"Shoot Gandhi – and if that does not suffice to reduce them to submission, shoot a dozen leading members of Congress, and if that does not suffice, shoot two hundred and so on until order is established. You will see how quickly they will collapse as soon as you make it clear that you mean business."
This is from the pages of India’s history of independence, a spine -chilling advice by Adolf Hitler to the British on how to control the peacefully protesting mobs of the freedom loving Indians during the British occupation of India. This macabre advice did not appeal to Britain’s collective conscience. This exterminationist prescription did not quite resonate with the political sophistication of the British public. The stubbornness of the Raj gave way to British public’s empathy and solidarity with the India’s yearning for self-determination. After receiving repeated rebuke by their subject population in India, the British read the writing on the wall and decided to call it quits. Britain eventually gave up the “jewel in the crown” of its empire. They gave the Indians their freedom they so deserved.
Gandhiji, like Martin Luther King, had chosen a benevolent adversary. His peaceful resistance worked after some early transformative incidents, notably Jalianwallah Bagh massacre, had failed to quench India’s thirst for freedom. It has been widely conceded, more importantly by Gandhiji himself that the trick of his peaceful resistance would not have worked against a less sophisticated nation. It was British decency, more than Gandhi’s, arguably highly persuasive, methods of peaceful resistance that won India her freedom.
What a shame! Satyagrah was a moment in history, and not a normative discourse for the resistance movements. Gandhiji’s philosophy was not meant to inform the Indian states’ policy on dissent. Therefore, unfortunately, Kashmir’s revolution has not been and will not be a ’velvet revolution’. It has been drenched in blood- – a testimony to New Delhi’s lack of true democratic tradition.
Kashmiris do not have a benevolent adversary. They are up against a repressive police state with ‘democratic’ credentials. How else can we explain the brutal murder of 68 Kashmiri youths during the last 3 months: beating to death of 8- year old protestors, shooting to death of a young girl watching a procession from the balcony, or death by torture of a 17-year-old stone pelter? Where is the collective conscience of India’s civil society? Where is the collective conscience of India’s journalists? Where is the collective conscience of the institutions of justice? Does not the daily drama of death and mayhem of peaceful protestors in Kashmir call for a suo motto action by the courts?
Gandhi’s methods of peaceful protests in Kashmir have not aroused even the Gandhians , perhaps because, as George Orwell says: “… there is reason to think that Gandhi… did not understand the nature of totalitarianism… It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again.”
How do you protest in a country that proscribes peaceful processions? How do you protest in a country where unarmed civilians are subdued through brute military power? How do you protest in a country where torture, custodial murder, rape and molestation, and use of live ammunition to disperse peaceful processions is a national security policy?
Omar Abdullah recently called for end to peaceful processions as a precondition for restraining the armed forces. Why not send the forces back to barracks and allow peaceful processions? Is not the recent event at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, where not a single stone throwing incident happened, a sufficient reminder that the presence of armed forces provokes stone pelting incidents?
Alas, India won her freedom from her occupiers without learning any lessons. India is doing to Kashmir what the British did to India in run up to its freedom. India can be accused of anything but not the decency or the political sagacity of its ruling elites, or the objectivity of its saffronised journalists. Their democratic tradition or their objectivity, whatever it is worth, stops at the southern gate of the Jawahar tunnel. Their attempts to keep off the chill from Kashmir by wrapping themselves up in the national flag are zealous display of warm and fuzzy patriotism that does India no good.
When Farooq Abdullah recently discovered ‘India’ written all over his heart, he may have spoken for himself but certainly not for those who want India to ‘go back’ from Kashmir. When he staged the melodrama in the Indian Parliament, true patriotism demanded boos, not applause: Lies, however convenient, do not advance the national interest, truth does, however inconvenient. In which language on the planet earth does “Go India, go back” translate into ‘We love India’? When Sajad Lone recently asked on the national TV, “Are you deaf?”’ which part of his poser is not clear? What part of his underlying message requires translation?
Like it or not, there is no love lost between India and Kashmir. India has not treated Kashmiris as her own, as Sonia Gandhi would have Kashmiris believe. Conversely, Kashmiris do not ‘love’ India, as Farooq Abdllah would have the Indians believe. Lacking credibility at home and being viewed with suspicion by New Delhi, nobody takes Farooq Abdullah’s antics seriously. For him, the shoe hurled at his son was a ‘great thing’ to happen! Now we know the meaning of "delusion personified’. NDTV’s Burkha Dutt recently called him a ‘contrarian: On a hot summer day in Chennai, he confuses bright sunshine with snow. Remember history’s unforgettable lesson: their fellow citizens do not kindly remember those who stand in the way of their nation’s liberation.
Imperial nations control their subject population by manipulating the core political and economic beliefs of their social and political elites. They invoke misplaced rationality, and economic and material self –interest etc. to justify and perpetuate their rule. After unsuccessful attempts at coercion, New Delhi is now attempting to cajole the Kashmiri population toward an ‘India the world is looking up to’. This distracting beckoning entails manipulation and tactics, not a strategy.
Fortunately, a grudging awakening across India is discernable that there is a moral and political disengagement between India and Kashmir. The sacred blood of Kashmir’s martyrs has served well to make inroads where it matters- – the hearts and minds of the India’s non-elites. It is a small baby- step, yet a significant first step.
When the former PM, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee beseeched his nation from Kumarakom not to “postpone the inconvenient issues [such as Kashmir] of yesterday to a distant tomorrow,” this was an appeal to the collective conscience of a nation. When the BJP representatives in the Parliament shout ‘Kashmiris want Azadi from India’, they have finally brought to the public domain an inconvenient and painful reality in Kashmir. By labeling the Kashmir rebellion what it actually represents serves the national interest better than by dismissing it as what it is not- – ‘Pakistan sponsored agitational terrorism’ or ‘government- destabilizing, lucrative stone-pelting business sponsored by the opposition’.
Kashmiris have along way to go. Remember, Serbia is not willing to give up Kosovo even after recognition of its sovereignty by more than 60 countries, and even after the International Court of Justice has validated its right to declare independence. Serbia has asserted that it will never recognize Kosovo as an independent country. Occupiers do not give up without a fight; But they do, in the end!
Whether Kashmiris want to stay with the ‘shining India’, align with ‘moth- eaten Pakistan’, or ‘go to dogs’ with their independence is for them to decide. That is the true democratic and Gandhian spirit, not the language of firepower. If the ‘language of the gun’ did not get Kashmiris their freedom, will the same language get India Kashmiris?
Kashmir’s GenNext, like their predecessors, will continue to knock at the door of India’s collective conscience. Whether India’s GenNext, unlike their predecessors, will heed the knock or continue to remain collectively unconscious remains to be seen.
(Faisal Khan is a Masters student pursuing his studies in the US. Feedback at Fkhana70@gmail.com)