Kashmir is not simmering anymore. It is boiling and spilling over. In the last two months 40 people were killed by Indian security forces. These are young boys of Kashmir, less than 20 years of age, some of them as young as 8 years, and they are challenging the might of Indian armed forces by coming out onto streets violating the curfew orders imposed onto them. Look at the news headlines from THE HINDU in the last 4 days.
The new generation of Kashmiri David takes on the Goliath machinery of India. These young boys risk their lives to defy all the restrictions imposed on them by Indian security forces. India is at a loss. It does not know how to deal with this situation. There are no AK-47s, there are no hand grenades or rocket launchers so that India can claim these protestors are terrorists. All these young boys have is bunch of easily available stones to take on the sophisticated Indian armed forces.
Indians don’t know how to respond to this outcry from Kashmir Valley. Indians are still contemplating half measures. They talk of development, better political representation, tackling corruption and so on. These Indians still believe that we can turn this around. They believe that that these young Kashmiris will one day embrace India and love this country as we do.
There comes a time in the political histories where there is no turning back. Kashmiri youth have crossed that Rubicon. They don’t want to turn back. That’s why they throw themselves against the Indian armed forced and are ready to die. When freedom is more important to them than their precious lives, we need to concede that we are losing ground and losing our place on their lives.
Its time India concedes that it cannot win back people who don’t want to be won back. This happens with many political movements where the ideas have been infused so strongly amongst the population that there is no need for instigators or leaders anymore. Siddharth Varadarajan writes in THE HINDU:
This admission has been difficult for the authorities to make because its implications are unpleasant, perhaps even frightening. In security terms, the absence of a central nervous system means the expanding body of protest cannot be controlled by arresting individual leaders. And in political terms, the spectre of leaderless revolt makes the offer of ‘dialogue' or the naming of a ‘special envoy' for Kashmir — proposals which might have made sense last year or even last month — seem completely and utterly pointless today.
Initially when Indians wanted their freedoms from the British they thought they could get them within the British Empire under the aegis of the Crown. However, over a period of time, it became clear that they needed purna swaraj – complete independence from British. Once that idea got matured and got instilled into the masses, it didn’t matter if Gandhi was around or Nehru around. By then it got its own momentum. We would have got Independence irrespective of the leaders because the idea is now grown so big that it is bigger than any leader.
Something similar is happening in Telangana now. Many outsiders ridicule people of Telangana for their struggle and believe that it is a fight sponsored by some political parties. When I was describing one of the agitations to an outsider he asked how much each participant was paid. These Indians refused to believe that people of Telangana come out of their volition to participate in the struggle just because they believe in the idea. They don’t need incentives from leaders anymore. The idea has become bigger than the leaders. Siddharth Varadarajan continues.
Ever since the current phase of disturbances began, intelligence officials have been wasting precious time convincing the leadership and public of India that the protests are solely or mostly the handiwork of agent provocateurs. So we have been told of the role of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI, of the ‘daily wage of Rs. 200' — and even narcotics — being given to stone pelters.
In the context of Kashmir, many Indians refuse to believe that the idea of azadi has now become a universal idea shared by most of Kashmiris living in the valley. These Kashmiris don’t need incentives anymore to come out and fight to give up their lives.
A few weeks back, an audio recording of a supposedly incriminating telephone call was leaked to the media along with a misleading transcript suggesting the Geelani faction of the Hurriyat was behind the upsurge. Now, our TV channels have “learned” from their “sources” that the protests will continue till President Obama's visit in November.
We Indians will do everything in our capacity to discredit a genuine people’s aspirations. We will say that the leaders are corrupt, and then say that the people participated in an agitation for the lure of 200 rupees, and that some foreign elements are involved and so on, but never admit that there could be a genuine people’s movement going on there.
One Indian, E. Krishnan of Palakkad writes:
The present unrest and continued defiance of the orders of the administration can only be termed as last ditch attempts from across the border…Only a minuscule section of the people, at the behest of the enemy, is fomenting trouble in Jammu and Kashmir. This has to be contained firmly.
