There is no gainsaying that people of Kashmir have been denied their basic political rights and subjected to a great deal of suffering for seven decades even after the end of the tyrannical Dogra autocracy. More than a month after unleashing the latest cycle of brute state violence against the people of Kashmir, when India’s prime minister Narendra Modi broke his silence he again only tried to infantalise not just the Kashmiris but Indian citizens too. He may have sensed a sweet resonance among the constituency in India that catapulted him to power, but anyone who understands anything about the dispute over Kashmir and the Kashmiris’ struggle for comprehensive political freedom was aghast at Modi’s crass denial of the truth, his coalition partner in Kashmir welcoming it notwithstanding. Acknowledging a several decades long mass movement against what is increasingly being seen as a military occupation by many around the world takes courage, which the State here appears to have replaced with deceit and denial.
If Kashmir’s political history since 1947 is anything to go by, a lot has changed, except New Delhi denying it. Despite the events after 9/11 that enabled India to twist Kashmir’s political struggles into narratives that it found superficially resonating in a statist realm, and despite India’s growing economic strength making it an attractive destination for global capital, the Kashmiri aspiration for freedom has not just stayed alive but has produced visible discomfort among a global intellectual constituency and those Indians New Delhi conveniently ignores and in whose name too Kashmiri rights are being trampled.
The latest anti-India uprising, which is still ongoing, has already forced a long debate in the Indian parliament where a lot may be acknowledged, even if the Indian state shows no signs of negotiating democracy with Kashmiri people. Modi may have used his hubris to stave off pressure for the moment the Kashmiri uprising mounted on his government, but in doing so he has only justified the Kashmir people’s protestations if it needed any in the first place. The major highlight of India’s rule of Kashmir has been that New Delhi has had to increasingly rely on more and more force to meet the Kashmiri people with. The deceptive middle ground in Kashmir in which ‘democracy’ has traditionally been deployed as a cover for military domination has nearly vanished. The battle-lines are no more blurred. And when that happens the state begins to be seen as fighting a people who it rhetorically claims to be its citizens. It’s in that manner that Modi’s rise and hubris is helping define the Kashmir struggle in its truest meanings.