Kashmir Is Burning World Is Silent

By Inshah Malik

The continued political conflict in Kashmir is a threat to the existence of peace and security in South Asia, not the rise of any ideology

The imprint ‘Kashmir’ has on the consciousness of a Kashmiri is undeniable and everlasting. As a friend often says “You may leave Kashmir but Kashmir doesn’t leave you,” The youth of Kashmir in the renewed 2010 uprising are facing bullets for stones in their hands. These unequal equations of power and powerlessness on the streets of Kashmir are shaking the conscience of people in almost all the states of India. The activists, defenders of human rights and indigenous peoples’ groups in India are beginning to feel the urgency to address Kashmir uniquely in each state, and in their respective agendas. Networks among civil society and human rights groups are being forged across India for intervening in Kashmir.

In Bombay, after returning from Kashmir that continues to reel in state imposed curfews and killing (69 people, mostly teenagers, killed till date by CRPF and Police), I felt the urgent need to speak out in whatever forums were made available by the conscious citizens and civil rights groups of India. What prompted me to address Kashmir in these platforms was an occasional talk with a common Indian citizen on the train, who casually asked: ‘do we need a passport to go to Kashmir?

Unawareness about ‘Kashmir Issue’ in the civil society of India, as Swami Agniwesh said in his interview to a local newspaper in Kashmir, is a huge concern. This concern is not restricted to civil society alone, but is in fact manifold. A common man who spends half of his day moving to and fro on a train for earning a living is understandably ignorant about Kashmir, while elite intellectuals and an AC office dweller in metropolitan city seem to be arrogant and reluctant to accept the ground realities of Kashmir. Can it be dismissed as a simple unawareness about Kashmir among the civil society in India, or is it “forced ignorance” which of course benefits the state?

A friend, who returned from Scotland to India, was disturbed by the question a Scottish woman asked her there in a conference, “Do Indians have access to internet as some year’s back even toilets were missing in India? My friend labeled this as jealously, but I interrupted, “It comes from the knowledge that their country allowed to be disseminated among their citizens about India”.

It’s true about India that it’s a country where there is access to internet and at the same time no toilets are available in almost half of India. But why is it that people there would know about the darker side of the ‘other’ which is a bit exaggerated? The state chooses carefully what its population must know and keeps other information inaccessible. The same friend talks about the ‘beauty of Kashmir’ for hours and is equally ignorant about what has been happening in Kashmir ever since 1947.

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When you ask a common Indian about the Arab world, the immediate reaction is wealthy sheikhs, multiple wives, women’s subjugation etc. Most of it may be true, but India also has mutually beneficial relationship with the Middle East. Arab world provides employment to a huge section of southern states but this fact is not bought upon a common Indian’s consciousness because these stereotypes feed into the existent myth of ‘Islam as an enemy’. The result is that the State is the beneficiary of this forced ignorance. The jingoistic nationalism blossoms from the ‘Us against them’ discourse which leads to acceptance of state as a sovereign entity which is unquestionable and cannot be contested.

The awareness about Kashmir in the civil society of India can be summed up in a single sentence: “It is a beautiful place and a hub of terrorism”. And then the intellectual class in India questions Kashmir’s ‘victimhood’. The solutions are narrowly reduced to ‘economic packages’, the best the Indian State can do for Kashmir. Why does intelligentsia function in this corrupt routine? No deliberations are made by the intelligentsia to dig deeper into the Kashmir fiasco. There are only two reasons for this premeditated arrogance, either intelligentsia is a beneficiary of the Indian state or Intelligentsia is a ruling class in India. Both are correct. Recently a meeting on Kashmir in Mumbia was addressed by Bashir Manzar, a Kashmiri journalist and editor of Kashmir Images newspaper. His talk exposed me to the critical nature of the intellectual arrogance in India. The accepted fact is that there have been over one lakh deaths in Kashmir since 1989, but during his speech he reduced the number to 50,000 only. Why? Because 50,000 is an official figure and no one quotes such figures unless they have access only to government reports, or one restricts to these figures alone as downplaying the facts lead to some personal benefits.

