State of Bans

It is moot whether there are uniformed sahibs in Srinagar who take the decision to impose curfews, or other restrictions, including bans on the internet, or whether it is the bigwigs lording it over from New Delhi. The two are one and the same thing, in effect, for ordinary Kashmiris, and who passes on the orders is a mere instrumentality. What is important is that such things happen, and the message they are meant to convey. Consider the proposition of the state: that the internet needed to be blocked for days together so as to prevent people in Kashmir from uploading or sharing images of bovine sacrifice, given the ‘beef ban’. A noble purpose, as much as Cinna the poet was responsible for Caesar’s murder. No one wants communal disharmony, surely. But what if it seems to be the case that we are still governed by something called the Ranbir Penal Code? As in, Lord Curzon’s law applies in India donkeys’ years after the British were kicked out, as an approximate metaphor. It would, then, seem to be the issue that Hindutva rules apply in Kashmir, and banning the internet on Eid is by far the lesser of the issues that confronts Kashmiris.

It is thus also not applicable to make comparisons, even for satirical purposes, between what a Narendra Modi does in Silicon Valley and what happens at the same time in Kashmir. Because the message is clear, and unambiguous: rules, democracy, freedom, rights don’t apply in Kashmir. And they don’t apply because this is a rebellious population, which needs to be suppressed by force. Patently idiotic measures like a ban on the internet are meant to convey what some Kashmiris, particularly the younger generation, might have missed: that the ’90s can come back, that bodies can be found on streets, that unidentified gunmen can kill people, that information about all this will be blocked at will. This is, simply, what polished bureaucrats would call a ‘gentle reminder.’

The inculcation of the idea of Big Brother, as Orwell detailed, is that even personal, intimate thoughts must be controlled. What needs to be understood, particularly by younger Kashmiris, is that the idea of ‘freedoms’, of all sorts, is being mapped out for them; that restrictions, physical or virtual, are reminders of what is permissible and what can easily, any day, be denied;  that, in case you forgot, you are living in a police state.