by Prof M A Sofi 7 July 2020
The theme that I broach in this write-up revolves around my strong and long-held belief and shared across the board in Kashmir that ‘without recourse to the long regime of games played by various governments at the Centre through these past seventy years, Kashmir would have been far more tractable than what has been made of it in recent decades’.
Ever since 1947, on naked display has been the full might of the state, having been brought to bear upon Kashmiris through the use of unprecedented firepower and state machinery especially over the past 30 years. That has already consumed more than a hundred thousand lives, most of them being innocent civilians, apart from the colossal damage to the property and nearly all aspects of what constitutes a modern society. The question that demands answers is this: how is it that Kashmiris have refused to relent, unwilling to acquiesce in to the dictates of those who have pushed them to such a dehumanising state of their existence? On the contrary, if there is one thing that these tactics have achieved for India, it is that every single Kashmiri including those who, until not long time ago, would see a safe and secure future in India, has over time turned into a staunch India basher who has been unwittingly taught by these self-same circumstances to love to hate the idea of India.
In an attempt to answer the above question, it should help matters to recall what exactly is it that powers the Indian political Establishment to go for the overkill in Kashmir. The plea that all of Jammu and Kashmir including that under the Pak administration is an integral part of India, does not wash, however. And this for the simple reason that the forcible occupation of this part of Kashmir by India stands out as illegal and illegitimate as the occupation of the other part of Kashmir by Pakistan in the midst of the elemental churning of events in 1947. And that makes a strong case, not for the two countries to retain what has been illegally annexed by them in their respective dominions in 1947, but for the warring neighbours to get together in an effort to decide the future of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, preferably under the auspices of a world body like the United Nations. Sadly, it is India that has dithered on the issue of coming to the negotiating table to seal the issue once and for all. It is in the light of this unwillingness on the part of India that a new thinking began to emerge within the Kashmiri leadership of which Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (SMA) happened to be the undisputed leader in Kashmir at that point in time. It redounds to his credentials as the undisputed leader of Kashmir of that era that in spite of being painfully conscious of the massive support that the idea of Kashmir going with Pakistan enjoyed among the masses in Kashmir, he gave a practical shape to this new thinking and chose to throw in his lot with India in 1947.
The big question that begs the answer is this: why did he choose to go against the tide at a time when he could have as well gone for the more natural, more practical and much easier option of going with Pakistan. Surely, his proximity and a good personal chemistry with Pt. Nehru and his family may have been an important factor, but there were other factors too. Fast forward, why did he do it again when he had signed the accord with Indira Gandhi and taken over as the J&K chief minister in 1975, even as he was betrayed by her father in 1953? The point is this: in all that he did right from 1947, Kashmiris had willy-nilly supported him through most of the post-1947 history of Kashmir, and not in the least because he had chosen to spurn Pakistan. On the contrary, it was mainly because Kashmiris had reposed complete faith and trust in him and in his promises that he would work out an arrangement within the union of India where internal autonomy was accorded to Kashmir that Nehru and his team had willingly pledged and personally endorsed under the terms of agreement surrounding the annexation of Kashmir to India. Regrettably, this pledge was never redeemed as the GOI had repeatedly reneged on its commitments, first when SMA was unceremoniously removed from office and then incarcerated for eleven years in 1953, only because he had expressed his unease with the way the Central Govt. was seen falling back on its promise to grant autonomy to the state.
Never content with playing games in Kashmir and in a repeat of the 1953 coup’detat, they did it again in 1984 when Farooq Abdullah’s Govt. was toppled after a late night drama that witnessed defections in the party which were insidiously engineered at the behest and prodding of the Central Govt. in concert with his brother in law, G M Shah who was installed as the new chief minister of J&K. Never willing to learn lessons learn from their past misadventures in Kashmir, they were at it again in 1987 when the real push had come to shove. This time around, people had voted enmasse in favour of the MUF -Muslim United Front – a new conglomerate of political parties that had attracted a lot of traction among the Kashmiri masses as it had come to be recognised as a party that represented the aspirations of the people, at least of the valley. This new political formation certainly had it in it to pose a formidable challenge to the mainstream political leadership in 1987 when the Govt. of India saw red and showed its unease with the emerging trends which had predicted a landslide victory for the MUF. That was not going to be acceptable to the Indian state which sought to subvert the popular mandate by rigging the results like never before through their henchmen mainly drawn from the National Conference which was being propelled as the main contender for power then. In a display of brazen state power marked by absolute contempt for the electoral process in Kashmir, it was so deftly arranged by the government agencies that while the counting was still in progress, the formal announcement was made of the MUF candidates having lost the election, while those from the NC who were actually trailing by a long margin, were being declared as the winners. It was at this point of time that the first signs of deep distrust of and a complete loss of faith in the Indian electoral process were beginning to become visible which had led to a first batch of young Kashmiris deciding to pick up the gun to ‘settle scores’. That for them was reason enough to cross the border to get training in the use of firearms.
