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Of Caging Of Kashmiris, Forcing Nationalism And Imposing Patriotism

By Imran Khan

20 August, 2015

It is said that “wars are won against armies in battle fields and not against people denied of their freedom” and “hearts can neither be caged nor forced to love”. Pakistan and India celebrated their independence days on 14th and 15th august respectively. Both countries paid tribute to their martyrs. There were celebrations everywhere in both the countries. Every year this day gives them a sense of being free in their own land. It reminds them of the struggle and hardships their ancestors went through to realise the dream of freedom. We Kashmiries and all lovers of freedom congratulate both the countries on this joyous occasion.

However a day symbolising the end of colonialism in India is observed as a day symbolising the beginning of Indian colonialism in Kashmir. Kashmir yet again observed this day as a black day, yet again we were caged and yet again our freedom was curbed. The government’s security apparatus - Police, CRPF, Army, BSF, STF etc were found busy doing what they actually are not be supposed to do i.e., caging people, in the name of law and order and security. The look was nothing less than a cordon of entire Kashmir. Frisking, confining people to their homes, restrictions and curfews and even halting of internet and mobile services added to the India’s Independence Day celebrations here. Even Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid, Srinagar were not allowed to thwart any attempt of protest against Indian occupation or the unfurling of Pakistani flags.

The alienation felt by Kashmiries is not mysterious. India promised Kashmir a plebiscite six decades ago. It was Lal Chowk were Jawahar Lal Nehru deceived Kashmiries on November 2, 1947, by a false pledge, Nehru said "The fate of Kashmir will ultimately be decided by the people. We have given that pledge and Maharaja (Hari Singh) had supported it. It is not only a pledge to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it." The complete deserted look of the same Lal Chowk on India’s Independence Day reflects everything about the fulfilment of that promise. That promised plebiscite never happened but what happened ever since was the sabotage of democracy and efforts of forced integration of Kashmir from time to time.

The totally different scene of Indian Independence day celebration in Kashmir as compared to the rest of India reflects everything about the nature of Independence here and amount of belongingness people feel towards it. All the attempts of forced nationalism have proved counterproductive for India in Kashmir so far, but unfortunately Indian policy makers and government always lend a deaf ear to it. With Indian think tank and government in complete denial such acts done with an apparent aim to strengthen nationalism end up further alienating people. Instead of any celebration this day reminds Kashmir of their lost freedom, it reminds them of all the false promises made by India and the word (UN).

From military machoism to pumping of huge sums of money in Kashmir the efforts of forced nationalism and integration are a failure even after six decades. Unarmed protests, unfurling of Pakistani flags, educated youth joining militant ranks, the frequent need of curfews etc are all an eye opener Indian civil society and think tanks.

Psychology of attitude formation and change can provide some insight into such a reaction from Kashmiries. One component of cognitive dissonance theory is that “ the greater the pressure to comply (to a particular behaviour or attitude) the less is attitude change” or in other words the more one pressurises a person to accept something or behave in a particular way the less that person will comply. India is doing the same mistake in Kashmir. With all the military might India forces its nationalism and patriotism on Kashmiries.

Off course a single and simple theory cannot provide insight into the complex Kashmir issue, which has many dimensions, the point which I want to convey here is that India should do away with the policy of forcing nationalism and imposing patriotism, in Kashmir and instead realise the reality of Kashmir dispute and work for the peaceful resolution of same.

No effort, military, diplomatic or political will do any good unless and until the ground realities and the disputed nature of Kashmir is not accepted along with concrete efforts for conflict resolution. In the absence of all this, chaos, conflict and violence will continue and the forced nationalism will keep harming India’s own aims.

It is worth mentioning here that in Kashmir even a minor protest about civic issues like water and electricity inevitably turns into demands for azadi (freedom). This actually reflects nothing but the vent which people give to their feelings suppressed over a long period of time by force and a lack of the state policy for lasting peace and conflict resolution.

The fact that the new generation of Kashmir do not even fear death and keep protesting unarmed and pelting stones or continue joining militant ranks even when full military might has been used, in itself neutralizes the military strategy of India on Kashmir and again reflects the need for political engagement and conflict resolution. The memories of 2008 and 2010 mass uprising with people (unarmed) demolishing bunkers , breaking through cordons of concertina wire and staring straight down the barrels of soldiers' machine guns and crying loud for freedom is enough to impress upon the policy makers of India, a need of paradigm shift.

Unfortunately however with aggressive tactics, denial of ground realities and lingering the dispute, India is neither able to win the hearts of Kashmiries nor able to bring lasting peace in this part of the world. History is testimony to the fact that oppressive tactics in absence of efforts for conflict resolution have always back fired.

On the other hand it is also for the separatists to offer people something more than just martyrs, slogans and strikes (hartals). They need to come up with a well planed, comprehensive and well thought agenda and resolution of Kashmir issue. They need to develop a concrete plan of not just struggle but solution. It is time for them to come up with peaceful solution acceptable to India, Pakistan and Kashmiries.

For India Caging of Kashmiries, forcing nationalism and imposing love and patriotism time and again will lead to nothing. For peace, prosperity and development accepting of ground realities and a peaceful resolution of Kashmir conflict is a necessity. Both India and Pakistan need to move beyond Kashmir and focus on other important problems which both the countries are facing. And above all they should not leave their humanity.

Imran Khan, M.Phil Psychology, Government Teacher


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