By Rouf Dar, Umar Lateef Misgar, Harun Lone
After an attempt to discuss an aspect of the machinations of Indian occupation in Kashmir in this newspaper on 14th of May (‘IAS in Kashmir: Glorifying Occupation’) , we have been flooded with responses. Abuse; some insights and, to misquote Orwell, pure wind has been directed against both the essay, and personally against us. We have been called immoral, snakes, blasphemous and extremists, who are too incompetent to “crack” the IAS. There can be no better compliment than being called an extremist snake and blasphemous in the times of Donald Trump, ISIS and Ayelet Shaked. The debate we ignited has seen less of a debate and more of tantrums.
Now, we have written op-eds for this publication before, on pressing and deeply unsettling issues, like the loss of innocent lives in the Mediterranean Sea due to the disgraceful policies of the “civilised” EU, but received zero response. That is symbolic of the deplorable state of our preferences. But nevertheless, we cannot force anyone to care. Coming back to the ‘IAS article’, what really baffles us is this potent power that is obscuring the obvious. Everyone, or at least everyone possessing knowledge of basic high-school social science, knows how bureaucracy is the brick and cement of a political system – which, in our case, is a military occupation. Seven hundred thousand troops, occupying more land than the settlers/colonisers in Occupied West Bank, armed with automatic rifles and absolute impunity, have no other name, at least in the English language. The self-imposed blindness reminds us of Socrates’ famous dictum before he drank the poisoned chalice, “An unexamined life is not worth living”; followed by Malcolm X’s, “An examined life is very, very hard.”
One of the very first and most predominant critiques we received was that would we, then, like “natives” or “foreigners” to be in the “offices”. First, we don’t even recognise the system, except in terms of occupation. Then again, is it somehow more respectable to get murdered, hounded and humiliated by, say, your sister or on her orders? Then came the “It is an almost impossible exam” so we should congratulate them at least. We won’t. This is the kind of behavior that reinforces their belief of supposed “righteousness” and “godliness”. There is also a “service” argument put forth. But nobody asks how the “services” reinforce the structures of Indian domination.
Throughout history, colonisers, capitalists and occupiers have used templates to justify their oppression. For example, a capitalist, whose workers face slavish conditions, tries to justify his/her actions by “At least I give them work”. Or the French imperial template of “mission civilisatrice” (the civilising mission). Similarly, using “poor farmer’s son cracks IAS (What’s the obsession with ‘crack’?)” is also a ruse to blanket the larger picture or larger system of oppression. And besides, “the poor farmer’s son” does not predominantly feature in the infamous lists. Most of them are either trained professionals, doctors, engineers or academics. The world, in our opinion, does not need more bureaucrats to reinforce and oil the structures of injustice in its most militarised zone. We need more doctors and engineers to salvage people from the destruction wrecked by war and abusive capital. We need more academics who speak truth to power. The other important question that we should ask is why the hard-working farmer is poor in the first place!
One of the ‘critiques’ was we should first define what collaboration is. That precisely was the purpose of our whole exercise; to deconstruct and unravel the structures that aid the Indian state in spreading its tentacles in Kashmir. We do not stand against one structure (IAS) and defend other structures (many academics, journalists, corporate elites etc). We are in radical opposition to all the structures that perpetuate the occupation of our land. We dealt with and tried to uncover one, and hope we, and others, will deal with the rest in the future. We do not have any partisan or professional interests. All we aim at is to widen the public discourse, rather than drawing “red lines” and restricting it. If any person finds that an academic or a journalist is as detrimental to our collective struggle as an IAS ‘officer’, he should come forward and demystify things. It would benefit us to understand the structures of control better.
Regarding the question of how a doctor is not a collaborator when he treats a wounded Indian army soldier, there is an international law of medical neutrality. But then, there is also an international law of command responsibility, international law of occupation, international laws against enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and illegal authorisation of deadly and disproportionate force against unarmed protestors. There are also international conventions and UN resolutions that deal with the idea of self-determination. Why is that uncharted territory?
Then there are claims of “engaging with the system”. This is what every aspirant dreams of, perhaps. This is how he fools himself and people and tries to legitimise becoming a part of the system and a party to the occupation. Indian leaders who engaged with the British, unlike our bureaucrats, resigned en masse on numerous instances when British policies contradicted their struggle. We haven’t had such a moment in 69 years.
At the end, we should also discuss why newspaper columns and editorials don’t rain down when the Indian state manipulates and misappropriates “poster boys” to buttress its “integral part” argument? It is convenient to defend the rights of armored “VIP” cavalcades and cozy couches. An examined life, however, requires taking a hard stand against abuse of life and human decency. The better critique that can be made of our article is that the military occupiers, under international law, have a responsibility to provide good government to the occupied; but first they would have to acknowledge that India is, with brute force, occupying our spaces. However, we can’t expect the upholders of “deodorised free speech” to even write that word.
—The writers are students at KU and IUST