Dilemmas of ‘Right of Nations to Self Determination’: Rohini Hensman

Guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN

The hectic discussion over the Kashmir meeting in Delhi in October entitled ‘Azadi – The Only Way’ has made it urgent to revisit the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg on the right of nations to self-determination. Lenin, starting from his experience in imperialist Russia, insisted on the right of nations like the Ukraine to self-determination (in the sense of their right to form separate states), contending that denial of this right would merely strengthen Great Russian nationalism. In a colonial situation, Lenin was surely right. When a country is under foreign occupation, all sections other than a very small number of collaborators want to be free of the occupiers, even if there are sharp differences between these sections. A striking example is RAWA (the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) which, despite speaking for a section of the population which is sorely oppressed by the Taliban, and continuing to fight against it, nonetheless shares with the latter the goal of ending the occupation by US and NATO forces. In such situations, the right of an occupied nation to self-determination makes sense.

So why did Rosa Luxemburg reject the whole notion so passionately? Her question was: Who embodies or represents the ‘nation’, given that it consists of groups that are often at loggerheads with one another? ‘The “nation” should have the “right” to self-determination. But who is that “nation” and who has the authority and the “right” to speak for the “nation” and express its will? How can we find out what the “nation” actually wants?’ she asks (Luxemburg 1909). This is surely a valid question where the territory claimed by those who speak for the nation-to-be is shared by others (who may be a minority or even the majority) who do not want to be part of that vision. In such situations, more complex than the clearcut opposition between an imperial power and a colony, Luxemburg’s question needs to be taken seriously.

The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) offers a powerful justification of her reservations. No one apart from rabid Sinhala nationalists would claim that Tamils have not been grievously oppressed in Sri Lanka. But was the LTTE’s solution – armed struggle for national self-determination in the form of an ethno-nationalist Tamil Eelam – an acceptable one? Right from the beginning, it involved massacres and ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese civilians from the territory claimed by LTTE leaders, massacres and ethnic cleansing of Muslims, and the torture and murder of thousands of Tamils who opposed this barbaric vision. Some Sinhalese liberals nonetheless supported their right to fight for freedom from oppression in any way they deemed fit, while doctrinaire Leninists supported their struggle for the right to national self-determination. By doing this, perhaps they felt they absolved themselves of responsibility for the violence that Tamils continued to suffer. But did they? Tamil dissidents felt, on the contrary, that by their implicit endorsement of the LTTE’s claim to be the sole representative of all Tamils, they colluded in the crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated by it. And by allowing it to snuff out Tamil political actors capable of negotiating a settlement that would have satisfied most Tamils at a juncture when the government and majority of war-weary Sinhalese were ready for it, they encouraged the LTTE’s militaristic strategy that ended in such disaster for Tamils.

The situation in Kashmir is, if anything, even more complicated. The Indian ultra-nationalists, most vociferously represented by the Sangh Parivar but present even among sections who claim to be more liberal, are undoubtedly a major part of the problem there. Their dogmatic assertion that Kashmir is an integral part of India – as though India’s national boundaries are god-given and any questioning of them is blasphemy – goes with a justification of the horrific atrocities committed against Kashmiris by the Indian security forces. Their allegation of sedition against Arundhati Roy for questioning this dogma, and hysterical outburst against the government-appointed interlocutors for suggesting that any solution to the problem requires the involvement of the government of Pakistan, make it clear that they themselves have no solution to offer short of war between two nuclear-armed countries.

Pretending that Kashmir is not disputed territory must appear to most observers as a typical instance of burying one’s head in the sand to avoid seeing what is obvious to everyone else; breathing fire and brimstone at anyone who acknowledges the reality is obviously a non-starter so far as resolving the problem is concerned. But more disturbingly, advocating coercion to stamp out protest in Kashmir and a clampdown on freedom of expression to prevent discussion of the issue constitutes an assault on democracy. To destroy India’s integrity as a democracy in order to preserve its territorial integrity is, hopefully, not a ‘solution’ that most people would find morally or politically acceptable.

Then is ‘Azadi (Freedom) the Only Way’, as a meeting in Delhi on 21 October 2010 organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners proclaimed (Minutes 2010)? That does not necessarily follow. Indeed, even the meaning of ‘azadi’ is far from clear. For one of the keynote speakers at the meeting, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, it means that Kashmir would be an Islamic state and would be part of Pakistan. For many others – probably the majority – it means that Kashmir would be independent of both India and Pakistan, and for some of these that it would be a secular state. The only point of agreement among all these sections seems to be that Kashmir would be free of Indian rule, and would encompass all the territory of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the border.

