As any student of literature will aver, the theoretical question of why one writes, and for whom, is pored over quite early in an undergraduate programme. That is the question, transplanted onto journalism and Kashmir, one must by now face. What is the point, a part of me still asks, despite my past years of working in the India media, of this brief column? Do I still have residual hopes of inflecting Indian public opinion on Kashmir? The issue isn’t quite resolved; but do be aware there is a debate in Kashmir that Kashmiris should boycott all forms of Indian media.
That’s a minor illustration of a basic, irreducible reality in Kashmir: it’s not namby-pamby alienation that Kashmiris have vis-a-vis India (or, more precisely, the Indian state), it’s visceral hatred of probably the most brutal and deceptive occupations in modern times. A hatred generated by decades of being humiliated, cheated, oppressed, raped, tortured, jailed, killed...then being told we are the terrorists/fundamentalists, or being asked to ‘move on’, or believe in something called ‘Indian democracy’. This isn’t rooted in anger or hatred alone. It has deeper roots in the idea of, and struggle for, justice and freedom. Here, militants, including the hugely loved Burhan Wani, are freedom fighters against a brutal Indian force (perhaps you think rape, torture, using human shields et al, with laws to protect you, is bravery; that bulletproof-vested, machine-guns-toting Indian forces sitting in fortified vehicles ‘daring’ teenagers with stones in their hands is bravery?). And when they die, given the inevitability of one Indian soldier for ten Kashmiris, they die as heroes.
You are so far gone in your internalised propaganda, or plain anti-Muslim bigotry, or, among the best of you, that comical belief in ‘Indian democracy in Kashmir’, that you actively or by default support savage repression of a popular movement for freedom. You see Pakistan and ISIS, maybe ‘plain’ Islam, in a pre-teen kid throwing stones. You are so whataboutery-ridden, you will parrot the ‘Kashmiri Pandit’ theme, or mumble geopolitics, or garbled political history, or voter lines, or ‘secular India’, just not to talk of military occupation, of UN resolutions, the right of Kashmiris to a plebiscite, the right of a people to determine their own future, in order to elide what your state, with your support, actually does in Kashmir. You are probably by now asking, ‘How dare he write this!’
But that’s exactly what the understanding of those teenagers in the streets of Kashmir is, that’s why they again and again, periodically, risk death and maiming just to throw that stone, laden with all that knowledge and utter rejection, at your representatives. You will keep believing the farces of your state and rabid media: it’s just a trust/democracy deficit; it’s unemployment; a marginal vested-interest section instigated by Islamists and ISI; or even that kids get Rs 500 to be killed or maimed for life. Or variations thereof.
As I said, you are far gone.
This is a generation that’s likely to bash me on the head if I try to speak of not going out to be killed and maimed. A generation that has clarity on where its self-respect and dignity lies. One that’s unafraid of the bogeys and horrors you have visited upon Kashmiris to control and suppress them. This is a generation that knows precisely what the symbols of occupation are, who its representatives are, even locally. A generation that, while being systematically killed and maimed, knows perfectly well that (as will happen) when protester fatigue sets in, the police state will file FIRs and PSAs against their maimed bodies. That a hundred hounds of demonisation and delegitimisation will again be let loose on them. Yet, they will be in the streets again with that stone in their hand next time.
I’m just telling you what they think. I’m telling you, for them, you’re the Indian equivalent of the rabid, deranged Israeli settler dancing as phosphorous bombs melt the skin of Gaza’s children. The Israelis, at least, are clear in their hatred. You occupy and pretend it’s democracy.
Now, just what purpose did writing this serve?
(Former Outlook staffer Najeeb Mubarki has also worked at The Economic Times and Kashmir Reader.)