By Seema Kazi
Dear Politicians, Generals, Media and Security experts:
It is hard if not altogether impossible to hold views contrary to yours regarding the Kashmir valley these days. Through deception, bayonet, repression and (mis)representation you inscribe your monopoly over politics, violence and the truth in a small valley awash in blood and suffering.
In your united and unitary narrative, Kashmir’s school children, young girls and boys, young men and women throwing stones at our country’s soldiers are all, without exception, a dangerous radicalised Islamised, Wahhabised constituency maliciously manipulated by Pakistan with the sole aim of destabilising Kashmir and undermining India.
Similar is your view regarding those Kashmiri young men across the valley who fight and are killed by our soldiers for whom all such men are Pakistan-backed terrorists. From the point of view of the young men, India’s soldiers have unjustly occupied and brutalised their homeland; they must be fought. You claim it is only a matter of time before this sinister, illegitimate Pakistan-backed conspiracy is extinguished.
Your claim would certainly be persuasive if the people of the Kashmir Valley shared your view. Indeed, Kashmiri affirmation of this theory would most certainly buttress and conclusively seal our country’s case for all times to come. So why do we stop short of seeking the opinion of the Kashmiri people themselves? Can it be because Kashmiri sentiment lies scrawled on walls, roads and public places across the Valley? Or is it because we are working overtime to establish iron-clad evidence that Pakistan pays each and every Kashmiri civilian to protest against the status-quo, and each and every local Kashmiri graffiti writer for writing slogans demanding our troops leave the Valley? Perhaps we are also working hard to establish that Pakistan paid Budgam’s school children to write the word azadi on their school blackboard.
Most mainland Indians do believe that all Kashmiris – young, old, men, women and children – are proxy Pakistan agents out to destroy our country and therefore deserving of a bayonet plus bullet response. You have won the crucial battle of aligning domestic public opinion with yours in mainland India.
However, this is certainly not the case with reference to world opinion on Kashmir. Reports and images in the court of world opinion testify to Indian security forces firing bullets, pellets and teargas on Kashmiri school and college students, and on unarmed Kashmiri men and women peacefully protesting occupation and brutality. Despite your loathing for the ubiquitous foreign hand, even you may agree that reports on Kashmir in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Al-Jazeera, the BBC etc. are not bankrolled by Pakistan or crazed Wahhabis. The people of Kashmir these reports say are protesting and resisting Indian occupation and repression in Kashmir. Their description of the situation in Kashmir is at great and complete odds with your super-patriotic Pakistan-centric national security narrative.
On 6 June 2017, in his speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council, United Nations High Commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said his office “continues to receive reports of increasing violence, civilian casualties, curfews and website blackout in Kashmir.” Is Mr al-Hussein too on Pakistan’s payroll? If not, why does our country not respect a request made by the UN of which it is member? Is it not extraordinarily ironic that India seeks a place at the United Nations Security Council and moves the International Court of Justice against Pakistan yet fails to respond to United Nations requests for accountability and adherence to international law in Kashmir?
A further contradiction concerns our own soldiers deployed in Kashmir. A few days ago, sources in the “Indian Army told the BBC that morale among soldiers stationed in the valley is very low. Many soldiers are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their role in Kashmir, saying they fear they are effectively becoming an army of occupation.” (Justin Rowlatt, BBC, Why Indian Army defended Kashmir ‘human shield’ Officer, 31 May 2017). There can be no greater indictment of our country’s politicians if the very institution sub-contracted by them to enforce law and order in Kashmir admits to feeling like an occupying force. Despite its grim, grisly record, our army dared speak a truth our politicians, media and security experts ignore, hide or erase.
Against these deeply troubling contradictions and lamentable deceit, would it not be in the interests of our country’s democracy, integrity and international repute to stop masking our great failure in Kashmir with the aid of bayonets, bullets, hysterical tv anchors and security narratives? Should we not end our wilful (mis) representation of the horror of Kashmiri youth dying by the dozen in protest against occupation and repression, as Pakistan-instigated terror?
Amidst the thick fog of nationalism and drums of war whipped up by your combined efforts, I urge you to recall Tagore’s compelling universal plea to “never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.” Amidst the deepening darkness across India, may Edith Cavell’s words before her execution for valuing people and humanity over nation and territory (that the people of London inscribed forever in Trafalgar Square) make you recoil in revulsion from the bloodlust that has seized you: “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards any one.”
Can any decent human being of any nation or nationality be accepting of your morally repugnant patriotism-cum-tv debate-cum-security-doctrine baying for war, repression and the spilling of Kashmiri blood? The answer, as Bob Dylan sang, is blowing in the wind.
If and when you overcome your extraordinary ignorance, arrogance and prejudice you shall discover the basic, fundamental, elementary, rudimentary truth that Kashmir is about people and justice. The occupation must end. Nothing more. Nothing less.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org