What was Manu Joseph”s article all about? – An Analysis [Part 2 of A Fresh Wave of Thinking in The Kashmir Valley]

Posted on June 3, 2012 in Specials

By Karmanye Thadani:

Manu Joseph started his article by throwing light on the attack on Prashant Bhushan and how the people of the valley were awaiting Anna Hazare’s response, since Anna had suggested a referendum across India on the question of a Lokpal Bill and so, he may perhaps back the idea of fulfilling Jawaharlal Nehru’s promise backed by UN resolutions (though Anna Hazare, like any other regular former truck driver of the Indian Army, went on to assert that Kashmir is an integral part of India). This clearly means that Manu Joseph’s writing has not been motivated by any devious agenda that would distort the picture of the prevailing basic anti-India and pro-freedom sentiment in the valley (as has unfortunately been the case with several other Indian writers exhibiting jingoistic nationalism). Having made this clear, he further goes on to elaborate that Kashmiris are happy with the calm prevailing in the valley, with people going to work and earning a livelihood. He points to the following incident —

“About sixty kilometres from Srinagar, in a crowded village hall on the slope of a hill, a meeting is underway. The district magistrate, who had arrived in a car that was followed by a battered ambulance and will leave the same way, is addressing a gathering of newly elected village leaders (there was a voter turnout of nearly 90 per cent in local elections held last year). The gathering is mostly male but there are about ten women in the back rows. The women are among the elected leaders, all of them for the first time, and they listen carefully as the district magistrate tells them how governance works. There are questions and complaints and occasional laughter.

When I arrived, the district magistrate, for my benefit, started talking in English and Hindi. He even started using words like ‘chauvinistic’ to describe the men who had made the women take the back rows. His audience quickly instructed him to speak in Kashmiri. They were not here to be part of a farce; they were here to know the way forward. They want to know, very simply, the economic consequences of peace. They wanted roads and electricity and schools and hospitals.

At the end of the meeting, which lasted over two hours, the district magistrate told me, ‘There was not a word about politics. Not a word about the Indian Army or Pakistan or anything. They want to talk about things that matter to them and their families’.”

Manu further talks of that the District Magistrate’s deputy being Shah Faesal, a Kashmiri Muslim doctor who had secured the first rank in the UPSC exam in 2010, and how Shah Faesal asserts, like some others, that moving on with life is the best way forward, rather than carrying the baggage of history and crying over spilt milk. Manu also recounts another incident about a young Kashmiri Muslim boy-

“He and his close friend take me to Café Coffee Day, which is filled with young people. Both the men work for Aircel. They say what many educated young people in Kashmir say– Can we move on? Can we have development first instead of waiting forever for the Kashmir issue to be solved? We want industries to come here, we want MNCs and malls. We want to watch a cricket match in Srinagar. ‘We want KFC,’ one of them says, and they burst out laughing.”

It is this that Manu Joseph highlights in his article, that political aspirations for self-determination have long taken a toll on the Kashmiri populace. It’s not like the average Kashmiri Muslim has turned into an Indophile, but that he prefers a life of peace and normalcy over that of turmoil and conflict. This isn’t something hard to believe. But then, why so much of an uproar over this piece? Who are those elements that are strongly averse to any talk of peace prevailing in the valley or Kashmiri Muslims not wanting to recall the days of the militancy of the late 1980s and early 1990s, trying to seek vengeance by shouting slogans of azadi even in a calm atmosphere, rather than doing their work and fetching a good income for their families? It is this question that needs to be answered. Manu Joseph, I am sure, would have pre-empted an outcry over his article from certain quarters, for in this very article, he has written about the Kashmiri Muslim elite, who seldom has to bear the brunt of resistance and who very often has a second home elsewhere in India or even overseas, say in New York, London or Dubai.

