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Even if J&K crackdown makes liberals cringe, we must support govt fight against insurgency

In Kashmir, the most we can do is to insist that civil liberties be restored and that there are no excesses in establishing rule of law.

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There can be no two opinions about the Indian state using its full might to bend the people of Kashmir to its own will. The Valley has endured civil disobedience, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, militancy and insurgency over the past three decades. The Narendra Modi government claims to have taken measures – draconian, no doubt – in order to curb the insurgency and to restore order.

The claims ring hollow, given that the Modi government has been following this exact hardline strategy for the last five years with little success. On the other hand, liberals in India are concerned about the latest military crackdown, but are divided over everything else. True liberals cannot favour the insurgency, in any circumstance. They also oppose the crackdown as an assault on civil liberties. Is there a middle ground for liberals in this situation?

Also read: Modi says new era has begun in Kashmir. Just like Indira Gandhi did almost 50 years ago

Aim of current insurgency

Kashmir is an enigma with many layers of complexity. It is impossible to trace the first issue and work one’s way up. There is no one right or wrong side in the many disputes that Kashmir has seen. Its history is an open book, even if contested. Let us concede that, over the last 70 years, the state, driven by liberals and conservatives, has tried many different ways to integrate the Valley into the national mainstream, but with little success. The current insurgency is a culmination of that failure. Does that mean we give up? What happens if we do?

What is the ‘opposition’ in the Valley fighting for, and what happens if it is allowed to win? The current insurgency did not manifest overnight. Nor can it be blamed entirely on the current players in the opposition, who are basically teens and young adults, that have seen nothing but life under the jackboots of a coercive state. The resistance has seen evolving aims and methods, including a phase where it was entirely driven by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. But let us examine just the current insurgency. What is its aim?

The narrative in the Valley runs something like this. The Indian state systematically distrusts and discriminates against Muslims. It suspects their fealty. As a result, it denies them the usual liberties and civil rights that are due to citizens. Muslims should therefore constitute themselves as an Islamic community, demand a state of their own, complete with a state religion, Islamic law and Islamic culture.  The ‘opposition’ wants Independence from India but is unlikely to remain independent without India, because it will be swallowed up by Pakistan. Some of them may even welcome that. Make no mistake here. While the movement for independence was inspired by denial of legitimate liberties and civil rights, what the ‘opposition’ now wants to build in its place is anything but a haven of liberty and civil rights. It is openly demanding an Islamic theocracy – not just for the Muslims in the Valley, but for every other citizen in Jammu & Kashmir. How can liberal opinion support such an outcome even as we oppose the state’s jackboots?

What are liberals fighting for

Liberals cannot dissociate themselves from the outcome of their preferred approach to the problems in Kashmir. As liberals, we cannot see ourselves supporting a theocracy – whether Islamic or Hindu or Christian. So, even if the crackdown makes us cringe, we must support the fight against the current insurgency. Liberals would prefer an outcome that eventually restores rule of law, civil liberties and democracy to the troubled land and its people. But we must also accept that getting there is uncertain, very problematic, and fraught with many dangers. We cannot pretend we are not fighting a war, or that there will be no innocent bloodshed. Like it or not, we are at war, and we are at a war for a good cause, however regrettable that might be. We must not confuse our squeamishness about use of violence with love of liberty.

Partisan politics unfortunately clouds issues. Clutter overwhelms substance. Worse, the Modi regime’s penchant for blaming everybody, except its own flawed ideology, for some of our problems elicits strong aversion to even its legitimate actions. Confusion abounds. For instance, while we cannot accept an Islamic theocracy in the Valley, it is hard not to note that some in the ruling party are indeed bent on converting India itself into a Hindu theocracy. Nor is it possible to rule out the fact that the Modi regime’s own ‘all-out’ military methods over the last five years have helped the resistance in the Valley morph and metastasize from a militancy into a locally driven, full-blown, insurgency.

Indeed, there is evidence that such a hardline approach was part of a deliberate strategy to not only drive the Valley into a corner, but also use it as a device to further polarise opinion in the rest of the country. Also, fighting the insurgency doesn’t mean we ignore the risks that arise from it. Most of these risks are being ignored by the Narendra Modi government.

Also read: Indian Muslims know what is going on in Kashmir only too well — their will is being broken

The Kashmirisation of India

The geopolitical risks of the Modi government’s Kashmir move are obvious. We can put them aside for a while and confine ourselves to the internal dimensions of war in Kashmir.

We have major problems arising out of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the northeast. Hate propaganda and communal polarisation through lynching of innocent Muslims in the cow belt continue unabated. Modi hasn’t yet found time to appropriately condemn them, much less bring them to a halt. Vitriolic speeches by the ruling party members are the order of the day. Workers are losing jobs in an economy that wasn’t creating new jobs in the last five years.

