Survival & resistance in Kashmir

Shahnaz Bashir on Survival & Resistance in #Kashmir

The strength of a resistance will always be disproportionately lesser than the ugly power of an occupation. Otherwise, philosophically, both occupation and resistance cannot happen. Even though both sustain themselves throughout but the power of the insidious occupation causes fluctuations to the strength of resistance, so much that at times the politics of a resisting people would unpretentiously become more survivalist and less resistant.

What can really stir an occupation are the kinds of upheaval we have witnessed in the 1990s, 2008, 2010 and now in 2016. I was in my fourth grade in 1990, the year when Kashmir shut for 198 days, then for 207 days in 1991, 148 in 1992 and 139 in 1993, and so on. I grew up in all those tough long years. All my life I have lived here in Kashmir through the thick and thin of the situation. I grew up in curfews, crackdowns, identification parades; through the menace of the omnipresent bunkers and at the mercy of the fingers always ready on the triggers of SLRs. And throughout this time, I was educated to see, experience, understand and realise where the truth of the circumstances lay. All the young outstanding artists, doctors, engineers, lecturers, journalists and other achievers we have today have all grown up through the same troubled ’90s, the decade that saw the severest of curfews, shutdowns and crackdowns.

When I was not taught the history of my belonging, of where I came from, of why I must reclaim to know why I was kept out of the school, I demanded for it and searched for it and knew it for myself. That was education for me. All those curfewed or shut years taught me something around which the whole notion of education revolves: curiosity. An unceasing curiosity; an inquisitiveness to not only question unfreedom but freedom too to understand the truth of both and then to choose a position based on the value of that hard comprehended, savagely learnt truth. It’s a kind of an education that taught me how and why the education for the sake of class tests and examination and for the sake of the bullshit of reductions in syllabi was retching absurd. Out of the 36 years of my life I only lived three and a half outside the valley and those years provided me with a chance to look at things from a distant, objective, liberal perspective. But intriguingly, the truth of what I had practically felt by growing up in Kashmir, became more and more clear through a theoretical and indirect way too. On the top of everything, I learnt that occupation is the greatest catastrophe that can occur to a powerless people anywhere. A catastrophe that besides all pain and helplessness it causes, renders even many educated persons complacent, making their vision parochial and dangerous.

Burning of schools was and is always unacceptable. Yet every such foul act is connected to a certain politics directly or indirectly. Growing up in the turbulent ’90s, I learnt that when a state tends to appropriate any institution under a political policy, the institution becomes quickly vulnerable. However, resistant and critical of the state, no well-meaning student can be so naïve to believe that it’d be in any resistance movement’s interest to burn schools. I don’t think that any sensible youth is looking pessimistically at his or her future, however, affected his or her academic life has been. I don’t believe that a majority of us are either extremely and foolishly realists or idealists, but balanced.

And then we are not a new people on earth resisting an oppressive state. In present times, schools in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places in the world, which are showered with white phosphorus every now and then, are suffering more than us.

Now the fault with us. Apparently, there is this inherent social contract in the people living in an occupational misery, however, they conceal their inferiority complex with postmodern technology and western outlook, yet seem to have collectively and consensually determined a system of majoritarian mediocrity in their institutional and social life. The principal reason of such mediocrity is not intellectual bankruptcy but simply lethargy and absence of will, which, coupled with a hollow egoism and a sense of condescension, make us either indecisive or cause us to take wrong, destructive decisions at times. Those decisions expectedly bring a catastrophe we individually and collectively never want or desire. But we are compelled to deserve that.

The system of our education is controlled and led by senior “educationists” who are least academic in their actions nevertheless bureaucratic: they have ceased to carry on hardcore research, stopped reading and studying, thus constantly stopped learning and updating, and have become more and more complacent, depending on their flawed old contributions, degree and positional achievements. They are always on throes craving uselessly long and recurring meetings, opportunities to go on academic tours, seeking pretexts for travel and trips or always wasting precious time in loopy, lengthy, cyclic correspondences on files. The complacency it all generates, brings mediocrity, insecurity, arrogance and in turn sadism in them, the implications of which they inevitably exercise on the system of education they run and control. To guard it in the society they seek the highest public relations platforms and means to gilt their rust from serious inquiries and critics. And at times, they take full advantage of their liaisons with power corridors—which are themselves fraught with the same sickness of mediocrity hence become natural companions to such bureaucratic steel-frame in our education system—to assault any critique.

Upheavals fraught with recurring severe, massive protests of all kinds and rigourous civil disobedience—which come at a heavy cost of blood, honour, life and property—are the only ways that magnetize greater international attention, yielding pressure on the occupant. But these upheavals, that bring diplomatic breakdowns and more global human interest to a situation of occupation, are naturally not sustainable because they are spontaneous, and not planned to occur as some insular commentators would like us to believe: that we are “reaping the bitter of the seed we have sown ourselves”; and since the resisting people have to survive to maintain their resistance, therefore, each upheaval has to naturally fade out, that too with killing, maiming, blinding, looting, torturing, destroying, imprisoning by forces of the occupation—all will-breaking methods, the implications of which some of us sometimes carelessly transpose as “fatigue”, blaming it all on the self and less on the other. And it’s another, strange kind of inferiority complex instilled by an increasingly oppressive occupation.

Unfortunately, some of our “commentators” begin realizing and theorizing the “fatigue” only when the “fatigue” has to naturally set in. Then they quickly blame it all on the resistance leadership for a fade-out that is always already perceptible even to an ordinary person. In the beginning of the upheavals these “commentators” are nowhere to be seen but as soon as the helpless boy on the street begins throwing stones with or without aiming it on the forces of occupation—but undoubtedly on a representation of occupation—they begin mounting the horse of denigration. Some of us think that most of our protests are crude. Tariq Ali, a noted leftist intellectual, once said that an ugly occupation cannot have a beautiful resistance.

Of course, intellectual debates, argumentative writings, artistic representations and academic formations of resistance are always there and growing round the clock, however, a bigger attention that a public upheaval brings always costs greater blood. There cannot be any alternative to the power of a massive popular upheaval. And, however intellectual, no resistance leadership could be imagined to assume a magical strategic approach to alternate a popular upheaval.

Any fade-out is already naturally perceptible even to an ordinary man, commenting on it in newspaper columns is no insight. We ought to be enlightened with something new for the future, please.

Yes, there is always real politics and the changing dynamics of power in the world that can sometimes bring greatest unimaginable, unexpected and unsolicited solutions with or without resistance. But that does not mean that we stop understanding, resisting and, on the top of it all, surviving.



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Shahnaz Bashir Written by:

Shahnaz Bashir is an academic and a writer. He is the author of critically lauded award-winning novel The Half Mother. His second book of stories Scattered Souls has just been published.


  1. Aejaz Mohammed Sheikh
    November 23, 2016

    A thought provoking write up. Full of sense.

  2. Ishrat
    November 28, 2016

    The strength of a resistance will always be disproportionately lesser than the ugly power of an occupation. Otherwise, philosophically, both occupation and resistance cannot happen. Even though both sustain themselves throughout but the power of the insidious occupation causes fluctuations to the strength of resistance, so much that at times the politics of a resisting people would unpretentiously become more survivalist and less resistant. INDEED!

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