Now, as compared to the period of unrest in 2008 or more importantly, 2010, stone-pelting has become a rare occurrence and we see the resistance to ‘Indian occupation’ in very different forms, such as of a Kashmiri Muslim rapper sporting a hood, ‘MC Kash’, singing songs telling us, Indians (mind you, not the Indian ruling class or the Indian jawans in particular, but Indians in general, except perhaps those who express solidarity with the Kashmiri separatist cause, and the lyrics of the song make that very clear), that he doesn’t care if we live or die (as if we really depended on his blessings for our survival!) and in these songs, he uses swear-words and also respectfully invokes the names of the prophets of his faith, though a true Muslim would always suffix the name of a prophet with ‘peace be upon him’ and never dream of taking the name of any of Allah’s messengers in a composition full of swear words! Kash also refers to human rights violations in Palestine in his songs, and of course, the misery of the Tibetans, Balochs in Pakistan (so what if the Balochs are mostly Muslims, even their oppressors are, and so, this isn’t an example worth quoting!), Sri Lankan Tamils (except in the context of the Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka) and Catholics of Northern Ireland would never find a mention in this newly developed supposedly progressive and secular discourse on Kashmir (there’s more to come on this later in this piece), and Palestine, the place from where terrorism under the banner of Islam but actually antithetical to the letter and spirit of this great and noble religion, underwent a resurgence in the modern era after being long buried in the depths of history with the Hashishi movement of the Ismaili sect of Shi’ite Islam at the time of the Crusades (of course, the present-day adherents of the sect must not be judged by what some of  their forefathers in one part of the world did centuries ago, and today, most Islamist terrorists come from the Wahabi and Deobandi sects of Sunni Islam, though of course, even the adherents of these sects shouldn’t all be painted with the same brush) coming to an end, must find a mention for an analogy, though having said that,  I must point out that I do condemn the creation of Israel (though this does not, in any way, translate into any sense of hatred for the Israeli populace, just like my opposition to the creation of Pakistan doesn’t make me hate the Pakistani populace) and of course, acts of terrorism carried out by some Zionist groups. Manu Joseph writes about such people-

“Kashmir’s intellectual elite, which includes writers, melancholy poets, artists, Facebook revolutionaries, filmmakers and at least one rapper who owns a hood, have since resumed what Kashmir’s elite has always done.

Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building–the elite fight to preserve it. ‘Don’t forget,’ is their predominant message, ‘Don’t forget to be traumatised.’ They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the many atrocities of its military. This might be a long period of calm, but if the wound vanishes, where is the justice? India simply gets away with all those rapes, murders and disappearances? So nothing disgusts them more than these words: ‘Normalcy returns to Kashmir’; ‘Peace returns to the Valley’; ‘Kashmiris want to move on’.

Yet, all this is true. And for the regular people of Kashmir, who do not have second homes in North America, Europe, Dubai or Delhi, who have no choice but to continue living in Kashmir, this reality is not so disgusting.”

Manu Joseph has remarkably articulated in this very piece-

The non-resident patriotic Indian, who adores Narendra Modi, and the non-resident patriotic Kashmiri are adversaries in the vacuous space of social media. But they have much in common. From the comfort of distance, they financially and emotionally support ideologies whose consequence they don’t have to face. They are not just a nuisance. As a collective they are dangerous.”

He substantiates with the following example-

“That is why, in the genocide of impoverished Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka by that country’s army, the affluent non-resident Tamils living in Europe, who supported the LTTE through money and love, are very much complicit.”

I won’t assertively comment on Mr. Modi’s alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which were indeed a matter of shame for India on this public forum so long as the matter is sub judice, being a lawyer by qualification, but yes, I would assert that Hindus living overseas pooling in funds for fascist organizations like the VHP, sections of which went about slaughtering innocent fellow citizens in Gujarat in 2002, didn’t have to face the consequences in the form of the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in 2002 itself or the emergence of a well-organized home-grown Islamist terror factory out to avenge the Gujarat carnage, that showed its colours in the serial blasts across different Indian cities in 2008, Ahmedabad being among the worst hit. Likewise, the Tamils in India and Europe funding the LTTE didn’t have to face the brutality of the Sri Lankan Army, over which the UNHRC has passed a resolution condemning the same. And, these non-resident Kashmiris leading comfortable lives writing online articles provoking their compatriots to take on the Indian ‘military occupation’ by pelting stones at Indian soldiers don’t have to bear bullets.