We are all Kashmiris! Or at least should be!: Dibyesh Anand

Guest post by DIBYESH ANAND

Dibyesh Anand is Associate Professor at Westminster University and writes on majority-minority relations in China and India

Democracy is as much an idea, as it is a political system. An idea for which millions have given life and even more have been killed. When non-democratic or quasi-democratic states suppress people, it is a shame, but when established democracies kill their own citizens for exercising their legitimate right to protest, it is a bigger tragedy. Bigger because it is not only men and women who die, but also the hope that democracy offers a humane and representative form of government at least for its own people.

This is the hope that is dying in the world’s largest democracy as the security forces continue to kill unarmed protestors every day for the last two months in Indian controlled Kashmi. Till date, more than a hundred, mostly young men and children, have been killed by those who are supposed to be the protectors. Evidence of torture, gratuitous killings, and sheer brutal dehumanisation of ordinary people are in abundance and yet the Indian state responds by threatening action against those who reveal the evidence and against forums (such as facebook, youtube) that allow these to be made public. There is no sense of humility, regret or introspection. No promise of impartial inquiry and strict punishment for the law-enforcers who kill and maim with impunity. Not even A of an apology.

Taking up guns is always an option. But for the last few years Kashmiris have remained steadfast in trying to keep their movement for self-determination confined to civil disobedience. With all the killings by the Indian security forces, Kashmiris have mostly refused to fall into the trap being set for them – to act violently so that they can be labelled insurgents and terrorists. Indian state seems to prefer the language of violence – the security mindset can fight violent insurgency and Islamic jihad. It feels frustrated when Kashmiris refuse to conform to the image of Islamic terrorists because India’s politics of violence is exposed for the whole world to witness. And yet, the world remains mute.

That the world leaders, who are highly selective in their criticism of state and nonstate violence depending on their interests, are silent on Kashmir only highlights their hypocrisy. If Obama fails to pressurise India on Kashmir – and he has shown all the signs that he’d follow Cameron in praising blindly the rising India’s democratic system during his forthcoming visit in November – he should maybe return the Nobel Peace Prize. States have the responsibility to protect their own citizens and cannot claim the right to be immune from international scrutiny if they fail in this. But why fault foreign leaders when the Indian public, described by Amartya Sen as the ‘argumentative Indians’, turns a blind eye to the brutal handling of a political movement?

Democracy is not about choosing between political parties. It is the right to dissent without fear, right to express different views and be heard. Democracy is also about responsibility to fight for the rights of the others, especially if these rights are being denied in the name of our security. What Indians accept as norm (open society, right of assembly) is an exception in Kashmir (and in the restive North East regions); what Indians see as exceptional (extrajudicial killings, torture, rape by security forces with impunity) is the norm as special laws protect armed forces from scrutiny. Accountability of the coercive arms of the state is absent here and still Indian leaders harp on about Kashmir as an ‘integral’ part. If Kashmir is indeed integral, why force their lives under special draconian laws?

In a well-functioning democracy the armed forces are subsidiary to the political leadership; the military men have no business voicing their opinion in public or the media. By doing so, they distort the debate and put the Indian government in a quandary – if the government tinkers with it against the publicly voiced opposition of the armed forces, the government will take a lot of flak from the opposition and the security establishment. But if they maintain the status quo, it gives a message to the Kashmiris and the world – Kashmir is primarily a security problem where the armed forces and not the people or the elected politicians have the final say. Perhaps it is time that the politicians remind the military leaders of the irresponsibility of using media to lobby and thus distorting democracy.

That Kashmiris are alienated is undisputed, that the Indian democracy has failed them is for all to see. However, Indians still have a slim opportunity to change this – but only if public in the country remind the Indian government that humanity and justice, not intolerance and control, should be the driving force behind a solution to the impasse. Azaadi, the call for freedom by Kashmiris, may still have room for accommodation with India if the Indians show that they care. If they rise up and express solidarity with fellow-humans in Kashmir and say ‘No, Not in Our Names’.

7 thoughts on “We are all Kashmiris! Or at least should be!: Dibyesh Anand”

  1. well professor..”indian democracy has failed them is for all to see” agree…but having read and seen the visuals of arson avenging the stupid deed of a lunatic individual (burning of koran) i have my doubts..may be a failed democracy is better than an intolerant theocracy.


  2. I being an Indian citizen, don’t understand why people of Kashmir wants an independent state/autonomy whatever. Why only in Kashmir there are so much problem? This kind of problem is no where in India, but why in Kashmir? Security forces are there to protect people of Kashmir, not to kill them. Both side should cooperate each-other to solve insurgent problem promoted by Pak. But if people of kashmir wants to take the side of Pak or wants a separate state then the problem will never going to solve, and looser will be the people of Kashmir. I advice them to think them as Indian, not Kashmiri. Kashmir is not only for Kashmiri Muslims, there were a lot of number of Hindus used to live in Kashmir , but due to coward pak militant they are forced to get migrated to some other place. Still those Hindus have right to live in Kashmir, and it is not only the place for kashmiri muslim. Kashmir will remain an integral part of India. So kashmiri brother don’t waste your time & pls. cooperate with India/Indian security force.


    1. Well it’s not just Kashmir: It’s Manipur and the whole of North East, Lalgarh, Chhatisgarh, and so on. You must be delusional if you think India is a haven of peace.


    2. “So kashmiri brother don’t waste your time & pls. cooperate with India/Indian security force.”

      If you were forced to live under curfews and the security forces (checkpoints hassles, curfews, arbitrary arrests and detention, etc. to say the least, and goodness knows what else goes on with impunity), how would you feel if someone said this to you?


    3. I am sorry for you Rajnish as your so called “” security forces”” are only the means of spreading terror, lotting people, rapping girls and enjoying every season of Kashmir and taxes of India. If we kashmir’s have such an attention to mess with your so called illiterate and baised army, there will be always army force in Kashmir.


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