Sunday, April 26, 2015

Someone asked me a question. Kashmir.

Was asked to answer a few questions for a conflict studies research paper recently. Started off slowly with my school and education in the state, and led into 'the Kashmir issue' and why education was so important esp. here. The final question set me off because it was the same 'why won't Kashmiris just integrate?' based thing.

What do you think are feasible solutions/policies for Kashmiris to feel safe, integrated and not victimised? Education being one of them.(Please include your suggestions for the govt and possibly your reading of the ground requirements that have been long overlooked.)

I'm sorry, I think the entire problem lies in the line of thinking that this question has come from. 'Integration'. You must understand that this idea of forced integration of Kashmiris is in fact one of the biggest problems there is. And it is pushed and repeated at every opportunity, and it does nothing to make Kashmiris want to belong. This has been voiced often enough in popular protests and written about and discussed in online spaces and TV media by Kashmiris before. The resistance to integration just gets stronger every time it is insisted on by the Indian State.

Let us just step back and look at young Kashmir today. This is a Kashmir that grew up in nineties and we must remember what they grew up with. I didn't even grow up here and I resent what I saw in two months a year when I visited Kashmir for the holidays. My generation of cousins has lived through terrible times, first hand.
Every time someone says Kashmir and its violence, what violence are we talking about here, we need to understand that as well. I doubt you will find too many cases of kids remembering 'terrorists' [we call them militants, and I'd say every Kashmiri family has had a militant from amongst it] ruining their growing years or interfering in their daily lives and entering their homes in a manner that affected them. But you will find innumerable stories of resentment and anger among children growing up in the '90s in Kashmir where they have either been personally at the receiving end of the Army/BSF/CRPF's interrogations, crackdowns etc or have seen the Armed forces entering their homes, beating up their family members [men, women, old, young] in front of them, breaking furniture, turning the house upside down, tearing their - the children's- certificates, books and so on and so forth. Being frisked every few metres in your own neighbourhood. Being called out for crackdowns, adhering to curfews, being on the receiving end of insults and mockery on a daily basis.

I have maintained in the past and continue to say this: The biggest sore point for an average Kashmiri is the overwhelming presence of armed forces everywhere in their daily lives. The Army and various uniforms in the state are the face of India to a Kashmiri. And to be frank, it is not a pleasant face at all.
The resistance in Kashmiri is very strong even today, and giving it a Pakistani bent or Islamo-terrorist bent is just irritating to the regular Kashmiri. Both cards are played often enough, many kids are swayed by anything anti-India; if that turns them to Pakistan or radical Islam, well, yes, there will be cases like that as well.
Not because these young Kashmiris know India as Indians and regular people [I do for instance, having lived outside J&K most of my life] but because for them India is its uniforms, its forces, its many atrocities that have unfolded in the past two decades. And zero accountability. Continual nationalistic barrage from MSM and politicians and chest-thumping patriots in India, complete disregard for Kashmiri voices through its local media and press and writers and intellectuals.

In the face of all of this to ask 'what do Kashmiris need to feel safe, integrated and not victimised' - well, that's three different questions.

1. Safe: I'd say Kashmiris feel perfectly safe in their lives at present, what is there to feel unsafe about? Is anyone seriously under the misapprehension that Kashmiris are fearful for their lives because armed militants are roaming the mountains and valleys and cities and towns, thirsting for blood and violence and jihad? Everyone knows this is not the case.
Yes, when there are protests against serious miscarriages of justice or human right violations and you have common people going out on the streets and armed security forces have a go at them - that is serious cause for concern. When you have AFSPA in place and no accountability. We must remember which is the only side in Kashmir which is armed right now, and it is not the people of Kashmir.

2.Integrated: Don't want it. Want normal Kashmiri lives.

3. Victimised: Could it be that when Kashmiris start seeing some justice - overdue for all the many violations of rights and tragedies that have befallen them in the recent past - at the hands of successive governments and especially the armed forces, could it be they stop feeling victimised then?

All of the above has already been said enough times in the past by Kashmiris far more articulate, knowledgeable and more relevant than myself, but I thought I'd put it out there again.
posted from Bloggeroid


testbeta said...

