India’s ‘Liberal’ Intellectual Elite on Kashmir: Obfuscation or Ignorance?

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The orgy of violence and the disproportionate structural violence employed by the state in response has percolated onto the media-social and conventional. Barring a few sane violence, the gravamen and thrust of even what is called “liberal” opinion in India is gyrating to extremes. That is, they are spewing venom in the garb of liberal opinion. Some have shed their liberal pretensions and openly root for repression and suppression of Kashmiris. The thrust and gist of this “liberal” or sometimes closet Hindutva opinion is that the current unrest in Kashmir is motivated and engineered; that it is an “Islamist” outpouring. One columnist and opinion maker, previously with the news portal First Post and now with Swarajya Magazine, R. Jaggannathan, goes to the extent of stating that Burhan Wani’s funeral was orchestrated. That is, lakhs of people were bamboozled and deceived or coerced or whatever comes to Jagannathan’s perverted mind, to attend Burhan Wani’s funeral. Jagannathan begins his “analysis by giving a context and putting a spin on the events in Kashmir.  He asserts:

“The contest of wills between the Indian state, the Pakistani state and a whole bunch of non-state terrorist actors has resumed once again in Jammu & Kashmir. This time it has happened with the killing of Burhan Wani of the Hizbul Mujahideen by the security forces. It’s a contest India cannot afford to lose. The last thing we need is a namby-pamby response just because popular passions have been aroused during Wani’s orchestrated funeral. The funeral triggered attacks on the security forces, with the total of civilian and police killed adding up to 23 at the time of writing”.

Decoded, what Jagannathan is saying is that the arousal of passions after Burhan’s killing is the emanation of “non state terrorist forces”. What can be extrapolated from this given that Kashmir is up in arms and around 40 unarmed protestors have been killed so far? The answer is obvious, if numbers are held to be indicative: that all Kashmiris are terrorists. 

Jagannathan then goes onto discredit the politics of Kashmir and states:

“The Kashmir movement is no longer about azaadi or separatism; it is about eliminating non-Muslims from the Valley, if not the whole of J&K. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani wants Sharia in Kashmir, not Kashmiriyat”

Not satisfied with denigrating the lives and the struggles of Kashmiris, Jagannathen then goes onto root for a hard power and unabashed use of force in Kashmir. He does not rule out putting the families of militants out of the crosshairs of the state. It may be added that this is a technique employed by the Israeli Mossad in Occupied Palestine. Jagannathan writes:

“We have to move out of a defensive mindset and turn aggressive. This does not mean more use of the army, but less. Terrorism cannot be defeated by the army; it needs a mobile and agile special police force that operates like a guerrilla counter-insurgency outfit. Andhra defeated the Maoists with its Greyhounds. KPS Gill defeated the Kahlistani militants with his police force that used unorthodox methods to tackle terror. When terror is homegrown, the terrorists themselves are vulnerable, as they have families in the same place where they create mayhem. So while the army is slowly withdrawn to the barracks and the borders, special police forces need to be created to neutralise the terrorists one by one. Wani is only the beginning, not the end”. 

Adding vigor to the Israeli policy, Jagannathan then roots for settlement of what he calls “Indians” in Kashmir. The sub text is clear here: Kashmiris are not Indians and the state’s demographics must be altered to impose India’s writ on Kashmir. Here is what India’s armchair Chanakya has to say: 

“Political moves to end Kashmiri alienation need to be accompanied by hints of changing laws to allow Indians to settle in Kashmir. This move will have support in the rest of India, even if they are opposed in the Valley itself. Threats to change the demography over the next 25 years are important to send a message that terrorism will not be allowed to succeed”

Jagannathan concludes by writing:

“The stakes are high for India in Jammu & Kashmir. If we lose this battle, we have lost the soul of secular India. It is not about a piece of real estate. Kashmir is where the idea of Pakistan should be comprehensively defeated and buried”.

I would like to apologize to readers for extensively quoting and citing passages from Jagannathan’s opinion piece but the whole exercise is warranted because the man represents an important opinion of the so called “liberal” elite of India. Before proceeding further, what is noteworthy about Jagannathan’s op-ed is a total lack of empathy or sympathy for Kashmiris and the death doll that state violence has exacted so far.

For most Kashmiris, Jagannathan’s vituperative bile would constitute validation of what has been the Indian State’s default reflex since the past few decades but for the uninitiated like me, it is an eye opener. It is an eye opener in the sense of shattering the belief that there was or is a liberal and enlightened intellectual elite in India that empathizes with Kashmiris and believes in a sober conflict resolution paradigm. Alas, there is not. And this reality or truth emerges in conditions of stress and conflict. There is, if Jagannathan’s piece is taken as a snapshot of India’s liberal elite,  a psychological reflex that comes to fore when Kashmir implodes.  This reflex boots for unabashed use of force against Kashmir and Kashmiris. This is not all. For the Indian elite-liberal or otherwise, the conflict in and over Kashmir is about Pakistan; not Kashmir or Kashmiris as Jagannathan’s “analysis” makes clear. The conflict then becomes a proxy war for India and Kashmir, if at all, it matters, becomes incidental to the whole schemata – only as an arena where Pakistan is to be defeated.

Whilst I had nagging suspicions of this nature, and I would give benefit of doubt to some sections of India’s liberal intellectual elite, but now I am compelled to review my opinion. It would now appear that a deliberate climate of opinion is sought to be cultivated for a certain view on Kashmir. This view lends itself to the analysis for India’s opinion makers, the only option available on Kashmir is that of force complemented by a sly and devious political approach that denudes Kashmiris of their rights and in the process resolve the conflict for good. But this is as silly, ahistorical and short termist an approach as can be. History demonstrates that the will of the people cannot be stifled and smothered for long. This is not merely a general lesson but also has a resonance in Kashmir. A hard power approach to smother the will of the people has not worked. After more than two and a half decades of counter insurgency in Kashmir, peoples’ aspirations have again reared their head. The current spasm of violence is not merely about Burhan but about what Burhan represented and symbolized for most people: defiance against oppression. If this is sought to be curbed, contained or smothered by ruthless application of force and Machiavellian politics, the future is not difficult to foresee. By way of a conclusion, it may be stated that the current imbroglio and orgy of violence should induce soul searching and a policy review towards Kashmir. The gravamen of this review should be to institute a sober conflict resolution approach that redounds to the benefit of all stakeholder-especially Kashmiris and including Pakistan. The rest is hogwash whose consequences will not be only deleterious for the region but for the world at large. Let sobriety and prudence reign over Machiavellian arrogance!

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