Since SAS Geelani was the voice of Azadi at the Delhi meeting, it is worth following through the logic of his position as articulated to a Kashmiri audience (as opposed to positions articulated for the consumption of an Indian human rights audience). He believes that Hindus and Muslims constitute two different nations which have nothing in common with each other, that the only identity a Muslim can possess is that of being a Muslim, and therefore stands for Kashmir’s accession to Islamic Pakistan: i.e., he is opposed to an independent Kashmir, and even more fervently opposed to secularism. But what about citizens of Jammu and Kashmir who disagree with his vision? ‘In Geelani’s writings anti-Indian Sunni Muslims come to be seen as standing in for all the people of the state, while the sizeable remaining population of Jammu and Kashmir (Hindus, dalits, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, many Shia Muslims and non-Kashmiri Pahari Muslims, as well as not a negligible number of Kashmiri Muslims) who are definitely pro-India are completely ignored and silenced as if they are not part of “the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. But it is not every Kashmiri Muslim leader who demands freedom from India who is seen as an “authentic representative” of the people of the entire state in Geelani’s scheme of things. Rather, to Geelani, the mantle of “authenticity” falls on people like himself, Islamists who advocate Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan’ (Sikand 2010). His answer to Luxemburg’s question – ‘who has the authority and the “right” to speak for the “nation” and express its will?’ – is loud and clear: ‘Only I and people who agree with me have the authority and the right to speak for the Kashmiri nation and express its will.’

Unfortunately, this ‘solution’ to the problem of Kashmir suffers from the very same moral weakness (i.e. the use of coercion to force unwilling individuals to be part of the nation) as the Indian state’s attitude to Kashmir. And it is, if anything, politically more reactionary, since India is at least constitutionally secular and democratic, whereas this vision of azadi is neither; indeed, it has a striking resemblance to the majoritarian Hindutva project for India. Geelani is smart enough to see this but doesn’t care, because he is an authoritarian old patriarch for whom democracy is not a value worth defending.

The Violence of the Oppressor and the Violence of the Oppressed

For dogmatic Leninists and Maoists too, the lack of democracy in the ‘solution’ is not a problem, and the moral dilemma is resolved very easily with the mantra that ‘the violence of the oppressor must never be equated with the violence of the oppressed’. It is worth examining this formula more carefully, since it has been used as a cover for many ghastly atrocities. Its unstated premise is that those who are oppressed in one relationship are always and in every relationship the victims of oppression, and can never be oppressors. This may be true in fairy tales, but real life is more complicated. For example, a male worker who is oppressed by his employer may come home and thrash his wife. According to this formula, the male worker is still ‘the oppressed’ in the relationship with his wife, and we must never, ever, equate his brutality to her with the oppression he faces as a worker, even if he kills her. But where does this reasoning lead us? The Zionist state of Israel has made extensive use of it to persuade the world that Jews, who were subjected to genocide in the Nazi holocaust, cannot possibly be guilty of violence against the people of Palestine; it denounces as ‘anti-Semitism’ any comparison of the ghettos into which the Jews were herded with the ghettos into which the Palestinians have been herded, because (of course!) one must never equate the violence of the oppressors (the Nazis) with the violence of the oppressed (the Zionists).

To break out of this dilemma, we need to be able to deal with more complex equations, and admit that the categories of ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ are not only not mutually exclusive, but may work in opposite directions even in the same relationship (e.g. white woman, black man). Once we do this, it becomes crystal clear that what is often justified as ‘the violence of the oppressed’ is actually the violence of oppressors, albeit different oppressors from those who are seen as being ‘the enemy’. For example, the LTTE’s violence against Sinhalese and Muslim civilians, Tamil dissenters and Tamil children whom they recruited forcibly, was all the violence of the oppressor. The Taliban’s violence against women and ethnic and religious minorities is the violence of the oppressor. Only where the violence is directed strictly towards actors inflicting violence on a community can we talk of the violence of the oppressed: Vietnamese shooting down planes that were dropping bombs and napalm on their towns and villages, South Africans fighting against the Apartheid state, and so on. Yes, in such cases we should not equate the violence of an imperialist/colonial state with the armed resistance to such violence. But we can say this only when we have examined each case to see who the victims of the so-called ‘violence of the oppressed’ are.