What has happened in Kashmir thereafter has been a long saga of trial and tribulations as the ‘greatest’ bequest of the Indian electoral democracy to Jammu and Kashmir. The fact is that as opposed to other life affirming components of democracy, the electoral part which constitutes a vital ingredient of it, has been the greatest nemesis of participatory democracy, as has also been our experience in the recently held elections in mainland India. This is to be seen across the countries and nations, but not as conspicuously – and to such a devastating effect – as in India where it is precisely this ‘first past the post’ logic of electoral democracy that has given its practitioners the carte blanche to brazen their way into bulldozing the entire constellation of democratic institutions, including especially the judiciary, the police and other investigating agencies and not the least, the print and the electronic media. With this massive destruction of the symbols of democracy, this country has been witnessing moments of descent into anarchy where instances of instant justice in the form of lynching at the instance of frenzied mobs has not been an uncommon occurrence.
The impact of subversion of the constitutional propriety has nowhere been as deleterious as in the valley of Kashmir. How else would one account for forcing down our throat the sort of things that have no takers in Kashmir because they are considered repugnant to the culture, the ethos and the tradition of Kashmir. My reference is to a recent govt. notification pertaining to liquor shops being thrown open at 64 designated locations in the Kashmir valley. Contrast this with their stubborn refusal to restore the fundamental rights of Kashmiris involving the right to life and property, the right to employment, the right to conducting business and not the least, the right to access to the communication channels. Only because they are mortally afraid of restoring these latter life affirming provisions of the Indian constitution while gleefully going overboard to corrupt and disempower the youth of Kashmir by getting them to indulge in such toxic vices as drinking, drugs, gambling and things like that. That is exactly what suits the game plan set forth by the policy pimps who are not capable of doing better than setting this place and the country on fire.
It is in this milieu that speaking the truth has attracted the harshest provisions as otherwise stipulated in the law book to deal with those who spread utter lies and falsehood. Of a piece with this is the flood of fake news which has become the new mantra and which is used to spin a yarn to invent false narratives about Kashmir and similar other stories. Now it is no longer routine to call attention to the myriad ways in which the Govt. has messed it up, say in Kashmir or how it has botched it up while dealing the migrant crisis in the wake of the countrywide lockdown following the Covid-pandemic. This is because those who are supposed to be answerable to the masses have instead devised devious stratagems to mislead them into seeing an “elephantine but an imaginary enemy in the room” who is otherwise no different than one of them, having to contend with the same set of quotidian issues, same aspirations and the same ambition for a life of peace and dignity as them.
The point I wish to highlight is this: Kashmiris had given multiple opportunities to their leaders to arrange for a place of honour and dignity within the Indian union through covenants and instruments of understanding between the two parties which, however, the GOI had repeatedly sought to dishonour over the past seventy years. The mother of all betrayals which was enacted on Aug.5th, 2019 involving the patently illegal and thoroughly unconstitutional abrogation of article 370 and 35A has closed all the doors for Kashmiris to look up to and trust the state of India and its constitution towards reconciliation and rapprochement. It is this long chain of betrayals of the promises made by the union of India to Kashmiris that has been the root cause of the situation as it obtains in Kashmir right now. Not surprisingly, this has led to a massive distrust of India in Kashmir where India has now completely lost its writ, limited though it is to turning Kashmir into the killings fields where the blood of innocents is spilled to such deadly effect and with such impunity on a disturbingly regular basis.
All that has been said above are a fallout of the devious machinations that are being employed by the Indian state to achieve certain objectives which are disjoint from the objective of resolving Kashmir peacefully. Which is why, I have a hunch that the on-going genocide of young Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian security forces is far from being an attempt at restoring peace and tranquillity in the valley by those who are presiding over the complete destruction of this place by resorting to such heinous acts as of mass killings and of destroying properties of those living in the forlorn vale of Kashmir. Had it been so, this place would have been far more calm and peaceful by now than it actually is, notwithstanding the tens of thousands of young Kashmiris having been killed and continue being killed every single month under the ruse of restoring peace to this place.
This forces the following dichotomy: either it’s futile to hope for an end to militancy by adopting this outrageous ‘catch and kill’ policy of the GOI, or that the young Kashmiris are forced by these circumstances to pick up the gun, or equally likely, are tricked, and in the most subtle of ways, into picking up the gun by the self-same security agencies with the sole purpose of engaging and then killing them under the pretext of curbing militancy in Kashmir. This is done with the single-most aim of firming up their support base among the bhakts who constitute their most dependable plank to come in handy as a vote bank where the buck starts and stops for these short-sighted, power hungry ‘nation builders’. How I wish these lessons were not lost on those budding Kashmiri youth who would do themselves and the Kashmir Cause a world of good if they stopped short of pushing themselves in the line of fire by seeing through this deceit and the web of lies being weaved by their tormentors. The coming about of such thinking would be largely facilitated if the Indian govt. and its agencies were to stop looking up to their department of dirty tricks and to rein in their mindless obsession with ‘playing games’ in Kashmir.