By Haifa Peerzada
Every aspect of life in Kashmir is affected by state violence and militarization. We have been ruined as a nation by oppression and brutality. We teach our students in peace studies that conflict takes place at all levels; I would take it a step further and say that conflict has even penetrated the day to day functioning of the human psyche in Kashmir. An inner conflict that has created an environment of fear and insecurity has led us to internalize the negative climate that such emotions have created and now it has become common-place in Kashmir.
We, as a nation, are reduced to a condition of a veritable vegetable, where we are just trying to survive and exist; not living a life of dignity. We also see our own people, who keep changing colors like chameleons, as and when, like in the game of Musical Chairs, the chair moves around from one political party to another in rotation.
The callousness with which we operate also finds expression in being greatly affected by the brutality around us, which we have consciously or unconsciously internalized. We see our own local Police being more brutal than the Army or the paramilitary, getting that authority to brutalize from the state policy in Kashmir. In the long run, the danger with this situation is that, the adhesive that binds our society will vanish altogether.
The feeling of nationhood which is so fragile may cease to exist, if we stay mute spectators to this brutalization. We have to stand in solidarity with each other and stop behaving like mechanistic individuals. This is essential because the existing scenario and mechanistic attitude in us, is an emulation of Chanakya’s Neeti and his concept of king as also the Machiavelli’s concept of Prince, both promoting unscrupulous manipulation with no moral overtures.
There are splits and divisions created by the state in order to sow dissensions, which we fail to recognize. The kind of incentives that the state tries to induce in Kashmir is looked upon, by some people, as more practical, than the need to speak-up for what is right. This finds expression in the realist paradigm of cost-benefit approach, where benefits of incentives by the state seem to be better than the costs of non-compliance, with what the state has to offer. Moreover the official policy seems to be that, as long as you are not saying or doing anything against the State, you are allowed to do anything, even if it is unconventional or even illegal. This kind of attitude has penetrated in our society at all the levels, in all the streams of our day to day lives; this is something which is extremely disconcerting. This militaristic attitude that we have embedded in our very thought process is far worse than the actual brutalization that is perpetuated on us, making us to fall apart as a society.
When the brutal state apparatus does not allow space for Kashmiris to flourish in a free environment, very few of them rebel and sacrifice their lives for the nation, a few others live a sincere and meaningful life with dignity, while some others stay servile like slaves, out of frustration for not being able to sustain a decent life. Therefore we see the paradox, where people on one hand raise Azadi slogans and on the other hand also vote during elections and participate in election rallies. Their mirror image of themselves kill them every day as Kashmiris, as they keep living a life underscored by deceit, fraud, cheating, double standards and dishonesty. To rise above this apparent shame and guilt, and following our historical behavior of turning inwards in times of repression, internalizing state brutality and start attacking others within our own community, because that seems to be the only way to survive and to hide the moral and professional incompetence. In essence such people are also similar to dead people with no conscience and feelings of brotherhood left in them.
Let’s get to the basic societal level where people co-exist, live and work together; be it the workplace, family, social organization, political organization or any other social setting. This is where different structures, at systemic as well as unit level, interact with each other, to keep the society up and functioning. In my experience of having lived and worked here, I feel that this militaristic attitude has penetrated into our psyche, which is basically a success for the psychological warfare that the state is waging on us, without us realizing that we have completely succumbed to it, as a society.
My experience as a lawyer as well as an academic working in Kashmir with Kashmiris as a Kashmiri on different assignments, in different capacities at different places, I feel there is an urgent need for us to stop living in vain i.e. just exist without a purpose and distance ourselves from it. It is definitely an uphill task and is easier said than done because of the situation here. But if we are to get what is our right, we need to help each other in nation-building, rather than wallow in self pity thereby getting subsumed in mediocrity and militaristic attitude due to the brutal statecraft. We definitely have shown a lot of resilience, but we need to show more resilience in terms of living a meaningful life, with a noble purpose and work towards a noble cause in a selfless manner. This would definitely reap rich dividends in the long run. We need to be at peace with ourselves and then only we can get rid of the fear and insecurity in which we live, day in and day out, at all levels. This also means being true to ourselves and that requires us to make ourselves so free, that our very existence becomes resistance and that a change of a revolutionary kind therefore becomes inevitable. Let’s take one step at a time in resisting the brutal and rigid apparatus of state violence and militarization in Kashmir.
—The author is a lawyer and a Visiting Lecturer of International Relations at the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org