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Comment: 'Fear rules Kashmir as BJP goes about realising its dream'

Updated September 27, 2018

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The shadow of a Kashmiri protestor throwing stones at Indian soldiers on a wall marked with an anti-India graffiti. — Photo by Showkat Nanda
The shadow of a Kashmiri protestor throwing stones at Indian soldiers on a wall marked with an anti-India graffiti. — Photo by Showkat Nanda

SRINAGAR: The last 71 years have seen [India-held] Jammu and Kashmir groaning under occupation. However, the last four-and-a-half years have been a real testing time for the Kashmiri nation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu chauvinist party, assumed power with a near absolute majority in India in 2014. It was the first time the BJP was able to form a coalition government in Srinagar and then it inched forward to realise its dream of assimilating Kashmir.

Since the very first day of India’s independence, Hindu nationalists have dreamed of merging Kashmir with India. The fascists have for decades schemed to alter the demography of [India-held] Kashmir in order to reduce the Muslims of the state to a minority.

See: Valley of death: Being young and restless in Kashmir

Their diabolical schemes were partially realised when they carried out a pogrom and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Jammu. The survivors and their progeny live scattered across Pakistan in cities like Sialkot, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Karachi and in various parts of Azad Kashmir.

The Hindu right-wing forces, led by the RSS and the BJP, have constantly worked to bring about an erosion of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir guaranteed by the “hereditary state subject law” enacted by Hari Singh, the erstwhile ruler, in 1927 and to force the people of Kashmir into submission.

After coming to power in 2014, the BJP started a systematic campaign to push for the removal of the law. It proposed granting of permanent citizenship to Hindu refugees from Pakistan living in parts of Jammu since 1947, setting up of separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits akin to Israeli West Bank settlements, erecting a walled city for ex-Indian soldiers, and so on.

For Kashmiris, only one choice was left — either to resist or to perish. Kashmiris chose the former and decided to resist like they have been doing since decades. The BJP government’s iron-fist approach to Kashmiri resistance is leading to the extermination of Kashmiri youth.

The biggest irony of our times is that armed struggle has become a taboo when modern states like India unleash violence to curb dissent and systematically use disproportionate force to crush popular resistance.

In the garb of a fraud called the “rule of law”, the oppressing state’s violence is treated as legitimate and the rationale behind the adoption of violent means by the oppressed is not even acknowledged. Kashmir is one such case.

I, along with many others, pioneered an armed resistance in 1988, after every little space for our peaceful democratic resistance was choked. But the international community and Indian civil society persuaded me to give non-violence another chance and I obliged.

Ideally a lesson or two should have been taken from our story. It took me a long and arduous journey through some three thousand villages to gather 1.5 million signatures and to strengthen a culture of non-violent civil resistance in Kashmir.

Results were heartening and in 2008, Kashmiris did what the world wanted them to do — go non-violent.

They believed in global guarantees but unfortunately they were disillusioned.

The international community and Indian liberals abandoned them. And the Indian state repeated what it had done in 1988. It killed hundreds, maimed, tortured, humiliated and incarcerated thousands and adhered to a policy of not allowing space to non-violent resistance.

I travelled clandestinely to many villages in Kashmir recently to avoid arrests, met many families whose loved ones have joined the armed resistance. I wanted to know as to why an increasing number of politically conscious and educated youth in Kashmir had embraced the armed struggle.

The reasons that had pushed my generation to adopt armed resistance in 1988 and the ones behind the new wave of armed resistance were nearly the same. I saw that repression was worse now and last year, after my release from jail, I said in a press conference that non-availability of weapons was discouraging thousands from taking up arms and India should thank its neighbours for not exploiting the situation.

It is a bitter truth of today’s Kashmir. This worries me a lot, but for many this is the only hope and means left by the oppressor. When I hear a mother’s last call to her teenage son, trapped in a firefight with Indian soldiers, asking him to remain steadfast, attain martyrdom and promises to pay any debts the dead son might leave behind, it is heart-breaking.

This is not an ideal situation. I never expected this from any Kashmiri mother, but then, as rightly put by the great Nelson Mandela: “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor.”

Fighting fire with fire

There comes a point when one can only fight fire with fire. So this is what Indian aggression against Kashmiris and Modi’s policies have produced: a more resilient, battle-hardened and ready to die Kashmiri.

Countless deaths in the wake of this cycle of violence is a worrisome situation, but at the same time offers hope that one day the oppressor and its supporters in the wider world would be jolted into seeing reason.

India has used every technology to subjugate the Kashmiri nation. Its use of bullets, pellets, tear smoke and pepper shells, torture centres, intelligence agencies like NIA and jails like Tihar have failed to suppress the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.

Recently governor’s rule was imposed and for the first time in 50 years; Kashmir now has a political governor, Satya Pal Malik.

The Modi government’s objectives are obvious. Ram Madhav, the BJP’s general secretary and in charge of Kashmir affairs, wrote in an article headlined “A suitable governor” on Aug 27: “As governor, his agenda is cut out — accelerating development activity, resolving the governance deficit, and continuing with strong counter-terror measures.

“But what is most important is to kick-start political activity in the state. Elections to local bodies, announced by the outgoing governor Vohra, are an important step in that direction. But they are not enough. The legislators have to be encouraged to actively undertake political and developmental activities in the state.

“It is not the gun of the security forces or the pen of the bureaucrats that should be the permanent feature of governance; it must be returned to the political leadership sooner than later.”

Ram Madahv’s assertions make it clear that the lesson has not been learnt. The Modi government wants the colonial sheriff, in the shape of the new governor, to play political gimmicks but in a different way. “Operation All Out” is to be camouflaged in peace attire. But then a question arises. Will this one-trick pony work for India and the obvious answer is a big NO.

A section of the Indian media circulates stories about Modi’s plan to trifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. Some people argue that local bodies elections which even pro-India parties like the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Communist Party and many others intend to boycott, are part of a strategy to split the region into three zones.

One wonders what India can achieve by doing this. How it can defy international covenants vis-à-vis the Kashmir dispute and how the international community can silently watch these violations.

This new trifurcation slogan is seen by the people of Jammu and Kashmir as another attempt to communalise politics and to confuse the world.

However, as a responsible Kashmiri, I must say that Kashmiris will never accept this communal division of their state.

I will conclude with a quote from Angana P. Chatterji, who wrote in “Kashmir: The Case of Freedom”, that “India all too easily forgets its own history under British rule, and the declaration of its freedom fighters that the oppressor does not have the privilege of judging when a people are deserving of freedom.”

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2018