In such a vitiated and communally charged atmosphere, what is to prevent “Kashmirisation” of India instead of the desired of “Indianisation” of Kashmir – as Pratap Bhanu Mehta put it – which is the key objective of the war against insurgency in Kashmir? Many divisive issues lie in wait to entrap us in hate, ranging from Ram Mandir to Uniform Civil Code.

They lit the fire, but too many

No sensible government lights multiple fires all at once. This government has done precisely that. In its single-minded pursuit of communal polarisation to drum up support for its Hindutva agenda and to recast the very basis of our nationhood into the mould of its unitary dystopia, the Modi government has mindlessly pursued the politics of hate. Vilification and demonisation of Muslims continue even as the need is to unite all citizens in our fight against a dangerous insurgency in Kashmir.

The government’s strategy and execution are flawed. It carries the grave risks of sparking unrest without the capacity to contain it.

India’s polity has entered a dark tunnel with no end in sight. The concatenation of issues and events threatens to overwhelm our ideals of liberty, freedom and fraternity. Religious bigotry rules the roost. The BJP’s narratives have warped minds and filled hearts with prejudice. Consequently, liberals need to compel the government to dial down on hatemongering and demonisation of Muslims. The rabble in the ruling party is already toying with incendiary narratives in their premature triumphalism. There is barbaric chatter about Kashmiri land and women. Liberals must conserve their limited resources to fight these dangerous fires.

In Kashmir, the most we can do at this stage is to insist that civil liberties are restored at the earliest and that there are no excesses in establishing rule of law. There is much to be done without having to scratch at history’s wounds. Kashmir’s fires will not be contained if we let the BJP fan the flames to spark fires elsewhere.

Also read: Lt Gen Nanavatty’s Kashmir roadmap was prophetic. He now calls Modi govt move ‘a bold step’

Sonali Ranade tweets @sonaliranade. Sheilja Sharma tweets @ArguingIndian. Views are personal.

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    That the Kashmir people have always been secular, the expulsion of the our Hindu pundit brothers were a blot, I make no excuse for it.
    The Indian government some say created a fear psychosis by the frequent announcements to leave the valley, this did not help.
    But if you ask the average Kashmiri he like me will hang his head in shame for the attacks made in his name. There is no deep hatred.
    The government should have ensured that the Kashmiri pundit was safe, very few of the 300,000 para military and police in the valley were deployed to protect the KP. But the consensus in the valley was that it was a shame, there were no cheering, there is not hatred towards the KP. This despite the fact The KP were our landlords and rulers, the people of Kashmir were treated worse than serfs right from the time of Gulab Singh beside 200,000 people died in Jammu in riots organised by the RSS and Hari Singh.
    But there is no hate in the valley that is because we have no Muslim version of the RSS poisoning minds.
    The people of Kashmir have always suffered and that includes the Pundits. This time we will ensure our brother Kashmiri is protected.
    Our esteemed PM Modi has said than more then 40,000 deaths have been caused by the conflict, but this may be a gross underestimate
    I would like to summarise these deaths taking the UN’s own figures
    Between 1989-2009, the actions of India’s military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir have resulted in 8,000+ enforced and involuntary disappearances and 70,000+ deaths, including through extrajudicial or “fake encounter” executions, custodial brutality, and other means.
    Lawyers have reportedly filed 15,000 petitions since 1990, inquiring, largely unsuccessfully, into the location and health of detainees and the charges against them. Over 5000 rapes were registered.
    Remove AFSPA unearth the mass graves, bring the perpetrators from the security forces to justice.
    Then perhaps we can invite the Kashmiri people to talk, but given the Record of the Butcher Of Gujarat Modi, honestly do you think any Muslim of Kashmir finds joining India an enticing prospect. Would you like living as a Muslim in India? second class citizen

    • Your Jihad propaganda is ineffective. Burhan Wani made even mild mannered, moderate Hindus wanting to crush Kashmir Jihad.
      Don’t flatter yourself claiming this is “freedom struggle” and you are Gandhi or Bhagat Singh😂.

      • Subhasis
        I agree with you,
        it was not the people in the valley but the militants that did these wicked acts, I understand how you feel and your pain. I also have lost loved ones so, believe me I can empathise.
        The actual Pain and suffering has no race or religion, we feel it equally as human beings. My Allah bless you and and take you in his arms.

    • Burhan Wani was open about his religious motivation and his hatred for others. Syed Gilani has publicly demanded an Islamic state repeatedly. There is simply *no* way you can create a secular cause out of something that is communal and deeply offensive. Many of those who called Article 370 a ‘sham’ are the same people complaining now that it is gone. There is a respectful place for Muslims in India that is equal to everybody else – but not where special laws and autonomy is granted because of religion.

    • Indian ne ye kiya indian ne wo kiya. Kashmiri to sab doodh ke dhule hain, aur musalman to kabhi kuch bura kartee hi nahi. Ye sab nautanki aur emotional blackmail bahut ho gaya. The simple and straight road ahead is :
      1. Learn to live as equals, you are not special.
      2. Don’t go around threatening violence.
      3. Live in peace and harmony with others .
      Do those things and everyone can live happily ever after.

