Kashmir: Patriotism Over Humanism?

Drishti Bagdas

DrishtiA 22 year old Indian Gorkha who is a devoted humanist and a keen learner. Also a photography and travel enthusiast with a passionate love for music and the oppressed.

Sometime ago, I had watched some of the news channels that were actively reporting on Burhan Wani’s newly released video. They called him the ‘poster boy’. I would’ve easily cursed the guy who picked arms at the age of 15 and was now the new face of ‘media terrorism’.

I remember how the news anchors carefully scripted words that made him easily appear like a bloodthirsty, cold-blooded terrorist who kills to make South Asia a pan-Islamic state; like someone who likes seeing terror in the eyes of innocent unarmed victims before slitting their throats open or bombing them in bustling areas of mainland India.

“Dehshat failanay k liye jawan ladkon ko atank ki duniya mein dhakel raha hai yeh atanki,” they said.

Thankfully I was updated on the video so it was pretty easy to notice how they conveniently left out the part in which Burhan assures safe passage to the Vaishno Devi travellers and the tourists in general. Some slyly left it out, some mentioned it in a way that it was hard to notice.
Would they tell viewers like me what he actually fought for or fought against? No. Would they tell me it is highly unlikely that Burhan will send his men to come kill me just because I’m an Indian? No. Would they assure me that Hizbul Mujahideen Commander is no Indian Mujahideen or ISIS that’ll flog and murder me when I cannot recite verses from the Koran? No.

Because this is what politics is all about: the more people think Burhan is out to get us, Indians, the better it is for the state agenda. The more people are enraged, the more trapped Kashmiris are.

Media has always played a major role in garnering support of the masses for the State and for glorifying its fallacies while demonizing the opponent. Viewers are more likely to accept war as necessary and legitimate when the media portrays the leaders and citizens of other nations as ‘inhumane’ or ‘greedy’ and ‘evil’. And this is EXACTLY what is going on with us as well. When they continue to reinforce the political lens that elevates the values of India above all else, they also reduce the lives of other humans to mere numbers while making us believe we are the true patriots.
I do not support violence in anyway, but I do wish the news they gave us also talked about what caused it. Why talk about bullets that exit from just one weapon?

It may be easy to blame the breeding of right-wing individuals like Burhan on Pakistan or Afghanistan or ISIS or radical Islam but for how long can we deny the fact that seeing one’s beautiful home get locked down by an enormous army and kins being assaulted & killed is bound to sow the seeds of distrust and contempt? It is only human, I thought, but the ultra nationalist news channels weren’t hesitant to term it as ‘Insaniyat se dushmani’.

Agreed, ‘foreign terrorists’ did play a huge role at the peak of militancy, but the struggle of Kashmiris remains older than India itself. Now, it is largely an indigenous movement like it has been for many decades. If we believe otherwise, we are only playing the fool.

Birth of fearless youth who challenge the Indian armed forces and the Indian State and kill soldiers to stand up for their beliefs pose a grave threat to the friends I have in the army who are stationed in Kashmir and the ones who will be posted there sometime or the other. My good friends in the Indian Army would not rape. No. Nor would a thousand more honourable officers like them who leave behind their comfort and families to die and kill in the name of the nation and its sovereignty. But that does not change the fact that another thousand would resort to committing war crimes and rapes which they would not do otherwise. This means that the army you and I know are hardly a minor percentage of what makes army there on the ground. But, unlike the majority of Indian army lovers I see every day, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the rape of over 80 women in Kunan Poshpora on 23rd Feb 1991 by 125 soldiers of the 4th RR, the people of the same organization and its counterparts, again, in the name of the nation. I cannot remain silent on the draconian impunity provided to the bullies and murderers in uniform who threw the bodies of Aasiya and Neelofar in ankle deep water calling it an ordinary case of drowing, in the name of the nation. I cannot chant praises in their name while hypocritically ignoring the crazy list of instances of ‘insaniyat se dushmani’ a lot of their men have shown for decades.

Firstly, the deployment of paramilitary forces for crowd control is injustice in itself. The folks aren’t trained to do that! When people trained to fight at the borders with equally armed enemies have the power to use live ammunition on unarmed civilians, that too in what we seem to consider ‘an integral part’, it marks the death of democracy. When we say our ‘brave security forces’ blinded 8 year old boys with pellets and beat up 80 year old women to protect us, Indians, our conscience should drive us to save India’s democracy in the real sense by condemning their sadistic attacks. If not for these atrocities, brilliant and ambitious students like Burhan Wani and Ishaq ‘Newton’ Parray would be graduating from a university now or holding a stethoscope instead of an AK-47. Calling their motivation to rise up against the Indian State a Pakistan or ISIS engineered one instead of accepting the violations on our part will only delay the process of peace building.

AFSPA, unmarked graves, tortures, molestations have long clawed in the hearts and minds of Kashmiris. Impunity provided by the state is a major problem, yes; but there’s something more that’s responsible for the same and for the birth of anger so strong that it produces militants – the impunity provided by the civil society of India. This impunity we provide stems from what is called political socialization by the media.

I urge all fellow citizens of India to drop prejudices for a while, ditch the electronic media, pick up a book or more on Kashmir written by unbiased scholars and historians. You can condemn the ‘armed resistance fighters’ or ‘militants’ as strongly as you please, but please remember to identify the source of its creation. Perhaps then we can only begin to understand what it feels like sleeping to the sound of gunfire wondering who dies next. Perhaps then, we will feel some kind of shame to say that the death of 17 year old boys like Tufail Muttoo in the hands of the Indian Security Forces is ‘something they deserve’.

Whether Kashmir should be independent, merged with Pakistan, or stay with India remains controversial and the utopian decision taken would be such that it accommodates the wishes of all three states, primarily Kashmir. Accepting the war crimes and providing justice to the victims could be the first step. I fear, however, that before this solution plays out, we may not have anymore Kashmiris to address.