'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Pratap Bhanu Mehta - An illusion is shattered in Kashmir // Meenakshi Ganguly - Key to ending Kashmir’s cycles of violence: Respecting rights, ensuring justice
Kashmir evokes, above all
else, an overpowering and numbing sense of futility. When “heaven is on fire”,
to use Muzamil Jaleel’s evocative phrase, it is not clear to whom words are
addressed. How can one address words to the Indian state that has repeatedly
produced outcomes of the kind we have just witnessed since Burhan Wani’s
killing: Thirty-one young people killed, scores injured, many blinded? What
does one say to this state that has, whatever the formal legalities and
mitigating circumstances of the case may be, acted as an occupying army,
immobilising considerations of justice at every turn? What does one say to its
custodians, who at this point, mouth platitudes about their resolve over
Kashmir, more I think to convince themselves, than to address Kashmiris? What
does one say to this state that refuses to see the problem for what it is: A
deep legitimacy crisis of the Indian state and a standing rebuke to Indian
democracy? This state will, doubtless, be able to curb the violence in a few
days: We will again feign normalcy, till the next round takes us by predictable
We will unleash our rhetorical prowess on
Pakistan; stand firm in our resolve to fight terror. All well and good and
justified. But let no one underestimate what has been on display in Kashmir
since the killing of Burhan Wani: In one fell swoop the legitimacy of the
Indian state has been eroded. The comforting illusion that all we face is a
cross-border intervention, not the deep and continual alienation of our own
citizens, has been shattered. The response will alas be predictable: First the
law and order solution and then some promise of good governance. The latter
could be a start, but that promise has been betrayed so many times that one
cannot make it with a straight face. And these instruments have not been enough
to break the vicious cycle of distrust. The structure of competitive politics
will, in the end, be too preoccupied with competitive bickering.
But it is a fatal
mistake to assume that there is just an instrumental solution to this
challenge. The small windows of relative normalcy, the inevitable desire of so
many young Kashmiris to make their way in the world has always lulled us into a
sense of complacency. The sense in Kashmir that the idea of India is not a
beacon of light and hope, but an ever strengthening shadow of darkness and
violence, of disappearances and denial, of betrayal and repression, is strong.
One measure of this is that it is hard to think of an Indian state that has
produced such a poetry of pain (but then in these times of prose, who reads
poetry). As the shadow of majoritarianism increases, this credibility crisis of
the state will worsen. But how can one say this to a state where even an
attempt at the description of the problem will be met with the usual
ideological barrage: Insinuations of romanticising separatism and much worse.
There is nothing in the ideological and empathetic armoury of the Indian state
that is geared to addressing the deep alienation of those who matter in
Kashmir. It is designed mainly to address Indians in the rest of India, so that
we give our state a long leash in Kashmir.
I must confess that I
am surprised that we are constantly surprised that teenagers in Kashmir are
throwing stones at the Indian state. The real surprise is that it does not
happen more. If we were subject to the regular interdictions of the police most
of us might be tempted to pick up a stone or two; what years of army
occupation, no matter how well intentioned and well run, would do is anybody’s
guess. Our insecurities have produced a failure of empathetic imagination on
our part, we want to hide behind a cloak of monumental ideology that mutilates
any conversation about what it is really like to live in a state of siege. But
I am also surprised at the surprise that a terrorist like Burhan Wani can be
made a martyr by the general public. It is important to remember that this is
not a phenomenon unique to Kashmir. It is still hard to dissociate far graver acts
of terrorism, the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, from the
construction of ethnic identity and politics in Punjab and Tamil Nadu
respectively. This political phenomenon needs deeper diagnosis.
But how does one
address words to Kashmir? What do you say in a political context where all
texts are sub texts, all ends dead ends? Writers like Chetan Bhagat are more
confident of their locus standi in addressing Kashmiri youth. Given what we
know about our state, I am less confident that we can look them in the eye and
make even a credible promise let alone redeem the pain of the past. All we can
do is try and make this India, in whose name we licence violence, attractive
and credible enough.
Just as we hope that the Indian state will make truth not
illusion the starting point of its strategy; we hope Kashmir politics will do
the same. The path of violent state subverting terrorism, just as a matter of
political reality, has almost never led to success. Whatever romanticism there
was about the idea of Kashmiriyat, it is now tinged with the irrevocable odour
of ethnic cleansing and reactionary radicalism. The Indian state, with its size
and might, will probably absorb the cost of this turn. But in the end, the
price of that violence and turn to reactionary radicalism will be most deeply
felt by Kashmiris. One can easily grant the mutilations inflicted by the Indian
state; but these do not have to be compounded by a kind of self-mutilation that
violent terrorism by its nature brings. It may seem cathartic for a while, but
this path hardly contains the seeds of regeneration. We can all remind
ourselves of Sheikh Abdullah’s insight: That the fate of Kashmir inevitably
depends upon the fate of India-Pakistan relations.
A transformation in
that relationship opens up options; hostility in that relationship diminishes
possibilities. It is easy to propose interim steps in Kashmir. But as Vajpayee
used to ask, “yeh sab karega kaun?” No political force is minimally up to the
task. The crisis will deepen as this episode puts a strain on the PDP-BJP alliance.
All we can hope for is that politics throws enough cold water on the heaven
that is on fire. But the sense of foreboding is only growing.
At least 24 people
have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that have broken out in Jammu
and Kashmir after Indian security forces killed a 22-year-old self-proclaimed
Wani, on July 8. Wani, who joined
militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahedin as a teenager and used social media to
post his messages calling for armed resistance, had become a hero of sorts
among young Muslim Kashmiris who chafe at the ill-treatment they face from the army and
the police, who are accused of using excessive force and lacking
accountability. Wani was killed in a gun battle with security forces along with
two other militants. Thousands joined Burhan Wani’s funeral, and anti-government protests started soon after.
These have not been
peaceful demonstrations. Many protesters have hurled rocks and stones at
security force members and damaged public property. At least one police official was killed, and scores injured. Security
forces claim that when they are outnumbered, they are forced to fire live ammunition. But after years of confronting such
protests, it is apparent Indian authorities have still failed to train security
forces to control crowds using non-lethal methods.
problems: Yet it is not just
effective training that is missing. Kashmir is on the boil again because Indian
authorities have neglected to address deep-rooted grievances and end impunity for abuses. It seems that promises of justice
were dropped with the return of peace.
The early 1990s
witnessed similar distraught funerals of Kashmiri militants, followed by the
funerals of protesters killed by security-force gunfire. Pakistan-backed armed
groups altered the nature of the conflict, and for years Kashmiris were forced
to live in fear of these groups as well as the army attempting to hunt them
down. Indian authorities say that very few Pakistani fighters now operate in
the state, and that home-grown Kashmiri militants are responsible for recent attacks.
ignored: It has long been
evident that many young Kashmiris now subscribe to a global Islamic identity that endorses violence. In 2010,
after more than 100 protesters were killed during weeks of clashes with the
security forces, peace was restored with the promise of redress, and a committeewas appointed. But
like many others before it, all recommendations, including the finding of
abuses under the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, were then ignored.
Much greater access to
social media has widened the public rift between those who believe that Burhan
Wani was a martyr and those who considered him a terrorist.
What is clear is that
Burhan Wani is evidence of the failure of successive Indian governments,
whether led by the Congress Party or the now ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as
well Kashmir’s own leadership, to commit to lasting respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir. Only when the rhetoric for
justice meets reality is the violence likely to stop.