You put things in perspective, I didn't know what percent is affected, due to which I didn't know where to start. You say it is almost 100% I can know that a little growing in punjab after '84 but the part of turning things upside down, classification, interrogations, arresting, beating family members is not what I experienced first-hand, but I have learnt these from elder brother/sisters, relatives and newspapers. That someone and his brothers, father didn't return after being picked by police because militants came and stayed at their place. That feeling that you are anti-state hence criminal without bail, that shatters a person and families. Then add to that, the accusation you are pro-pakistan, islamic-influenced terrorist. Haider shows that and while some critics took higher ground that it portrays an average kashmiri is a terrorist or helping (aiding and abetting as state puts it) one. It tells a lot to the ignorant and people in denial-mode. People who come up and say why don't you join india or integrate with mainstream, they don't know these ground realties, which were told to a lot of india by Haider. I say my friends know a lot more than avg. indian but after Haider even their questions and discussions they tried to start were outrageous. The generation that knew about the atrocities has passed, new one doesn't know right from left let alone they would know about this turmoil. Add to that the new found ultra-nationalism. I grew up in 90's and each day I woke up to a photo of militant killed, another encounter, family facing procedings with accusation of links to terrorists, this many kharku halaak. I can sympathise with your choice of militant over state issued word for it . I grew up clarifying people on this difference, asking people often my not-so-aware classmates when they say terrorist what terrorism they are pointing to the one govt. says prevails or the state-sponsered? The extra judicial killings, fake encounters, the persons who never returned and the shakedowns families suffered. And in case of kashmir the cruelty that AFSPA is. My question is should states like punjab, assam and gujarat also take this stand? I know and tell people govt. killed and wiped their (kashmiri) entire youth give them time to recover than posing "so india or pakistan?". My query is just how many pieces are we willing to carve out of india, we have already seen partition, and haven't yet recovered from the horrors of putting people against people, mass-killings, mass migration, cultural shock. And damn those ultra-nationalists, I am not one of them. And India is not their bapu's that they get to decide who stays ,who leaves.
To tell you a secret, I was warned by a friend not to visit kashmir when I told them about volunteering, he asked me details of the people behind it and the trust, and to startle me, he said there is no bail too if caught on those charges, and that he would get it verified by his IB friends. I however tried to assure him there is nothing there and that having a power doesn't mean put people who mean well at trouble albeit with awkwardness. They also tried to paint it differently as 'you are going because you have a thing for that girl' And all this while I thought my friends knew plight of people hailing from a community that itself went through a lot.

Vijesh Balakrishnan said...

Hi, I've been to Kashmir once and sympathize with what you have said here. Completely agree to that fact that people in Kashmir have the right to decide who they want to be governed by and how they want it, and not folks in the rest of India (I am from Kerala, and had no clue how life is in the valley until a recent trek).
My query - (1) do Kashmiris really understand that it would be a political suicide for any Indian Govt. to grant them freedom? (2) In your opinion, is there any difference between Kashmir and the rest of the Indian states, as significant as the states in the North-East has with the rest of the Indian states?

No offense intended anywhere, I'm just curious :-)

Blahblah said...

Don't get pissed, I just want to understand.
Kashmiris want to separate, but how will your economy run? Your main industries are handicrafts and tourism. If you were to separate, there will be a decline in tourism and handicrafts. Ladhakh wants to remain with India, so do the hindu people of jammu(over 70%). The kashmir valley pays 25% of all the taxes of J&K, how will your new government run? You cannot expect grants from India(like we give to Nepal and Bhutan). The drug problem in the valley is as bad as punjab, if not worse. Most universities are run by the government. How will your economy survive and how will your youth be educated? And all this assuming that Pakistan will not send its military to kashmir as soon as the indian military leaves. They may sign many treaties but what is it worth? They signed the partition treaty too, they still have "azad" kashmir. Kashmiris are a minority in Pakistan occupied kashmir because unlike India, they do not have a law permitting only J&K citizens to own property there(this law is in Himachal pradesh too, since rich city folks would buy holiday homes from the poor locals).
People do not open industries in kashmir because there is a bandh or curfew most of the time. Or because they're scared of huge losses lest something like the oberoi hotel of karachi situation were to happen.
As an educated kashmiri, you have probably thought of the answers to these questions. Don't get offended, I love Kashmir and its people. I just want to understand.