It is not an attribute of a hopelessly colonised mind
By Rouf Dar, Umar Misgar andHarun Lone
Recently, a prominent Indian bureaucrat wrote a grim essay on the politics of Kashmir. There are calls from various quarters to ignore the diatribes of Mr. Bureaucrat regarding the receding mass uprising of 2016. But we would like Frantz Fanon to answer him. When the French barred newspapers, the FLN had to revoke boycott of radios, which they had previously termed as colonizer’s technology; it lead to the creation of a nationalist radio station, the Voice of Fighting Algeria. This station challenged colonial propaganda. Fanon called the programmes as “the first words of the nation.” So, deconstructing the imperial narratives is an essential exercise in national liberation movements.
Let us deconstruct the title first, “Politics of grief”. The grief, undoubtedly, has stemmed from the absolute force used by armed government forces against unarmed protestors on the streets of Kashmir. Indian control over Kashmir has been a tale of inducing fear among the local populace. The operation of colonialism sustained itself courtesy the fear the State was able to create in people’s lives and minds. Infinite force, the representations of which ranged from dense militarization to abusive legal apparatuses, snowballed into a firm hold by an empire.
A colonial state depends for its existence upon fear of its power among the colonised. The moment this fear in the subjects disappears, it transfers to the other side. Now the State begins to fear people. It fears the dissolution of support altogether. It fears the burial of enforced obedience. It fears the annihilation of forcible silence. What replaces fear in the colonized people? It is hope. “Politics of hope”, the politics that disallows the oppressed to lend any sort of credence to the mighty oppressor. This, the emergence of hope, is the first step towards decolonisation, of mind, of body and of the territory.
The Bureaucrat’s essay, which starts with the trope of orientalist assumptions about India, suddenly transforms into a whittling down of one of the oldest and most violent military occupations in the world into a comic act of “apple stealing.” The author, while demonstrating the irreconcilability of Kashmiri and Indian identities, tries to epistemologically combine the two; a classic example of epistemic violence.
The article, while discussing the human catastrophe of the conflict in Kashmir fails to mention that most of these lives were ruined by the actions of the brutal state machinery. This convenient bypassing or misappropriation of the origins of violence, however, is a classic attribute of a functionary of the state. “Lives were lost”, “collateral damage”, “terrorists killed them,” all textbook examples of deceitful speech.
Mr. Bureaucrat, while trying to shift the blame on victims by rebuking them for “confronting a mighty state”, tries to project the public expression of grief – a basic trait of all societies – as nihilistic “glorification of pain.” This dehumanisation of a Kashmiri is what rationalises brutal state-violence against the citizen(s).
Coming to the “growing religious consciousness” among Kashmiris, it has always been observed in extensively militarised societies that people organise their politics around their basic identity. Since a 700,000 strong Indian force occupies every other public space of this tiny geographical entity and draconian laws remain in effect, it is almost impossible for the Kashmiris to collectively exercise their politics anywhere other than religious establishments.
In numerous cases, even religious sites are put under military siege. This was very aptly demonstrated during the recent mass uprising in Kashmir. Practicing politics in non-religious public spaces cost us a 100 lives due to the brutal response of Indian forces, and tens of thousands were injured, not to mention the hundreds that were blinded by the state-sanctioned pellet guns.
Every mass movement in history follows a trajectory of eruption that either leads to the realisation of popular demands or a return to status quo. “The mass movements are like waves hitting a shore. Either they sweep away everything in their path or just recede into the sea, causing no significant damage,” Tariq Ali once said. The trouble with this analogy, however, is that it does not factor in the arrogance of the beneficiaries, trying to uphold the status quo at any cost. That cost can include everything from torture to killings, rapes, enforced disappearance, paranoid surveillance, arbitrary detention and sometimes even genocide. It is incredible how, after mass mobilisations ebb in Kashmir, the role of the brutal state apparatuses in crushing them is brushed aside.
Mr. Bureaucrat also complains about the use of violence as mechanism of grievance redressal willfully ignoring the wanton direct and structural violence that the state employs against Kashmiris. The post-9/11 world, a racist construct that asserts the superiority of American lives, does not accept any “theory of organized violence,” the bureaucrat sermonises.
Keeping aside Article 7 of the Resolution 3314  of UNGA, the question that still begs an answer is whether the deadly violence exercised by the state against unarmed civilian protestors constitutes “organised violence”? Does willfully blinding hundreds of children, men and women constitute state terrorism? Also, if according to the Bureaucrat’s favorite Euro-American benchmark armed resistance is obsolete, why are the Americans soon going to arm the Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles?
Violence is a luxury an only an oppressor can afford. The multiple facets of state-sponsored violence have never been tagged as terrorism. These debates will never die. Choosing violence or not, the colonised have to make a choice between continuing to accept the abuse or wrapping the incoming violence and throwing it back in the face of those who began it. Here the Indian State has been violently manipulating millions of lives, yet incidents of reactionary violence are described as terrorism.
While the neoliberal worldview is facing an unprecedented crisis across the world and people are desperately turning to politics of hate and neo-fascist populism – as demonstrated by the rise of demagogues like Trump, Erdogan, Modi, Orban, Farage, Duterte and Putin – the politics of hope is more urgently needed than ever. This age of anger, as Pankaj Mishra called it, does not demand a calculated and “dignified exit.” The “anchor” of neoliberalism ultimately leads to a catastrophe of all-out hate.
Politics of hope, however, is not an attribute of a hopelessly colonised mind, as Fanon would have said. The politics of hope, of liberation is all we have got. A person, who represents an institution that is an ideological plus repressive state apparatus, demanding answers from those exercising politics of hope, is irrational and is not a part of the “Kashmir project.” Audaciously aspiring for a complete submission of this project in its totality only for some imagined “dignified exit”, perhaps like Yaser Arafat did during the Oslo negotiations, serves the unjust status quo.
—The writers are post-graduate students at University of Kashmir and Islamic University of Science