By Shahnaz Bashir
In the turn of events after the killing of young rebel commander Burhan Wani in the summer of 2016, many Indian film stars, musicians, singers, cricketers, intellectuals and journalists have brazenly called for ruthless response to Kashmiris protesting for their right to self-determination. To name a few: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Ghambir, Anupam Kher, Babu Supriyo, Arnab Goswami. They have been explicitly vitriolic, asking the Indian army to purge Kashmir of resistance. The latest is a BJP MLA distributing customised T-shirts that depict Farooq Ahmad, the Kashmiri village voter who was tied to the bonnet of an army jeep. The T-shirts celebrate the notorious human-shield incident in 2017 in Kashmir, encouraging the army without any resentment present against such brazen human rights violation depiction in India. The same celebration of human shielding has been enacted in a latest Bollywood movie ‘Baaghi 2’.
India is harsh yet clear on its position that there will be no talk on Kashmir, as such no justifications for any killing. Since there was already a large narrative for that in the world, nothing new has to be said except that nation states are justified in doing whatever they can in keeping themselves intact against any local rebellion and there will be impunity for their forces even for ‘mistaken’ murders. The phenomenon of this brazenness resonates elsewhere too. Sometime ago thousands of Israelis in Tel Aviv came out on streets openly demanding genocide of Palestinians after 15 Palestinians were massacred on their Land Day Protests.
To its allies in the west, India does not need to purport much more than painting the political struggle of Kashmir as religious fanaticism being endorsed by playing out on the Islamophobia card.
The unsaid “narrative” spun in India since 2016 is suggestively loud and clear through its mainstream media: that New Delhi does not buy logic and reason or will not concede to anything less than the Kashmiris’ submission to its coercive power if they want to live (survive). Therefore, the implied narrative in India towards Kashmir now is that there is no narrative. That there is no need to narrativise its position on something it has already declared to directly control with full military might.
Nations that aggress cannot build narratives to moralise their actions. A narrative needs moral courage which comes from a persuasive approach based on sincerity, logic and humanism. Moreover, narratives can emerge only from sufferings; narratives always have a moral standing. Therefore, India cannot have a narrative on Kashmir but framing. It only needs to place Kashmir into its frame of nationalism, thereby excluding all other possibilities wherein any narrativisation is required.
As soon as anything bad happens in Kashmir, the neutral political analysts in India take to TV channels debating why no respite from the abysmal can be expected without the stakeholders coming to dialogue. But the panel discussions are conducted so cautiously as to prevent the panellists from dissecting for the anatomy of this much “abusive” word called dialogue in which is subsumed the bitter truth of politics on Kashmir. On one hand there has been no attempt of sincerity on withdrawing the politics of denial on Kashmir and on the other the despairing statements for a dialogue have already been issued.
The only thing that the ruling BJP in India has been saying about talks on Kashmir does not require talks to say that. Dr Jitendra Singh, the Indian politician who hails from Jammu and holds many important portfolios in the Modi government, has repeatedly stated that if there was any agenda that India will have on the table with Pakistan it was the single (eek matra) agenda of demand for “return” of the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir to India and nothing else. That is an advance posturing to prevent Pakistan as a stakeholder from coming down talking for the Indian-administered part of Kashmir and also to keep Kashmiris aware of the Indian agenda and imply the failure of any proposed talks beforehand.
Media management of Kashmir situation through misinformation, disinformation and maligning campaigns in mainstream TV channels; use of disproportionate force to kill days’ or months’ old, not-so-well-armed, not-so-well-trained, highly educated, handsome, young militants; use of Israeli mortars in completely destroying shelters and char corpses of militants in staged and unstaged encounters; punishment to protesting youths who try to gather around encounter sites and shield the fighting or holed-up insurgents; firing on funeral processions and killing of mourners, and then shelling the mourners of the dead-mourners; unleashing a chain reaction of violence, then criminalising, denigrating and hounding the same through media while executing an internet gag, rendering these periodical killings to become normalised, and generating more and more indifference—is all that does not need any narrative because narratives are developed and articulated for those who have a considerable proportionate power to challenge and oppose or criticise that narrative with counter narratives in counter spaces.
All this and more sums up that it’s a slow but large-scale genocide in Kashmir. Many in Kashmir take a morbid pride in calling it failure of the Indian State—which by all wise means ultimately is—to kill the sentiment in Kashmir. And that is equally as true as this that at the end of the day it’s a loss of human life in Kashmir with a great external indifference to that loss in the world.
Even the course to law for whatever remnant of justice from the courts in the cases of human rights violations in Kashmir has also been discouraged to the last bit of any expectation. The Supreme Court of India recently ruled out any expectation of justice from petitions against troops involved in any human rights violations committed during operations in Kashmir.
Except occasional ineffective statements of condemnation by the UN, since there is no effective external agency to condemn the tragedy of Kashmir with spirit, there is no need for India to construct narratives to justify its iron-hand rule in Kashmir. Similar has happened elsewhere in the world but all that is history. How much cost this will take to become history here too that only the future can tell. Meanwhile, as we lie dying, our graveyards will continue to get filled with the dead and their mourners.
—Shahnaz Bashir is an award-winning novelist and academic
This article was published in Kashmir Narrator’s June edition. To subscribe to print edition of Narrator, please call +91-7298102560 or mail at KashmirNarrator@gmail.com