By Khan Emran
Narratives are significant, more specifically, in the present day battle of narratives. Psychologists believe that people tell stories to help organize and make sense of their lives and their storied accounts are functional and purposeful. Throughout the history, Kashmiris have used folk tales and phrases to express their feelings and to help others understand their subjective experiences. One such story is that of a goat and a tiger.
A goat was once drinking water from a stream. A tiger happened to drink also from the same stream, at a distance slightly above the goat. The tiger with the intention to kill the goat and eat it up, decided to cook up some false reason. The tiger said to the goat “Hey, you are making the water dirty and not allowing me to drink”. The goat surprised and amused with this allegation, replied “Dear lord, how can I make the water dirty when it is flowing down from you towards me” “But then why did you verbally abused me last year?” asked the tiger. The goat again humbly replied “Sir how is it possible for me to verbally abuse you last year, when I am just 6 months old”. “Then it must have been your father or any of your relative” said the tiger. It then jumped over the poor goat and tore it apart.
The same kind of false narratives have been used by the union government in justifying it’s move on Article 370 and 35A. For example Home Minster while addressing the parliament said that Article 370 and 35A used to help only two families. He was referring to Abdullahs and Muftis. However he forgot to tell the house that it was the same Abdullah family which facilitated the accession of Kashmir with India. On 31st October 1951, in his first speech to the J&K assembly, Sheikh Abdullah argued for accession to India. It is the same Abdullahs which have represented Indian narrative at world forums and also strengthened Indian interests in Kashmir. With regard to Muftis, it was Mufti Syed, who was once the Home Minister of India and whose daughter was kidnapped by militants. Even BJP went on to form government with PDP in J&K after the last state assembly elections. It was Mehbooba Mufti, who in a press conference in the aftermath of Burhan agitation, along with the then Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, justified the extreme muscular approach used by forces. Her “toffee, milk and 5%” remarks still reverberate in the ears of Kashmiris. Further in last state assembly election, it was BJP that swept assembly seats in Jammu division despite Article 370 and 35A being in place.
It was also argued that 370 and 35A was a hindrance in way of development and progress of the state and it’s abrogation was necessary to pave way for the same. Well if that is the case then why not to make all the under-developed and under-progressive states of India as Union territories? (That too without taking the respective state assemblies in confidence) Further if Union Territory is the key for development and progress then why Delhi is crying for statehood for so long. It is worth mentioning here that on many parameters of development, for example per capita income or education, J&K despite being conflict hit, is doing far better that many of the sates in India.
It has also been claimed that the two Articles were the main hindrance in the integration of Kashmir with rest of India. Well people in India need to know that the accession of J&K with rest of India was a special case and took place in special circumstances. Further the accession was conditional, restricted to defence, foreign affairs and communications only and also subjected to plebiscite. Being the only Muslim majority state, the people of Jammu and Kashmir had certain apprehensions about their identity, culture, ethnicity and state’s demography etc with regard to accession with India. To deal with these apprehensions and to assure the people of Kashmir safety and freedom within the ambit of India, Article 370 and 35A were enacted. It may not be wrong to conclude that Article 370 and 35A were the constitutional representation of instrument of accession. On the other hand, what actually hindered the integration of Kashmir with rest of India, was continuous erosion of the same since it’s enactment. Instead of strengthening 370 and thus reassuring Kashmiris, it was weakened to the extent that serious concerns about their identity, ethnicity and state’s demography etc emerged in the hearts of people.
With regard to the political conflict and armed resistance in Kashmir, an honest introspection and accepting of facts is needed and not just false narratives. Kashmir is a dispute, and Kashmiris have been promised their right to self-determination, not just by India but also by international community. On 5th of February 1948, a UN resolution calls for a plebiscite in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Time and again narrative of “elections in the state”, have been used to counter the plebiscite narrative. However on 30th of March 1951, a UN Security Council resolution rejected elections as a substitute for plebiscite in Kashmir. Further it is actually the undermining of democracy and democratic institutions that led to the emergence of armed resistance in Kashmir. For example even today while abrogating Article 370 and 35A, state assembly has been put to gallows, and rendered meaningless. Subsequently entire Kashmir has been caged and communication with rest of the world chocked. On top of that normalcy, celebrations and benefits of the move have been claimed and conveyed through media. They seem to have created desolation and call it peace.
As since 1947, once again the attempt has been made only to win over the land and not the hearts. The biggest irony is that the rest of India is made to believe that whatever is being done with Kashmir is logical, based on justice and very much needed. Unfortunately they seem to buy all those false narratives. And the reason for the same can be understood again by a Kashmiri folk tale. Once, a man was carrying a sheep. Four thugs decided to rob him. They came up with an idea of false narrative. Each of the four thugs sat in the way of this man at different locations. When the man arrived near the first thug, he asked the man “where are you taking this dog?” The man replied “Can’t you see, this is a sheep and not a dog” and moved on. The second thug used the same tactics; he asked “where from you have got this dog?” The man this time, while having a look at his sheep, replied “this is a sheep and not a dog” and continued his walk. Similarly the third thug told him “this is a fine dog you have got”. Well, this time, the man started doubting whether he is actually carrying a sheep? Nervously, the man replied “this is not a dog but a sheep” and continued along his path. Lastly, the fourth thug told him “hey, why don’t you just set this poor dog free?” This time the man’s confidence was shaken. He questioned himself that how can he be right all the time and the other four persons wrong? He thought that maybe he is actually carrying a dog and not a sheep. He set the sheep free and the thugs robbed him of it. Similarly the people of India are being flooded with so much of false narratives on Kashmir that they have actually started to believe it as divine truth. Like that man, they seem to have been robbed of their ability to question and power to reason. In fact, in the battle of false narratives, it is their mind, that has obviously lost.
Author is an M.Phil-Psychology student from University of Kashmir