Securitizing Kashmir is dangerous for South Asia
India can keep Kashmir only at gunpoint!
DAILY TIMES, June 4, 2020
An unholy nexus of various securitizing actors in India — politicians, bureaucrats, retired and serving police and military personnel, the politicized judiciary, corporate media outlets, implanted security analysts, and surveillance geeks– have collectively cultivated a national psyche that legitimizes repression in Kashmir. The underlying motivation is to grab or keep power, gain promotions, score ratings or make a recurring profit through the sale of surveillance services and supplies–this all in the name of national security and interest.
Together these agents of the state have maliciously framed a historic and historical political struggle as a revolt against the Indian rule sponsored by Pakistan. These self-seeking actors share and peddle some of the most poisonous anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmiri beliefs. They leverage their plastic patriotism to smokescreen the true nature of the problem that has faced the nation for more than seven decades.
To counter Pakistan and the defiant resistance in Kashmir, a superstructure of military-industrial-media-complex that is highly pervasive and worrisome than the real threat to national security is operating in corridors of power in New Delhi and Srinagar. Their approach is to burn a the purely political issue in the incinerator of an artificially created emotive national security threat perception.
This securitization of Kashmir’s decades-old liberation struggle has taken an immense toll on the local population but has undoubtedly proved incapable of resolving the problem. And currently, there are no signs of people surrendering to power structures of the state, however asymmetrical these may be.
By its very nature, the process of securitization transforms a simple matter of political dissent into a national security threat. The state propaganda packages a political issue as an existential threat to the nation by laying a curtain on truth. Such manufactured threats legitimize punitive measures– both legal and military– against the protesters. Even an imaginary threat is built into a ghost by an illiterate yet loquacious politician or any mix of state actors that the police, military, and the public vigilantes must necessarily go after. No slogans, symbols, or clichés are spared to create hysteria and hate. Even the nation’s legal systems do not remain untouched by the fast-flowing rivers of whipped up public frenzy.
Globally, examples of populist-nationalist governments securitizing human rights and political issues are numerous. For the Israelis, for example, the Palestinian aspiration for a homeland is a real Arab desire to consign the Israeli Jews into the Arabian sea. Thus, the Israeli reprisals against the Palestinians, including the annexation of their territories, are justified. It becomes a matter of Jewish national security. For Trumpian nationalists, the asylum-seeking South Americans are drug peddling rapist intent upon taking the American jobs. Therefore, building a wall is a social and economic imperative– a matter of national wellbeing.
In both cases above, the rights of people– seeking decolonization or escape from violence or and poverty– are projected to the general public through the prism of national security, to magnify the threat multifold. Such is the guile of this false patriotism that it appears spotless and convincing– enabling the general public’s disregard for both the real nature of the problem and the cruelties visited upon the victims of these policies.
Similarly, the troubles in Kashmir are painted and framed in black and white: ‘Anti-national Muslims of Kashmir revolting against the Indian rule at the behest of Pakistan.’ This ‘enemy-sponsored violence’ merits suppression through all and any means. The securitizing agents cast all repressive and punitive measures as necessary for the well-being of the very victims of state violence. To counter national and international concerns, the repression is often justified in the name of social and economic development.
You can never imagine a more toxic and more powerful elixir that unites the Indians of all ilk than Pakistan and Kashmir. All it takes to incite public opinion across India is to raise a false flag, numb their minds with anti-Pakistan oratories, and then through the hoax of psychic surgery, shape and reshape their individual and group behavior. The nationalist narratives created through orchestrated campaigns leave the most innocent citizens smitten. For them, attacking Pakistan or suppressing Kashmir and killing and maiming their men, women, and children becomes a civic duty, a source of honor, and a sign of bravery.
Even though this patriotism is so plastic–artificial, simplistic, shallow, and classless–, it nonetheless, appeals not only to hotheaded hooligans but also to a significant segment of the elites and the educated classes. If some brave hearts do muster a pound or so of courage to raise their voices, as many of them do, they are named and shamed as desh drohi (anti-national) secular-liberals who are not Indian enough.
A former bureaucrat, Jagmohan Malhotra, known as the ‘butcher of Kashmir’ once told a reporter that India need not waste time to appeal to Kashmiri hearts. Instead, the target should be Kashmiri’s minds. Implicit in this coldblooded rhetoric was the concession that the only way out of India’s difficulties in Kashmir was to increase the ‘opportunity costs’ of the liberation struggle. That is, increase the cost of their resistance through injury or death; they will change their minds.
This was a page borrowed from history books when Hitler, reportedly, advised the British to “Shoot Gandhi, and if this doesn’t suffice to reduce them to submission, shoot a dozen leading members of the Congress, and if that doesn’t suffice, shoot 200, and so on, as you make it clear that you mean business.”
We are witnessing that Kashmiris have changed neither their hearts nor their minds, even at the steep risk of life and limb. The resistance against occupation is alive and vibrant even after the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and despite the scale and scope of cruel and insufferable technologies of state tyranny. The resilience of both rural and urban supporters of protesters and fighters signifies the widespread disgust against the colonial-settler land-grabbing.
In their book titled ‘India’s Internal Security- The Actual Concerns’ two Indian scholars N.C. Asthana and Anjali Nirmal have offered two alternative policy choices for India. Either continue on the path of confrontation without addressing people’s underlying motivations – ‘the actual concerns’- in Kashmir or, alternatively, seek accommodation and understanding with the dissenting groups without any further bloodshed. The former policy choice will bring neither peace nor security. The patently dangerous securitization of Kashmir dispute will bring wars. The wars will bring death and destruction on all sides in their wake.
Explaining this, they argue that imaginary threats are being pursued by securitizing agents often in pursuit of self-interest. The Indian public should be asking why there is an insurgency instead of blindly supporting the state’s whipped up frenzy and tyranny. Suppressing the tools of rebellion, such as protests and stone-pelting, etc. will bring no solution. Instead, the Indian state should focus on the root causes of the uprising in Kashmir. For without justice, there is no peace, and without peace, there is no security.
Two lessons must be drawn here. One, the Indian government has invested and continues to invest, immense amounts of the security, military, and economic capital in Kashmir to address an artificially created security threat. India has turned into a police-state. And seven decades on, there is nothing to show for success on this front. Second, India can keep Kashmir only through coercion. Only at gunpoint!
Both lessons must inform any policy imperatives that aim at peace and development in South Asia. Securitizing people’s aspiration for freedom from occupation is no substitute to an amicable solution to the problem. It is time that India eschews the discourse of saffron jingoism and rhetoric of national hysteria. Failing this, Kashmir will continue to bleed, and blood across the India -Pakistan divide will continue to boil. At risk is the future of the entire subcontinent and beyond. The verdict of history is this: All territorial occupations must end. A solution must be found. Time is now.
Tariq Ahmed is a freelance writer based in North America