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In the totalitarian times that we are living in currently, one is constantly reminded of George Orwell’s prophetic lines: “Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age, and certain arts or half-arts, such as architecture, might even find tyranny beneficial, but the prose writer would have no choice between silence or death.” Nobody is fond of painting a dystopian imagery on one’s discursive canvass, but one cannot help when the same is structuring, shaping and influencing our lives in the real circumstances. Amidst all this, and as the Orwellian lines rightly allude to, a new repressive dialectic has been enacted by the superstructure of oppression in our ‘Republic’ for Kashmiris in which they have to choose between Silence and Death. In the past one month alone, as if 2016 was not enough, 13 Kashmiri protesters have been killed, beginning with Chadoora.

Moreover, teenage students in Colleges and Higher Secondary Institutions were ruthlessly baton charged and shelled inside campuses for raising their voices against the unwarranted raid on Pulwama College and the consequent action in which many students got injured. While many grievously injured girl students are still lying in the hospital, the state has now itself imposed a lockdown on all its Colleges acrosss valley to deprive the students of their basic rights. In which Republic on earth, they do this to their girl students? At the same time, hollow rhetoric-filled slogans like “Insaniyat”, “Jamhoriyat”, “Kashmiriyat”, “Beti Bachao, Beti Padao”, are trumpeted along with a more high pitch in Goebbelian vein while in truth, their antonyms are being canonized into the lives of ordinary Kashmiris. The impunity goes on as ever. All the pleas and cries for sanity go unheard as ever. Most of these protesters were young students and if the veracity of videos is to be believed, they were shot point blank on their forehead with a total intention to kill. Still, the state commends its own forces and portrays them as if they are at the receiving end of protests.

Those protests which are only meant to express dissent and pleas and cries for political justice. All these republican ideals are killed by the bullets which are fired and sanctioned by our freshly modulated Republican Democracy. If ever there was any deep crisis in Indian Democracy, it is best illustrated by this very irony. Things are aggravating to the unprecedented levels, and so is the anger of a hurt, humiliated and oppressed populace which is itself looking for violent outlets to convey its anger when all other spaces have been awfully made to shrink. Who knows what perfidy this summer may play with us ? But we are certain that the perfidy of state is beating its own records; on a day which was supposed to be a day of democracy, a human being or a ‘democratic citizen’ (the poor Kashmiri had just voted in the elections in Budgam amidst all the fear) was turned into a shield by the Army of the Republic. Again, an emblematic illustration of how the Indian state carries on with its treatment of Kashmir and Kashmiris where the trust in great republican ideals is often returned by brutal atrocities and repression by the same Republic. And this has been going on right since 1953.

It is a historical antecedent that in Kashmir, India has always had to ‘impose’ its nationalist disposition but what is it that in recent years, the situation has become so adverse that now there appears a complete lack of trust and faith in Indian Democracy and Republicanism. May be these two supreme ideals never reached Kashmir which has created a political precipice or just that in the recent times, these two ideals have been themselves dented. Much of it we have already seen in India in the recent years especially since 2014 when our Democracy experienced an inverted “epistemological break” of sorts. This break has become exacerbated as ever, more penetrative and intense to pose grave existential questions to we the inhabitants of the seemingly “fallen” Republic. A Republic in which lynching, baying for blood and venomous discoursing, all infused by the new fascistic modulation, have become the new routine. A Republic where Cow and Cow urine forms the theme of the majority of deliberations, but not the dying farmers of different states or the blinded Kashmiri kids. A Republic where, in the inverted version of rule of law, but much in consonance with Orwellian dystopias, FIRs are registered against the dead victims of the terrorist violence in the name of Cow protection.

All totalitarian regimes have a chronic derision for the mere idea of dissent and when totalitarianism gets further aligned with religion and hyper jingoistic nationalism, we, the dissenters, must know that we are in for a much longer haul. In today’s India, totalitarianism, fascism and hyper jingoistic nationalism have been or are being increasingly tied to the idea of Republic which is where exactly we are heading for a destructive anarchy where all essential democratic and republican values automatically become redundant. This is what is being done all over India, but there is no better fertile site to bring all this into praxis than the besieged valley of Kashmir for it being an “embattled” site of the Republic. All totalitarian regimes feel the dire need to create binaries, no matter how fragile and “imaginary” these binaries may be. If you have Beef eating minorities in the mainland Republic on whom totalitarianism is freely enacted, then if the same minority has a gun, stone or dissenting voice in it, then you have found a real binary. This is what is happening right now in Kashmir; the fascistic principles are being violently asserted in the most malevolent manner than when could imagine ever. And no surprises, India’s nationalist oppression of Kashmiris has become ever more entrenched and aggressive.

With Kashmir as its main pivot, the aggressive manufacturing of the hyper-nationalistic discourse helps the Hindutva fascists of Sangh Parivar to draw clear battle-lines in which, according to its weird calculus, it would be on vantage ground while herding all other dissidents into submission. The Sangh leaders are continuously bragging about the fact that they have become the patent holders of Indian nationalism. They have become emboldened after UP elections which elevated a hardcore communalist to CM’s position. The terror of Cow vigilantes has proportianately increased as they can now even strike in the capital of Republic itself. Arun Jaitley had remarked last year that the BJP had won the first round of the nationalism battle and would like it consolidate it. The aggressive grandstanding on the nationalism discourse allows the Sangh to project itself as the sole custodian of Indian nationhood and identity. The purpose is to vertically disseminate the state-sanctioned hyperbolic definition of nationalism, one in which there are no dissidents and critics, but contains only fascistic overtures of brute majoritarianism of a particular ideology which is highly divisive and thoroughly regressive. And if ever there was fertile ground beckoning this battle, it was surely the land of Kashmir where these blood-dimmed plans can be enacted with much more viciousness.

The Sangh’s method is a more blatant, rigid and violent assertion of the general Indian attitude towards Kashmir and Kashmiris. Both at Centre and in the state, the BJP is following this lethal blueprint. In this, the PDP is totally discredited and it has lost it all after its unholy but typically opportunistic alliance with BJP. The state Police Chief can go to meet Ram Madhav to take “instructions” but won’t listen to CM Mehbooba’s repeated pleas for restraint. In this vein, the repeated genocidal rants of Sanghis like Tarun Vijay(calling for Saffron settlements), Subramaniam Swamy (calling for demography change), Ram Madhav(everything fair in war), Chander Prakash Ganga (kill all protesting Kashmiri youth) with the ever hyper jingoistic electronic media fully behind them to perform the profiling task, are meant to give a reminder to dissident Kashmiris of their submission by force and to symbolically assert India’s desire for territory and not its In the meanwhile, the oppressed Kashmiris are only asking: till when, and for how long?

Basharat Shmeem is an Independent Researcher, Progressive Youth Activist, from Kulgam, J & K

  • K SHESHU BABU

    The high- handed rulers have used all types of weapons – including elections! But everything proved futile before the resilience of Kashmiri people. They are relentlessly trying to achieve their cherished goal of self – determination. The more they are suppressed by the ‘ Republic ‘ the harder will be their resolution to carry forward their struggle