by Prof. M. A. Sofi 20 September 2019
Following the farce enacted in the parliament involving the repeal of article 370 through what has been the most daring and ignoble subversion yet of the Indian constitution on Aug.5th, it can’t get more dehumanizing than what the people of Kashmir have been made to go through all these past seven weeks! Only the most gullible would see this macabre drama as a means to settle and seal the K-issue. With the entire population of Kashmir having been denied the civil liberties and forced to remain indoors without access to the essentials of life including food, medicine, milk, mobile and internet connectivity for the seventh week running, what we are witnessing constitutes a violation of the most vicious kind of the human rights ever recorded in recent history anywhere in the world. Leave alone the heavy loss of business worth billions of rupees every single day and scores of those who lost their lives for want of access to the doctor/hospital care, the policy pundits have shown an atrocious lack of touch with the ground reality by fancying such harsh measures to result in a climb down of the people of Kashmir from what is indeed a position of moral strength based on their birth right for a life of honour, liberty and dignity. It is no brainer at all that treating the people here with such absolute contempt and indignity and rendering tens of thousands of them jobless in pursuit of a divisive and hate-filled agenda would soon backfire and to a devastating effect.
Like so many others comprising students, professionals and businessmen whose job depends critically upon access to the internet, I have been constrained willy-nilly to temporarily relocate myself elsewhere in mainland India in order to catch up with a whole lot of work that has got piled up over these past forty five days marked by the state’s recourse to schadenfreude upon the people of Kashmir. On top of it, what comes across as the most galling and extremely baffling is this ludicrously low level of taking a thoroughly unjustified moral high ground by India on an issue where it has completely lost the plot.
I begin with a poser to all those Indians who are exulting in the chutzpah in parliament on Aug.5th and who had rallied behind the BJP to vote it to power in 2014 and more ominously in 2019. How upon earth do they expect justice and development being dispensed by those who have been willing partners in the resurgence of forces of discord, dissonance and divisiveness in the society as has been manifested in the cold blooded murder of scores of innocent Indians in carefully orchestrated communal riots, in fake encounters or in hundreds of cases of lynching of those suspected of the ‘crime’ of storing beef in their refrigerators!
The vast segments of the educated Indians would not escape the judgment which history shall pronounce upon them for having been complicit in the crimes against humanity which are being committed in Kashmir right now by the gang of their chosen leaders.
As the political developments of the past six years of the BJP rule both in Kashmir and in mainland India have amply demonstrated, peace, inclusiveness and mutual co-existence are the sort of undesirable inanities that are unfamiliar to and ring alarm bells in the ears of the Indian political establishment, especially the current one which has pushed this country into the pit of uncertainty and anarchy. By setting the house on fire while falling back on the promises of the founding fathers of the nation involving article 370/35A, the stage has been set for the situation in Kashmir getting far worse in the weeks and months ahead and for Kashmiris continuing to remain deeply suspicious of the Indian state–and now likely to never trust India as a friend and a well-wisher! With the prospects of peace having vanished in the aftermath of Aug.5thth, the resolution of the K-issue has assumed an urgency that has never been felt before and that by no stretch of imagination has ceased to retain its relevance even after the unconstitutional manner in which the abrogation drama was enacted! The obvious question remains: why couldn’t the government take the straight and easier path of breaking the deadlock in Kashmir by reaching out to the people of the state through dialogue, discussion and debate? By choosing to instill fear rather than confidence in a people being perceived as the ‘other’ which has been its stock in trade approach to deal with domestic crises, it has merely ended up complicating matters further which would only get from bad to worse. The contention that the revocation of article 370 is malafide is not only because it is born out of bile and contempt for Kashmiris, but more pertinently on account of the unconstitutionality of the act of abrogation as also a host of other reasons involving an insatiable thirst for ‘teaching Kashmiris a lesson’ for standing up and asking for their human/democratic rights. Or else, the J&K state would not have been singled out for such a shabby treatment even as similar constitutional provisions are already in place in many other states in the union of India including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and some other north eastern states which are not being contemplated for a similar treatment!
