Barricaded Democracy

Barricaded Democracy

Amanullah Khan believed and struggled all his life for a secular and independent Jammu Kashmir state, a dream for the people of disputed sovereignty to be a part of the comity of free nations. He is perhaps the most well known figure from an ideologically secular struggle to free Kashmir both from Pakistan and India. When this founding light of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) passed away on Tuesday it was only befitting that its members would honour his memory publically. In Srinagar, the JKLF also planned to hold funeral prayers in absentia for the departed leader in the city center of Lal Chowk. In the history of peoples political struggles such moments, or planned events are simultaneously mourning as much as they are a political reiteration of what the leader represented. So, it is understandable that the event was planned to be held at the place where the first prime minister of India in person promised the people of Kashmir that the right of choosing their political future was theirs. Although he is also the one believed to have said that ‘India cannot afford the luxury of democracy in Kashmir’!
However, as has been the Indian state’s response to the demands of that basic right of self-determination, Lal Chowk was typically barricaded by the police and people were disallowed to observe something as fundamental as praying for the departed. JKLF is not a banned organization. Its leaders, including Amanullah Khan, have met with heads of state of many countries. Chairman of the group, Mohammad Yasin Malik has met Indian, Pakistani and other world leaders on several occasions in connection with the group’s struggle for and advocacy of freedom for the people of Kashmir. So, what does it reveal when something like  a funeral prayer, for their leader is arbitrarily disallowed, prevented to take place, using state force! States do not have habits or morals. They have power and policy.
The denial of the right to hold prayers for Amanullah Khan in Srinagar, arrests of leaders and confining them to their houses only illuminates the military nature of the Indian State’s claim on Kashmir. And each such instance – Kashmir’s history is a long chain of brazen denials — only serves to articulate the legitimacy of the political struggle the doyen of JKLF also represented. The state policy of denial and militarism has long neutralized India’s claims of being a democracy in Kashmir and proved its first prime minister right in what he may not have said publically – that truly affording democracy in Kashmir would mean letting its people go their own way.

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