  2. The world is watching intently, although Pakistan and China alone have reacted strongly. It considers all of J & K to be a disputed territory, on the ledger of the UN, its future to be decided by India and Pakistan through peaceful bilateral dialogue. And in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, Secretary Clinton had added hurriedly, on the prompting of an aide. Our position now seems to be there is no dispute, no need for dialogue with Pakistan, all that the Simla Accord left to be finalised was the return of PoK – and the scenic Gilgit Baltistan – to India. As far as the Kashmiri people are concerned, from willingness for dialogue within the framework of the Indian Constitution, PM ABV widening its ambit to Insaaniyat ke daayre mein, PM PVNR raising his hands to enfold the sky, they are now on par with the residents of Dadra & Nagar Haveli. So long as there is peace between nuclear armed India and Pakistan and no serious loss of life in the Valley, the world will mind its own business. It is in our own interest not to enmesh it in our issues.

    • Let’s take your argument and agree that India and Pakistan should talk. Now my questions to you: Do you sincerely believe that (1) ISI will NOT create trouble and indoctrinate youth in the valley if greater federalism is exercised? (2) that any civilian Pak government that settles the Kashmir issue with India will make it a peaceful region…no more PULWAMAs? (Ref. Simla, Agra and Lahore initiatives by India and most of all the tacit agreement to status quo after 1948 by INDIA; (3) If Kashmir were to become an independent country, ISI and Pakistan’s military establishment will disband and go home to sleep PEACEFULLY …mission accomplished.

      I can raise many questions, but these are fundamental. Please see the common thread in these three questions: (1) deep distrust bordering on hatred on both sides; and (2) Pakistan’s rouge psychology akin to North Korea. Now, is Indian government and general public responsible for these?

      Now coming to the most important point: Muslims. Chidambaram said BJP wouldn’t have taken this step if this were a Hindu dominated state. Can we ask him, whether Pakistan would have meddled so much in this state if it were a Hindu state? Does Pakistan ready to own and adopt all Muslims in this world? Are they their religious community’s self-appointed guardian in this world? A country that refused to take back its soldiers, is trying to be the guardian of Kashmiri muslims.

    • I would also request you to drop this line of yours: “the world is watching…” Geopolitics is NOT moral and the whole world knows it. The world was also watching the Vietnam war, was also watching the Iraq war and is now watching Hong Kong as well. Get rid of our inferiority complex OR go live in the West to get over this Western world fixation of yours. You might become a true Indian before you even realise.

    • Is the world watching intently? Dear Mr Ashok (who has no surname), the world simply has no time for a small district in a far away land. The original sin was the religious separation of this country. Thereafter, we went to the UN and said this is a dispute. Why may I ask? A letter from Nehru says he did not want to win POK because Shaikh Abdulla was not very confidant the Mirpury Muslims there would vote for India.
      So far so good. In 1972, Mrs G yielded to Mr Bhutto’s entreaties and we have the Shimla accord saying this is a bilateral issue. It was inviting the Bull to gore you very thoroughly. This is happening with regularity ever since then. Do you ever imagine the Khalistan problem was resurrected from the partition era by the Sikhs from Canada alone? The rulers of Pakistan did it.
      In spite of such history the illiterate (in history at least) liberals continue to espouse full liberties to the Kashmiri Jihadis. I pity our nation. The too educated have no clue other than their pop culture knowledge that America had an anti-Vietnam war movement. Oh Lord! when will these people will ever learn that realpolitik has to run often illiberally? Did the liberal icons Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton ask the Pakistani stakeholders before they hit Osama bin Laden?

  3. One has never understand this recent trend of reducing all serious matters of governance to a simple, artificially constructed binary between Liberals and whatever its converse may be called. India is run from Raisina Hill, not Khan Market. The liberals / intellectuals / people of erudition, culture and a social conscience have no power or executive authority. They cannot even patrol the back roads at night, lying in wait for cattle traders to lynch. They have the power of their thoughts and beliefs, which it is now becoming politically correct and rewarding to mock. Quite a few people of consequence may not have read a good book, would struggle to work their way through a fine edit. 2. Now to Kashmir. Even without whatever role Pakistan plays in the Valley – and some may have begun to play in Hong Kong or Moscow – there is a problem. Euphemisms like “ misguided youth “ and “ alienation “ will not cut it. If there is so much popular disaffection – see the number of people who turn up for the funerals of militants – deal with it politically.

  4. I fully agree. The people of Kashmir supported insurgency and bleed the national economy. Let them feel the pinch what is suffering. Gorkhaland movement continued for more than 60 days and finally people surrendered. Now peace is restored and everyone happy. Now it is time for the people of Kashmir to pay the price for insurgency that will be lesson in history for every nations in world. Country cannot bow down to terrorists and stone pelters.

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