, what needs to be emphasized here is that Ikhwan and Task Force, that were essentially state-sponsored death squads, were way past their purpose when disbanded and assimilated into relatively formal military structures. This assimilation also granted the members of these squads absolute impunity from any genuine investigation or prosecution.
Constitutional restraints are also cited by the highest echelons of Indian state to justify their supposed inability to negotiate with Kashmiri people. This is more of a stalling tactic than some genuine lack of mandate. For the past seven decades, Indian occupation in Kashmir has thrived on extra-(Indian) constitutional practices. I am not an expert in India’s constitutional law but there is no doubt in my mind that Indian constitution does not condone state sponsored torture, enforced disappearance, rape, extra-judicial executions, use of human shields and legal impunity. If, until now, Indian state and government has survived despite massive extra-constitutional measures in Kashmir, I am sure that the system is sturdy enough to handle a few out-of-the-box negotiations.
Terrorism, especially post 9/11 and US’s initiation of so called Global War on Terror, has been a boilerplate excuse by state authorities around the world to justify their onslaught against dissident voices. Conflating popular mass movement in Kashmir with terrorism has been one among the countless subsets of this worldwide deception. The most cogent clarification of this ruse is five-year old pellet-hit Zohra’s lament from the hospital bed,“Main Burhan bhai ko bolungi policewalo ne mujhe mara (I will complain to Burhan Bhai that the policemen beat me).” However, the Indian establishment has taken the cliche one step further. To use the popular Kashmiri term, they have “double-phased” it. Street protests are dubbed “agitational terrorism”. This cynical misappropriation helps Indian state to rationalize the use of deadly violence against unarmed Kashmiri protestors. Sooner than later, this parasitic phrase is going to eat into the civil liberties of Indian citizens too.
Maintaining an expansive structure that even Time Magazine recently called a “De Facto Military Occupation” is not cheap and therefore cannot be in the “national interest” of a country whose significant population lives below the worst standards in Sub-Saharan Africa. This unjust arrangement is not only leeching life out of Kashmiris and costs India a hefty moral erosion.India’s sprawling military-industrial complex, indirectly, also aids countries like Israel to sustain its conditions of virtual apartheid and brutal colonization vis-à-vis Palestinians through billion dollar arms deals.
As we recently witnessed in the cases of Colombia and Iran nuclear deal, negotiations always serve best in resolving any conflict but to initiate an effective dialogue process, Indian establishment first needs to look at the uprising in Kashmir truthfully and without varnishing it with self-constructed deceit. Dehumanizing us into an “instigated lot of simpletons” won’t do. Treating Kashmiris as an informed and equal party is first step towards any real resolution. I am sure that Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat can handle that.