It is good to be positive, to believe in people, to believe in the sincerity of the spoken word. But one needs to draw a line between optimism and gullibility. The recent statement by a mainstream politician, by none other the leader of the ruling coalition and the CM of the state, about January 21 1990 – the day of the Gawkadal massacre when 35 unarmed protesters were mercilessly mowed down by Indian security personnel – being a ‘dark day’ in the history of Kashmir can at best be described as an incongruity. Nevertheless it seems to have earned him plaudits from certain quarters, which makes it necessary to counter this statement. When somebody fails to appreciate the incongruity of such a statement it either betrays extreme gullibility or raises suspicions of complicity or at the very least an attempt at fawning.
This is not the first attempt at usurping historical events and transforming them to change the narrative. The history of Kashmir is replete with such examples. Take for instance the Martyrs’ Day that is observed in Kashmir every year on July 13. The day is observed to mark the anniversary of the killing of 21 innocent Kashmiris by the soldiers of the despotic Maharajah who ruled over Kashmir at the time. Though the occasion continues to be observed even now but the day is marked by tight security and an unofficial curfew because the ruling elite which observes this day as a state function have themselves come to be seen as oppressors or as collaborators in oppression in the present times.
Thousands of Kashmiris have died since the events of July 13 took place in 1931, and the ruling elite have overtly or covertly contributed to most of these deaths. The history of Kashmir has been a long saga of oppression which has seen no change over the years except perhaps for the fact that the oppressors or rather their local collaborators have kept changing. It is indeed a travesty of the times that those who fought oppression at various periods of time in Kashmir themselves turned oppressors or aligned with the forces of oppression later on. However, these individuals or parties continued to hold on to various symbols that were identified with them when they existed as part of the resistance against oppression even long after they had crossed over to the other side. This was not incidental but deliberate as betrayal found it convenient to combine with duplicity and fraud. The common people for most of the part remained unaware of this switch and so rallied behind their supposed leaders even when they had long ceased to be so. The sentiments of the common man were exploited time and again and this device of usurping and transforming the narrative to suit the needs of the turncoats was found to be pretty convenient.
For instance it is not difficult to imagine that at some point of time with some other party in the saddle, the events of 2010 will get the year labelled as a ‘dark year’ in the history of Kashmir. Unlike this case, the party which forms a part of the ruling coalition presently was not at the helm of affairs when the Gaw Kadal massacre took place. However what makes these statements incongruous is the fact that even worse massacres occurred when this very party was at the helm of affairs, the nearest point of reference being the killing of over a hundred youth during the 2010 agitation. Similarly, another party or its leaders can easily afford to shake their heads and issue condemnatory statements about the events of 2010. Since by virtue of their politics all mainstream parties are allied to those who are perceived as being oppressors any statement issued to the contrary speaks of duplicity on their part.
There is a need to contest such statements and that too not only to expose their inherent duplicity but, more importantly, with a view to saving the narrative of resistance from being usurped and subjected to an insidious change. This conning of the narrative is a far more dangerous process because it aims to transform and assimilate the very events that form a vital part of the resistance. That in turn seeks to cause attenuation of the resistance itself because people are lulled into believing that those who con the narrative are speaking the same language and hence espouse the same cause. Besides, in the long run, the conned narrative gets so much intertwined with the real one that it becomes difficult to sift fact from contrivance. What makes the conned narrative particularly dangerous is that it is based on the truth, albeit an engineered truth and it is a known fact that half-truths are far more dangerous than an outright lie. The comment with regard to January 21 must be viewed in this context.