So what will it take for India to admit that the majority of the people in Kashmir Valley sympathize with the protestors and that they are as committed as the protestors for their azadi from India? When will we accept the ground realities? Should Indian security forces end up in killing and maiming everyone in the Valley to be able to say, ‘now, everyone wants to be with India’?
Siddharth Varadarajan writes:
Central to this delusional narrative of manipulated protest is the idea that the disturbances are confined to just a few pockets in the valley …
…but one of the reasons the protests spread was popular frustration over the way in which the authenticity of mass sentiment was being dismissed by the government. For the women who came on to the streets with their pots and pans and even stones, or the youths who set up spontaneous blood donation camps to help those injured in the demonstrations, this attempt to strip their protest of both legitimacy and agency was yet another provocation.
The current generation of Kashmiris is not fighting their battles with AK-47s but ordinary stones to combat the second biggest army on the planet. One cannot help but compare it with Palestinians kids throwing stones at the oncoming Israeli tanks.
My dream of India
I am a proud Indian. Not because we are the second biggest army in the world or because we possess nuclear weapons, but because I believe that we are creating a nation based on certain lofty ideals to create a harmonious society, an equitable system, and a fair country, where people will have their freedoms and dignity no matter what. I want my India to be mature than what it is right now so that it can deal with practical problems with practical solutions.
Time for introspection
What has become of us Indians? How did we end up being an imperialist and a colonizer? When did we turn from being a champion of freedoms to suppressor of freedoms? What happened to those lofty goals that we preached when we got our freedoms? In Kashmir, people are dying every day. Our hands are bloody. We are killing innocent people. For what? To satisfy our egos?
Can we save ourselves from this ignominy of ruthlessly ruling 10 million people with one-million armies? How many guns do we need to rule this population? And for what? For the sadistic pleasure that we can beat our enemy in Pakistan? So that we teach a humiliating lesson to the new generation of Kashmiri Muslims for what their fathers did to Kashmiri Hindus? Is this all for holding onto a map?
Either it is Telangana or Kashmir, the problem is the same. Indians don’t want to admit that someone is ready to get separated from us. We are not ready to concede that we might have done something wrong, that we have deprived the people of their aspirations, their access to opportunities, curtailed them of their freedoms.
‘How can someone accuse us of suppressing someone’s freedoms when we are the freest of the nations?’ our arrogance asks. Take a look around you. We suppress our own people all the time. Andhras suppress Telanganas. Hindus suppress Muslims. Upper castes suppress Lower castes. Men suppress Women. When given a free rein, the majorities and the privileged suppress minorities and the underprivileged. The strong suppresses the weak.
Today we are suppressing peoples’ freedoms with guns and tanks, forcing them to stay in their homes depriving them of basic freedoms to go out. We are so high on our growing economic and military power that we are not ready to concede an inch of our land even if it means killing everyone who aspires for it. Under the name of imposition of peace we have become the very masters we toppled. We have become the British. We have become the dictators and usurpers.
History tells us that no map is static. They are constantly redrawn. Countries emerge, divide, unite and evolve.
The solution to washing our sins is ‘letting go’. Let go of Kashmiris. Let them decide their fates. We may think that they are not in the right mind when they seek separation. But it is better for them decide their fates than imposing our sense of right it onto them. It should not be our prerogative to decide what is good for them especially when we have to hold a gun against their head to make them say ‘yes’.
Let go, India. Become mature. Some of us expect that from you. We expect India to be so confident that our pride and ego will not be hurt just because we admit ‘we could not coerce you into loving us’. We want our India to be preoccupied with keepings its ideals intact rather than its maps. We want India to be a country where people feel they are free not because they are forced into admitting it but because they genuinely feel free to express their opinion however disagreeable it is to the rest of us.
Can we set aside our political agendas, our egos, our prides and our sanctities aside for a while and ask, how does it change our opinion of India if we actually took a step forward and told these 10 million people that we are ready to let them go. Will that not increase our stature in our own eyes? Will it not give us pride as a nation that we have become mature enough to let someone go after realizing that all this while we were suffocating them and forcing them to live with us?
[Source for Picture: THE HINDU]