How amusing, but appalling all the same, that vast segments of the unconscionably supine Indian media have capitulated to the state propaganda on Kashmir and who are willingly pinning down these dirty tactics of the BJP leadership as part of social engineering of its spin doctors. In reality though, all this is nothing but ruthless exploitation by them of the fault lines in the society involving their adversaries, or those standing on the other side of the fence including the conscious, right thinking Indians who have the verve and courage to call their bluff. There are also those describing the scrapping of article 370 as part of this social engineering and as a political masterstroke in terms of the rich dividends it is expected to pay, but primarily at the hustings as and when the country/states go to polls! Should that indeed be so, then the case of Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and of the slew of fake encounters as alluded to above would come across as masterstrokes of a far superior genre. That is the reason why they can’t think of better ways to deal with the formidable challenges facing the country, including the legions of these involving a shambolic state of its economy, massive corruption, unprecedented unemployment, absence of civic amenities, a lack of investment in measures to deal with the natural calamities including the recent floods which have caused havoc in many parts of the country. As if that is not enough, one has to contend with a spate in crimes against women and other weaker sections of the society that have witnessed an exponential rise during these past five years. In the midst of all of this, look at this total obsession of the ruling establishment with the single most agenda of getting after their imagined ‘enemies’: Kashmiris, Indian Muslims and Pakistan! What use is this pathological obsession with national security, this nauseating ‘nationalist fervor’ when in the name of these inanities, large sections of the population of this country are being held to ransom and made to live in constant fear of being maimed, lynched, killed or incarcerated, not for committing a crime but for being perceived as committing the sin of belonging to a different social/religious ‘denomination’ or for speaking truth to the authority.
Whatever meaning one may wish to attach to being ‘moderate’ in one’s outlook, the latest push involving article 370 has already led to a marginalization of such voices in Kashmir which, I am afraid, would soon manifest itself in these voices yielding space to a maximalist position leading to an uncompromising and non-negotiable stand of otherwise ‘moderate voices’ on the K-issue, a situation likely to be confronted like never before.
While it is natural to feel happy and to take justifiable pride in one’s lineage or religious propinquity, being pushed to be conscious of these ‘accidents of birth’ is both unnatural and illogical. For me, that is reason enough to feel deeply saddened by the thought that never before in my life have I been a witness to countless cases of moderate voices among my compatriots having been subjected to a situation where they have been made to become aggressively conscious of their Muslim/Kashmiri identity with this unprovoked all-out aggression on them and on our home state of Jammu and Kashmir. Like most of them, I have always seen myself as part of the vast humanity, regardless of my roots, lineage, faith, caste, creed or religion.
Sadly that now looks like a thing of the past, considering that sinister plans are already underway to subordinate my identity to a nonentity by various highly questionable means including by seeking to insidiously settle outsiders in Kashmir post the abrogation of 370/35A. This is a dangerous but a calculated attempt by the GOI aimed precisely at effecting a demographic change, of course with the aim of playing low level politics aimed solely at owning up the land of Kashmir and not its people and apart from that, expecting a favorable outcome in the event of a plebiscite in Kashmir, should that ever become inevitable down the line. Knowing and feeling the pulse of this place and of the people living in Kashmir, I am absolutely certain that any attempt at disturbing the current demography in Kashmir ought not to be contemplated as long as Kashmir continues to be a disputed territory – which it doubtless is. Regardless of this move to force the abrogation of 370 and tearing asunder the state into union territories, the disputed nature of the K-issue remains as long as the issue is not sorted out in accordance with the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as guaranteed under the UN charter involving the Security Council Resolutions, or through the instrument of dialogue.
Finally, a word for those who dismiss the SC resolutions of the UN as having run out their course with the passage of time and as a result having become irrelevant. All I wish to tell them is to try applying the same brand of logic to the holocaust and to declare that it need not be condemned as an act of genocide of Jews by Hitler ‘who had the right to do it in the best interests of his nation’! You may perhaps get away by saying so, but be assured that you would do that at the cost of ruing it for the rest of your life!