Besides strengthening New Delhi’s stranglehold on Kashmir, blurring the line between collaboration and resistance should be added to the list of achievements of the National Conference and the PDP, and the individuals who don’t owe allegiance to political parties but to their Indian bosses directly.
The line is so porous that every election season we get to hear about one or the other Hurriyat leader contesting elections. While much of it is propaganda, the precedents set by many people before make it plausible.
It is not difficult to discern how collaboration and its attendant crimes have become part of our society. Their dangers lie in the fact that even though they are ubiquitous, they remain outside the discourse, as if we have decided not to see them.
The funeral of Gowhar Ahmad Mattoo, a former Ikhwani, holds some important lessons in the creeping menace that has the potential to end in a catastrophe one day.
A few years ago, Mattoo had been made a soldier by his military masters, for whom he had worked against his own people. People like him, former Ikwhanis, evoke the same disgust among Kashmiris as Kapos do among Jews.
Mattoo belonged to Khudwani, where a 15-year-old boy, Suhail Ahmad Lone, was shot dead on Saturday for protesting against Israel’s mass murder of Palestinians. Newspaper pictures show relatives of both wailing over their bodies. Were it not for continuing protests against the killing of Suhail, and a bigger procession befitting a martyr, the two deaths would be indistinguishable.
Not so many years ago, when Mattoo was working for the Indian state as part of an extra-legal militia which has committed some of the most horrific crimes in Kashmir, people would probably have lynched him had they caught him alive. The decent burial he received is testimony to the tolerant spirit of Kashmiris, which is being tested every moment by one of the slyest military occupations in the world.
There are hundreds of people like Mattoo who are soldiers now, part of the Territorial Army that, according to a Wiki reference, is the (State’s) second line of defense after the Regular Indian Army. It is known as an organisation of volunteers “who receive military training for a few days in a year so that in case of an emergency they can be mobilised for the defence of the country.”
Though “gainful employment or self-employment in a civil profession is a pre-requisite for joining this force,” former Ikhwanis seem to have been given the concession because they continue to be the targets of militants if they take up a civilian occupation without repenting for their past sins.
Thus a former band of Khmer Rouge-like marauders are now the “second line of defense for the country.” At the same time, we see the National Conference and the PDP locked in a perennial war over the formation of the Special Task Force (or Special Operations Group), an extra-legal grouping comprising of the police, Ikhwanis and paramilitary troopers accused of murdering civilians for rewards, staging gunfights and inflicting torture.
The PDP accuses the NC, rightly, of giving birth and allowing unbridled powers to the STF during its rule beginning 1996. On its part, the NC accuses, rightly, the PDP of regularising this force and allowing every police station to house a mini STF camp in its three-year rule. While this bizarre political theatre, in which both the creator and the nourisher of a monster accuse each other, goes on, we witness the painful co-existence of a Gowhar Mattoo and a Suhail Lone.
It would have been very interesting had the army invited an Abdullah or a Mufti or whoever is in power to lay a wreath on Mattoo’s body.
The Territorial Army is only one, visible, aspect of a collaboration setting in like concrete. Journalism and academics, two professions one imagines would have remained untouched are, shockingly, part of the enterprise. If we factor in the accusations against Mufti Bashir-ud-din of being a sarkari molvi and NC stooge, and patronage of the artificially constructed Sufi-Wahabi divide by government agencies, religion too has been corrupted.
The limitation imposed by a newspaper article doesn’t allow me to elaborate on how the collaboration has become an institution in itself, a self-preserving one at that. For example, the smooth transformation of corrupt officials who doubled as collaborators to “respectable” politicians has become a norm post-Bakhshi. The unquestioning and benign attitude of the masses towards such people betrays one of the several serious flaws in the resistance.
However, the collaboration is now entering a critical phase, where sophisticated analyses are being deployed to show how the NC and the PDP are a form of resistance, albeit a “pragmatic” one, and how the years of sacrifice were essentially a colossal folly. The mishmash of economic development and ethno-nationalism is one of the new forms of this collaboration.