Home What Kashmiris Can Deduce From Recent Events

What Kashmiris Can Deduce From Recent Events

To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition. But that certainly does not mean asceticism or self-mortification. Nor do I appreciate in the least the idealization of the "simple peasant life." I have almost a horror of it, and instead of submitting to it myself I want to drag out even the peasantry from it, not to urbanization, but to the spread of urban cultural facilities to rural areas.”- JawaharLal Nehru[1]

 

J&K is at the centre of attention again. The elected J&K government therefore, has their hands full in the near future with respect to reaching out to Kashmiris in the form of more ‘normalcy’ which in case of Kashmir bears a more nuanced connotation compared to other states of India.  Although the state government is in no way the sole responsible actor, the Centre needs to afford the government enough space to resume the business of governance without any more damages to its credibility and freedom of action. The state government needs to leave the question of security and foreign affairs to the Centre and focus solely on incremental steps to first resume and then improve contact with the polity.

The State government needs to switch to a PR strategy of GulGulshanGulfaam- ‘Flower, Garden and Gardener’ in the short term; such a label because the state government needs to first communicate to the polity, the more delicate business of reopening schools, shops, businesses under the circumstances and further communicate to the people that the Indian federal constitution is not designed to homogenize, dominate or stifle Kashmiri culture or way of life. Subject to the incremental positive responses in different districts and areas, ‘normalcy’ should be resumed. Certain Kashmiris have a feeling of being singled out; butany form of violence by any citizen across the length and breadth of India is not permitted by law. The Indian state has failed to hold that law to consistency across the nation, in case of certain individual cases across the country,but there is not enough evidence to suggest that the Indian state is systematically and selectively using it against the whole of the valley. Therefore, the question of designated areas of peaceful protest is pertinent for a certain section of Kashmiri citizens to consider for voicing their political grievances.

India is not in denial about the grievances and passions about a certain section of Kashmiri citizens but it is simply unlawful in India to employ unconstitutional methods of violent protest. While that might sound patronizing and condescending to certain sections of Kashmiris who nurse grievances against the Indian state, abandoning such unconstitutional methods is the only way forward. The difficulty of policing needs to be acknowledged. Finally reducing micro aggressions[2], the importance of 370 and affording space to the two parties of J&K- PDP and NC - needs to be considered thoroughly by the Indian authorities. The Governor’s office is an important and experienced institution well versed with the Kashmiri political situation in this particular aspect.

J&K is a state with a history but the instrumentalization of history through selective narratives by various sides has also caused problems in the state. The Kashmiris need to continue their agency at the micro-level in going about their daily business. It is not ‘normal’ in the conventional sense but subject to the resolution of the problem. Till then, Kashmiris need to reclaim individual agency to carry on with their lives. This is as much a question for Kashmiri people themselves to seriously consider as much as it is for the politicians.

The Indian army on its part is there for a reason and that reason is not to occupy Kashmiris but to carry out counter terrorist operations. The political solution cannot come through India alone but also through the policies of Pakistan. And since those policies have moved in the opposite direction, Kashmiris need to find local modus operandi to not remain hostage to that fact with respect to their day-to-day business.

The complete absence of common knowledge, university ecosystems and cultural events organized and attended by locals is a question of concern. A cultural Kashmiri renaissance reviving the cultural and educational heritage of vintage Kashmir to the new generation is extremely important. It is important that the drivers, focal point and catchment areas of such events are the locals themselves. There is a siloization of the different districts themselves. Greater interaction among the Kashmiris themselves should be an important priority for Kashmiri stakeholders.

The most important aspect is increased participation in party building and making the two parties more representative and receptive. PDP and NC have two young leaders who will contribute immensely to democracy in Kashmir along with vigorous criticism to hold each other accountable.

Optimal solutions are far but mitigation strategies are the need of the hour. The policies of beef ban, socio-economic projects are all too familiar aspects that can be rectified but the main challenge is political communication. Unless the challenge of political communication is taken head on, the central communication gap will continue to derail the other aspects.

The threats of the instigators under which certain Kashmiris[3] are not allowed to defy separatist calls for bandhs are an important factor but so is a gap between Indian army and the polity. This gap needs to be bridged so that the nature of AFSPA as an operational law against urban guerilla militants as opposed to a law of impunity can be communicated to the Kashmiris and the subsequent potential for misuse curbed.

To conclude, what Kashmiris can deduce is that modern India’s[4] own constitutionalism, unionism and secularism are linked to the British implementation of the dubious two-nation theory. The Pan-Indian collective project has also been tackling poverty incrementally from the first day of independence and making rapid strides.

After partition violently bisected pre-partition community, the desire to build a unified, yet diverse, Indian society took something of the nature of an ideology[5]. For Nehru, aided in this mission by Patel, the project of unity entailed the creation of a rational, scientific citizen, unmarked by “narrowness and intolerance, credulity and superstition, emotionalism and irrationalism, (religious) temper of a dependent, unfree person[6]” as well as “the need to forget these in the interests of unity”[7]. This was the path to achieving the promise of an India that was a “Union of States”; an objective entrenched in the very first article of the Constitution.


The Author is an Associate Fellow at CLAWS. Views expressed are personal.

References

[1] Nehru, J (1946): The Discovery of India, Kolkata: Signet Press

[2]http://www.claws.in/1570/micro-aggression-theory-victimhood-culture-and-article-370-as-a-counter-radicalization-tool-prateek-kapil.html

[3]http://thewire.in/68602/kashmirs-miserable-guillotine/

[4]Forgetting Partition: Constitutional Amnesia and Nationalism.KanikaGauba, EPW, September 24th 2016

[5] Andersen, P (2012): The Indian Ideology, Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective

[6] Nehru, J (1946): The Discovery of India, Kolkata: Signet Press

[7]Pandey, G (2004): Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Prateek Kapil
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