One more uprising in the Kashmir valley, one more scenario where people suddenly realize the gravity of the issue is here. The political ferment is ubiquitous, the ham handed approach of the State is self evident and the multiple local stakeholders have found themselves in a state of profound chaos and bewilderment. The lack of a genuine platform for a robust, feasible discussion and debate is nowhere to be seen. The suddenness in the reaction toward the volatile nature of political developments in the valley is striking. More often than not, it is tried to be understood through the prism of the intransigent language of the State that comes by the name of “national security”. This in a place where one might argue that the presence of the State has been minimal if not absent. The suddenness is laced with a feeling of collective outrage, anger and a feeling of hostility for all those who are out to break through the benign status quo image served to us by the same inept State.
The problem with the invoking of national security in danger is simple. It focuses on the fate of the ‘land’ whose integration in the Indian Union has been historically contentious. The people who live on that strategically precious land have never really mattered to the dominant question of safeguarding our “collective national interests”. History is important over here as it matters more than possibly any other place in the country. The configuration and reconfiguration of this narration of history is heavily biased against what the people of the valley themselves perceive about Kashmir and the Indian Union for the matter. The narration is replete with the complete absence of the various stakeholders that are involved in the crisis. Innumerable voices have systematically been buried only to be overpowered by a State that has always been keen on maintaining its own strong, domineering and aggressive image at the national and international front. For instance, the binary between the militants and the Indian Army almost creates an image of the battle being fought on a barren land with no human settlements to think about. The issue of how the State decides on the worthiness of the stakeholders, who matters and who are peripheral to the impending crisis, is something that needs to be critically reflected upon. The calling off of the High commissioner level talks last year which was followed by a steadfast refusal by then Central government to engage with the separatist leaders needs to be brought to focus to deliberate on the approach that has been adopted by the Centre to deal with the current turmoil.
There have been umpteen examples in the past where even the local Kashmiri people have been rendered inconsequential to the entire debate. The emerging, well educated youth, the huge women workforce which makes its presence felt in an everyday Kashmiri life are all seen as people who have nothing significant to contribute to strive towards normalcy and shape their own future. The first group, like a lot of other groups across the country is faced with sundry problems like political, social, cultural and most importantly economic in their day to day affairs. That the outrage can have anything to do with all these factors and how we as a country have collectively failed them in providing avenues to attain self – sufficiency seldom looms on the horizon. The plight of the Kashmiri women is something that has ceased to carry any relevance in the present day context. Like the conflicts, mayhem and bloodshed, their historically scarred experiences have been normalised. The natural conclusion is their conspicuous absence from public life. The mainstream media has to share the blame for their redundancy. It can be discerned in how there were hardly any female voices expressing their version of the impending fallout on the television debates which otherwise boast of being the voice of the ‘nation’. The convenient target then that remains is always religion whose dogmatic nature sees no possibility of a consensus based retrieval. Another grand illusion has been the art of blaming Pakistan for whatever wrong that happens in India, especially in the Kashmir valley. The first thing that this does is it vindicates the State of all its basic, administrative obligations and thereby constructs a case of perpetual victimhood built on absolutely puerile reasoning. This in a region where the Kashmiris speak of wanton discrimination since the Dogra rule in the 1930’s where our principle actor of derision and repulsion wasn’t even born! A range of political dealings after the integration can be sighted where the main actor of political negotiations has only been the Government of India, failing to acknowledge its own misdoings.
It is time we break this nexus of elitism which keeps away all those groups who form the heart of the issue. Probably, it is also time to think of the Kashmir problem in a more consistent and continuous manner. Henri Bergson’s idea of how human beings understand time not as a moment but as a duration needs to be fought against if we are to get anything positive from this perilously dangerous moment of our much celebrated democracy. The moment is hard to live and fully experience because of the partisan ideological baggage of the past and the imminent feeling of foreboding. It however needs to be persisted with in order to make a broader sense of this historical predicament. Otherwise, it will prove the cynics right of this being another case of a virtual impasse in our famed collective conscience.
Suraj Kumar Thube is currently pursuing his MA in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is interested in Indian politics and Indian political thought. He spends most of his time reading books, playing football and listening to Hindustani classical music.