The issue of Kashmir is being discussed nationally and internationally since the time of India’s independence for various reasons depending on the persons, political timing, discussion on religious minorities and terrorism related violence in any part of India. Any discussion on Kashmir splits the public opinion vertically across India and the scrapping of Article 370 is no exception. Interestingly, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the late Prime Minister, a fellow Kashmiri continues to be blamed for all the wrong things happening today in the state particularly, by those who have scant realisation of historical developments of that state.
Two months before Independence, on a visit to Kashmir between June 18 and 23, 1947, Lord Mountbatten told Maharaja Hari Singh “that if Kashmir joined Pakistan, this would not be regarded as unfriendly by the Government of India.” The Viceroy added that “he had a firm assurance on this from Sardar Patel himself,” wrote VP Menon, the former political adviser to Mountbatten, who had played a key role in drafting the Indian Independence Bill. (Menon: Integration of the Indian States, 1956, p. 395)
In March 1948, while addressing the constituent assembly, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Our cross border opponents are saying this is a dispute between Hindus and Muslims. We have gone there to help the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The Muslim majority of Kashmir is not with us! What could be a bigger white lie than this? We would not have gone there even at the instance of the ruler of Kashmir, if the invitation was without the consent of the representatives of the local people. I want to inform this house that our armies have shown exemplary courage there. Yet, our armies would not have attained this success, if the local people had not extended their cooperation.”
The world community has termed it as a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, yet the Indian Foreign Minister recently stated that the bilateral talks would start only when Pakistan completely dismantles the infrastructure used to lunch act of terrorism in Indian soil. The Defense Minister of India underlined that henceforth, talks would be on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Much domestic hue and cry took place over the appropriation of Rahul Gandhi’s tweet by Pakistan. There was a complete black out in the media on how Pakistan also used to its advantage the tweet made by the Chief Minister of Haryana. Sensing the political escalation, Rahul Gandhi clarified his and his party’s position with an affirmation that Kashmir was always India’s internal matter. The root of dispute actually lies in the partition between India and Pakistan.
There is a motive and a strategy prevailing among the ruling dispension in Delhi in the ongoing situation in Kashmir. The motive is to erase the foot print of its wrong doing in the learning memory of the new generation. The strategy is to target and blame those who refers to the documented memory and believe in constitution and institutions that upholds it. It is worth recalling that Hindu Mahasabha, a definite ideological mentor of the ruling party in the Center and Muslim League had fought the elections jointly against Congress in 1939.
The polls were conducted by the British colonial government. Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League together formed the government in Sindh and Bengal. The resolution moved by the Muslim League in the Sindh assembly for the formation of Pakistan was supported by Hindu Mahasabha and it was later passed. The British colonial government, acting on the resolution, then formed Pakistan, which was also supported by the late Vir Savarkar, the political ideologue of the ruling party.
Late Savarkar, during the freedom struggle had sought pardon from the British more than nine times. Savarkar was in total agreement with the saying of Guru Golwalkar, the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that Hindus should not fight the British Empire and let Muslims fight them. RSS always accepted and termed the Manu Smriti, a document that categorises the Hindus in the line of caste, superior to the constitution. Manu Smriti justifies racial divisions with the right of the superiors caste to rule over the inferior caste.
The founders and the followers of RSS have been an admirer of both Hitler and Mussolini and hail them as great men. The present governance model in India that constantly undermines the supremacy of constitution is a part of the strategy followed by Hitler long back. Those who regard certain people as born great on the basis of Manu Smriti are against the Indian constitution, and therefore always attempt to show the constitution in poor light, while incessantly attacking all such institutions that seek to fortify the rule of law.
The RSS offered a template of orthodox/priestly form of fascism based on Manu Smriti, which survives on spreading falsehood, rumors and instills fear in society, so that they continue to cling on to power by nurturing a culture of silence and non-culpability of their crimes. Before Independence, the orthodox/priestly fascism allied with the British colonial government to suppress the freedom of the Indians and now aligning with neo-liberal economic policy to exploit the same Indians and establish fascism through promotion of neo-liberalism.
The current economic slowdown has given this alliance of religious and economic fascists an opportunity to plunder the natural resources more vigorously across India and Kashmir and Article 370 is just an excuse to deflect any kind of organised resistance.
The colonial powers came to India to access the resource and was over the period supported by like-minded individuals, social groups, and political networks to remain as ruler over its people. For the western neo-liberal economic powers, India is a market and their pre-independence supporters advanced this thought in post-independent India. Exploitation can only take place if you divide those who own it.
Suppression of free speech and manipulation of information is a key tool to divide Indians on caste and religious line. Restricting the natural owners of the resources to access it and manipulating the entire ecosystem to be seen as their saviour is the key strategy of the present model of governance. New sets of state agents are created to represent the curfew bound people’s voice in the media. History has seen many officers, and title holders like Sir, Choudhury and Roy Choudhuries during the British era for their loyalties to Her Master.
Making common Kashmiris suffer is the new norm of the rule of law and development post the abolition of Article 370. Any opposition of this act is projected in the media across the rest of the country as an anti-national act. Engagement with citizens for democratic governance is replaced by sadistic pleasure derived out of suffering of the imaginary enemy who happen to be the citizens of the country.
Traditionally, the Kashmiri Muslims had their affinity with Sufism and spiritualism of Central Asia unlike the other Muslims of South Asia who identify their faith with Hazrat Ajmer Sharif. The state is deliberately pursuing policy to ensure that the Kashmiris nurse a captive mentality devoid of any sense of freedom. The state has ensured that the world recognizes there exists two sets of meaning of right to life and freedom, one, for Kashmiris and the other for the rest of Indians and both are pitted against the other.
The representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council have registered protest with the Indian government over the curfew in Kashmir. I believe that the curfew should be immediately withdrawn and efforts made towards curbing organised violence and atrocities by non-government elements and torture by state actors. For offering psychological support to the Kashmiri people, including Kashmiri Pandits in the context of atrocities, platforms offering empathy, active listening, resilience and active support based on hope, honour and human dignity should be instituted across the country.
It must be acknowledged that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without uprooting Hindutva fascism from India and Islamic fascism and terrorism from Pakistan. A campaign needs to be launched to address the challenges emerging out of these thoughts. At the same time an initiative must start for reconciliation among people who are impacted due to atrocities and violence during formation of India and Pakistan.
Note: this article was previously published in Hindi here. Translated by Ashish Awasthi and edited by Dr Mohanlal Panda.