Kanhaiya Kumar’s India

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JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar has once again brought up Kashmir in his speech: this time on Women’s Day. Kumar spoke against AFSPA in Kashmir and North East. And importantly, he brought to light the plight of Kashmiri women, saying they are raped by security personnel. “While we have a lot of respect for our soldiers, we will still talk about the fact that in Kashmir women are raped by security personnel,” Kanhaiya said.

As was only to be expected, BJP student’s wing ABVP has filed a police complaint against him, saying he had once again made “anti-national” statement. This sounds bizarre. Not only does it highlight the progressive narrowing of the definition of Indian nationalism, it reveals yet again how being pro-Kashmir has become anti-national in India. One can understand the partiality towards security personnel for their defence of the country but to overlook their excesses in Kashmir in the name of the nationalism is appalling. Does this mean Kashmiris don’t matter? And the atrocities against them are legitimate in the Hindu rights’ idea of nationalism? This is what appears to be the case if we go by the ABVP’s police complaint against Kumar. That is, Hindu rights’ notion of nationalism sanctions atrocities in Kashmir including even the raping of Kashmiri women. At least, this is something for them that ought not to be talked about publicly.

This nationalism, this idea of India makes Kashmiris justifiably uneasy. Not only Kashmiris but the minorities in India too. What we are confronted with is a majoritarian vision of India where minorities keep their place in the society at the pleasure of the majority. Unlike Indian brand of secularism which has its own serious flaws, the majoritarianism sanctions a hierarchical community relationship, with minorities formally subservient to the majority. For Hindu right, Modi embodies this political outlook and he has become a toast of a vast section of India’s population for this. And this is what should be most troubling for the minorities in India, most specifically the Muslims, the hate for whom undergirds the BJP politics.

The fascination with a very narrow idea of nationalism is of profound import for India. For it reveals a new India torn loose from its already diluted Nehruvian moorings, an India where implicit hate for its largest minority courses unapologetically through the veins of its body-politic. It is an India we all should have a reason to fear. And it is an India we should reject.

Having said that, the voices like that of Kanhaiya Kumar are a cause for some celebration. For these reveal an India which doesn’t look at Kashmir through a prejudiced, nationalist prism.  They show there is some empathy for what Kashmir has gone through over the past half a century. This is an aspect of India that should give us some hope that the parts of Indian public opinion are ready to question the received national wisdom on Kashmir. One can only hope that this still tentative constituency expands  and more inclusive and rational voices take centre  stage in India’s political landscape.

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