What angers me when I think about Kashmir is the silence around it. I know people talk about it. But the narrative in mainland India is so frighteningly lopsided, that we refuse to call a spade a spade. Those who normally take radical positions on issues also refrain from commenting. Political correctness dictates sympathy towards armed personnel serving under difficult conditions.
Warning: The aim of this post is not to judge the difficulties of military service in a volatile area. It is to state the facts which have been distorted and obscured in the media and mainstream liberal discourse, let alone the jingoist right wing chest-thumping. I do not wish to consider the geopolitical and strategic ramifications of Pakistan or China’s interests in Kashmir. My concern is with the ordinary people who are unable to live normal civilised lives.
Media reporting on Kashmir, under the same conditions in any other part of the world would be described as ‘state propaganda’. Hundreds of civilians have died in the last two decades in the Kashmir valley which is directly OCCUPIED by the Indian Army. I deliberately use the term ‘occupied’ because the area has an unusually high density of military personnel deployed. People in the valley live under curfew and under severe restrictions on civil and cultural life. They do not enjoy basic rights, that those of us who live in mainland India take for granted. There are horror stories of rape, mass graves, disappeared persons which have never featured anywhere even in Indian pop culture (I use the term loosely to describe music, art, culture, cinema that can be considered as that for mass consumption) except until recently in a very diluted manner in the 2014 Vishal Bhardwaj film, ‘Haider‘. Not to mention that all of this is in violation of international law that India is party to. The Indian state’s resorts to tactics which do not allow an impartial investigation in the area either which makes the situation even more volatile.
I just cannot look at this and not be disturbed. People who are outraged about everything from fat-shaming to a random politician’s comments on South Indians to shouting TV anchors are deafeningly silent on Kashmir. I understand that there is an element of fear in not being vocal about concerns. The state’s swift action on charging people who dared to even put up Kashmir as a topic of discussion with sedition shows the intolerance of the mainland India (irrespective of BJP, Congress, AAP or CPI(M)) and its political machinery. In the aftermath of the JNU episode in Feb 2016, and even now, as a JNU student, the question I have been asked is, ‘did they really have to talk about India that way?’. When I see a WhatsApp group anxiously discuss the ‘surgical strikes’ and military kill count in Kashmir along with the details of weapons while posting clearly faked stories of brave encounters, my mind aches with the violence of it all. The latest instance of a human shield being used my army forces is mind-numbingly painful to watch.
The physical and mental violence on the people of Kashmir are nothing to these people. Absolutely nothing. Whatever be my political allegiance or institutional affiliations, I cannot and will not be politically correct about this. History will deem us responsible for being blind to an oppression. All the perfumes of Arabia will not wash our hands off of this blood.
There are several university students and bloggers based of Kashmir who constantly comment and write on Kashmir issues. I do not wish to name them individually, but they are easy to find if you look for them.