Intellectual arrogance twists the truth

Tossing into Kashmir discussions the fundamentalism and radicalism of Islam as a threat to existence to Indian state as a whole is a gross exaggeration, and only comes from the fascist global understanding of Islam as an enemy. But many of the radical thinkers in India still buy this view because it justifies the false filming around the Kashmir issue and also clears up their personal conscience and eradicates their duty towards humanity. When the experts from Kashmir are implanted in Bombay for consciously re-establishing lies about Kashmir by enforcing readymade answers via the media and intelligentsia, this feeds into the ignorance of a common Indian citizen continuously. And that has been happening ever since 1947. The current youth uprising is a political movement, which is an established fact on the ground. And it has happened before as well, in 1989. It is time to listen to the streets in Kashmir and understand with an open mind what the Indian state has been doing in Kashmir over the years.

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Kashmir has been presented as a ‘Kashmir threat’ to the common people in India to an extent that the ‘threat’ is accepted as truth. The Indian intelligential which does not know what the people of Kashmir are looking for, or how the youth movement is evolving and emanating, reflects poorly on such intelligentsia which is a ruling class unable to interpret the concerns of the young who are out on the streets of Kashmir.

“What kind of Azadi do they want?” Such questions are often naively raised by the Indian civil society and media. Every wall in Kashmir reflects the desperation of the youth to do away with the occupational hegemony of Indian state. Every stone is hurled as a cry for justice and freedom denied to the people. Azadi is a state of mind where one is not questioned in his or her own homeland by an outsider. In Kashmir this has been a social reality for decades now. The young in Kashmir can’t make the difference between Indian state and the civil society because the everyday reality of Indian army is his or her only awareness. The youth has grown under the shadow of gun. Every death is counted as a contribution to achieve this ultimate ‘state of mind’, which they call Azadi or Freedom.

In Kashmir the blame of brutality suffered by the youth and the shame of the denial of justice does not only end at the door of the Indian state alone. The responsibility of the crimes against humanity committed by the Indian sate in Kashmir also lies equally on the Indian intelligentsia, which is part of the ruling party politics in India and is a beneficiary of the state.

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The Indian intelligentsia discusses ‘Kashmir’ post independence

Such discussions are consuming the energies of the concerned Indian intelligentsia these days. Whether Kashmir can sustain on its own or would be taken-over by the threat that they construct as ‘radical Islamic fundamentalism’? In this regard only two prepositions could be offered. If Kashmir intends to become an Islamic state, such states can be secular in its functionality as well. Here the point is not what brand of Islam to subscribe but the acceptance is sought around the fact that explicit religious humanism is realistic and very much inscribed by the prophetic teachings. But if one understands the discrepancies of the politics of religion today, then the idea of religious state stands void.

Blaspheming and seeing religion as a threat to the existence per say is a hyperbole. What is a threat to the existence of the South Asian Peace and security is the continued Political conflict in Kashmir, and not rise of any ideology. The threat continues to be the flourishing arms trade, and no one seems to question this weird reality. The overemphasis on the ‘Secular democracy’ in Kashmir by the Indian intellectuals basically emanates from the failure of Indian state for executing either of them. Secularism and democracy both originate from moral richness of the society. Even then Secularism needs to provide space for religion and respect the rights and concerns of all religions alike. If one goes by the fact that religion is a personal experience, then why demonize the personal expressions of faith? Such debates only ignore the bigger reality in Kashmir.

Given the widespread stereotypes and ignorance about the ground realities in Kashmir, presenting Kashmir as ‘victim’ in the consciousness of Indian society will still take a lot of time and effort. And until that happens, there is no moving forward.

Kashmir continues to make itself heard globally but sadly it needs more innocent lives from the street of Kashmir to end the ‘forced ignorance’ and ‘intellectual arrogance’ in India. There is no life of dignity in Kashmir, and street will not retreat till it catches the Indian society and intelligentsia by its moral conscience.

Inshah Malik is a PhD scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.  She has been working on Genderand ongoing conflict in Kashmir. She is also actively writing about people’s issues through various platforms. She is at present working on political economy of Kashmir.

Inshah is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.

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