I have been reading op-ed page articles about the current agitation being led by Kashmiri youth who have grown up under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). While most of these articles talk about the deep sense of alienation among the Kashmiri youth, they often fail to look deeper into the causes and the nature of this alienation. Most of the authors agree that these violent agitations need to be brought under control and end up tacitly endorsing the use of force. I believe that use of force will further alienate the Kashmiri youth.
It is this use of force under AFSPA, a law which enables the army and security forces to wield absolute power over the people and total immunity from accountability, which has made the youth lose all hope and is propelling them to their ’do or die’ struggle today. Calling these protests "agitational terrorism" and "Pakistan sponsored" only helps to obfuscate the reality and moves away from efforts to develop a meaningful understanding the causes and motivation.
I have spoken to many Kashmiris in the age group of 20 to 30 years. They have lived in a situation where, as a young man put it, "anything could happen to you anytime and no-one would come to your help". During the period of continuous "crackdown" between 1990 and 1996, no Kashmiri home was safe. It is said that the army entered every home, shop, school, beat up people indiscriminately, allegedly manhandled and molested women, destroyed almost everything including food stuff, utensils, clothes and furniture, burnt down markets and took away young men, most of whom never came back. These youth have seen the fruitless efforts made by their mothers to find their fathers and brothers. They have witnessed and experienced the humiliation which has a few parallels in recent history. This is the only face of India that the Kashmiri witnessed most of the time.
They do not trust Indian politicians. They have seen how all pro-India politicians of Kashmiri origin from Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad to Mehbooba Mufti have succumbed to the dictates of New Delhi. They have studied their history. They know that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who put Sheikh Abdullah in jail essentially for demanding implementation of what is known as the Abdullah-Nehru agreement or the ’New Delhi Agreement’ of 1952 . They have also seen how Farooq Abdullah betrayed their trust in 1987 by joining hands with the Congress party for the sake of returning to power after his elected government was thrown out by Jagmohan, a Governor sent by Indira Gandhi.
Many concerned writers argue that return to Nehruvian ’secular nationalism’ will help solve Kashmir. I wonder why we forget that it was under Nehru that the project of ’Indianisation of Kashmir’ was initiated. It is the secular nationalists who claimed Kashmir as an integral part of India. This country has democratically empowered a right wing fascist party to govern. It is ruled by a man who as the chief minister of Gujarat had utterly failed to stop the mass killing of Muslims in 2002.
The Kashmiris are well aware that it was the earlier incarnations of this right wing Hindu party which was allegedly behind the massacre of thousands of innocent Muslims in Jammu in 1947/48. And, now PDP has joined hands with this very party. How does one expect the Kashmiri to trust PDP? Mufti’s ’healing touch’ and Vajpayee’s ’insaniyat’ were hollow promises. Manmohan Singh’s ’out of box thinking’ was a sham and the ’dialogue with the separatists’ was an exercise in nothingness.
History shows us that nationalism is essentially a majoritarian ideology- irrespective of whether these are secular, religious or ethnic. It is an institution which is more concerned about property than people. From the beginning Indian nationalism has been trying to crush Kashmiri nationalism as it thought that it was a threat to its claim to absolute sovereignty. The nation state as Hegel said, ’is the march of god on earth’. It kills with impunity.
I believe that the issues raised by the crisis in Kashmir - the right to dignity, right to self governance, right to live without fear - are the same that are important for every Indian. Vast majority of our people have been denied these rights. I believe that the answer to the crisis in Kashmir has to be searched together by all of us. There is an urgent need to build a common front with the people of Kashmir for restructuring the Indian polity from the perspective of the oppressed peoples of India. We should not see the struggle of the people of Kashmir in isolation. We should see it as a part of the struggle for bringing real democracy in this country.