Spaces of Counterinsurgency


The fight by the occupation, and against it, is about decisive control of spaces – physical, territorial as well as those of ideas. In the case of the former, no surprises then that the Indian state spends massively out of its wealth to maintain more than half-a-million armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir. This is primarily about the physical control of the territorial space of the region. Physical occupation is the primary purpose – an outcome of an insistence on control over territory the Indian state claims to have a ‘sovereign right’ over. The fact that Indian politicians and policy-makers have to chant the ‘integral-part’ hymn, day in and day out, itself shows the hollowness of this claim. While the state succeeds in forcing its way with downright coercion and a massive military concentration backed by draconian laws passed in the name of so-called security issues and disturbed areas (and simultaneously contradicts itself by the oxymoronic ‘law and order’ theme), it needs to come in, occupy and control at another level as well – the space of ideas and discourse.

The physical aspects of the counterinsurgency in Kashmir have been written and talked about. Even those who may not be aware of the numerical facts routinely churned out by sections of the media, civil rights groups, et al about the physical manifestations of the military occupation, experience it anyway as a part of their daily lives. The militarized reality of everyday civilian life in Kashmir is too stark not to be felt. You might close your eyes, but it will scratch and bleed you at every other turn.

Moreover, the state also tries to perpetuate the discourse that legitimizes the physical occupation and gives a cover of necessity and legality to its colonial agenda. The fact that this form of counterinsurgency takes place in the name of innocuous-sounding words like Deltas, Tigers and Victors, and in the pages of our newspapers and magazines, all of whom have pegged ‘Kashmir’ to their mastheads, and through the pens and voices of people speaking local languages and metaphors, its intentions are not perceived equally by everyone. This is where the real danger lies:  imprinting the minds of an entire generation, slyly and covertly, in the name of analysis and political commentary, while the actual agenda is entirely different – sowing confusion, creating mistrust, inducing weariness among the resisting people. Simply, to make people forget the reasons for the struggle, and hence the struggle itself. Nothing is more dangerous.

It also works in a symbiotic way for those willing-comprador sections who have donned the mantle of the so-called intelligentsia – writers, thinkers, etc. Ironically, these people, whose role ought to have been to think through the challenges faced by the movement, point out mistakes so that they are not repeated, suggest alternatives and help in creating the strengthening the content of the alternative order that the resistance movement seeks to create and install, turn against the very movement that in actual terms has created the space for them to talk about issues. If there was no on-the-ground resistance in Kashmir, nobody would have been interested in reading their blabbering in ink, which makes columnists and writers out of many and turns childhood nostalgia into ‘political columns.’ Calling them pen-wielding counterinsurgents would be no exaggeration.

Everything is not bleak, but it’s not a rosy situation either. A lot of well-intentioned writers are also writing and trying to counter state-sponsored ideas and discourses. But there has to be a massive effort at exposing the ilk mentioned above, and showing up their ideas and so-called analysis for what they are – comprador odes to the occupation – howsoever craftily hidden  they may be in chic compositions and false-in-content but saleable sentences. There has to be a concerted effort by those who care about resistance, and whom the resistance has given a place, stature and opportunity to have the luxury of fighting with the pen, and spilling ink rather than their blood, to create a culture where hypocrisy is seen as hypocrisy.   Hiding behind metaphors and sly language won’t be of any use.

There are a lot of well meaning people in places and positions from where they can and should write things clearly without necessarily having to resort to that weird thing called ‘balance’. Kennedy had misquoted Dante correctly when he attributed to the latter this famous quote: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

Making a habit of self-censorship when there is no real pressing need only concedes the space that has been won by struggle. It means giving up tangible gains, in the space of ideas that we need to control and maintain, on a platter to the enemy. It would be better to take stock of the situation now, and act and press further, rather than lament later on how things slipped out of our hands while we were sleeping wide awake.

-the writer is a Ph D scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.