Blanket support for those who are seen to be fighting for the oppressed is the surest way to turn them into oppressors even if they are not oppressors already. It also creates a hierarchy of rights between ‘us’, whose have human rights, and ‘them’, who have none. In this view, a Tamil child killed by the Sri Lankan army has human rights, while a Sinhalese child killed by the LTTE has none; therefore the former killing is a violation of human rights, the latter is not. University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2007 (Martin Ennals Award 2007) precisely because they risked their lives to challenge this discriminatory conception. By documenting – and condemning – human rights violations by all the warring parties, they not only provided a source of information far more reliable than the propaganda of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, but also provided a moral compass to guide Tamil democracy acivists through the quagmire of gruesome atrocities.

Unlike the Maoists, Arundhati Roy is not comfortable with the assumption that sharing a platform with Geelani amounts to an endorsement of his politics, although that conclusion would be the normal one. Asked this question in an interview, she replied, ‘Speaking for myself, I disagree with many of his views, and I’ve written about it… As for him being involved in the internecine battles within the Kashmiri leadership – yes that’s true. Terrible things happened in the nineties, fratricidal killings – and Geelani has been implicated in some of them. But internecine battles are a part of many resistance movements. They are NOT the same thing as State sponsored killings. In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) and Black Consciousness had vicious fights in which many hundreds were killed, including Steve Biko. Would you say then, that sitting on the same platform as Nelson Mandela is a crime?’ (Choudhary and Roy 2010).

There are three things wrong with this strange defence. One: Roy is surely the first person to accuse Nelson Mandela of having had a hand in the death of Steve Biko. Biko was killed by the Apartheid state in 1977, while Mandela was serving a twenty-seven-year prison sentence imposed by the same state: how could he possibly have had anything to do with it? It was not an ‘internecine battle’ but a state-sponsored killing, which, as Roy says, is NOT the same thing. (Incidentally, isn’t ‘internecine battles’ a euphemism for the murder of rivals, not so very different from the euphemism of referring to state assassinations as ‘encounters’? Both ‘internecine battles’ and ‘encounters’ suggest that the two sides are engaged in mutual combat, whereas the reality is that one side is gunning down the other in cold blood.) Two: Mandela was fighting against an Apartheid state in which discrimination against non-Whites was written into the constitution; by contrast, Geelani is fighting against the Indian state, whose constitution affirms non-discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, sex, etc. And three: Mandela was fighting for a democratic state whose constitution would guarantee non-discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, sex, etc, whereas Geelani is fighting for a theocratic state whose constitution will guarantee discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, sex, etc. So it is not a crime to sit on the same platform as Nelson Mandela, but sharing a platform with Geelani is not quite as blameless. To acknowledge the tragedy of the expulsion of the Kashmiri Pandits while sharing a platform with a man whose politics would make them (at best) second-class citizens without political rights certainly seems inconsistent. Fighting on two fronts – against the state on one side and a self-styled liberation group on the other – is difficult and dangerous, but sometimes there is no other option, as Tamil democracy activists found. Perhaps the same is true of the struggle for democracy in Kashmir.

Self-determination for everyone

Luxemburg’s point was that the ‘nation’ has no unified ‘self’ or ‘will’, because it consists of diverse classes and groups that are often at loggerheads with one another. By pretending that the ‘nation’ has a unified ‘will’, proponents of the doctrine of the ‘right of nations to self-determination’ privilege the leaders of the most powerful group in the prospective nation, ignoring or disempowering others, and in some cases even encouraging the most powerful group to annihilate or evict the others, as happened in Sri Lanka. Nor is this an unmixed blessing for the group whom the leaders claim to represent, because the policies of the leadership may result in unnecessary suffering for them too, as in the case of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Similarly in Kashmir, it is not only the Pandits who have suffered as a result of the Islamist vision of azadi. ‘Between 1989 and 1991 tens of thousands of Kashmiri youths crossed over the Line of Control and went to a land of their dreams – Pakistan, which many of them thought was a place where there was justice, peace and tranquility; but most were terribly disillusioned by the experience, and ended up feeling bitter at the deception that had trapped them ‘between a rock and a hard place’ (Choudhry 2010).

A solution that protects the democratic rights of all the diverse peoples of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be summed up in the slogan of ‘Azadi’ or formula of ‘the right of nations to self-determination’; it requires a process of discussion and negotiation between all the diverse peoples in the state. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that such a solution cannot be found while a military occupation by Indian forces continues torturing, raping and killing civilians with impunity. The most disturbing part of this horrifying account of a little Kashmiri boy beaten to death for venturing into the street to retrieve his ball (Javaid 2010) is that – as in the case of the Wikileaks revelations – it is the perpetrator with a conscience who has to undergo disciplinary action, while those who are gung-ho about their act of sadism go scot free. This suggests that such atrocities are the rule rather than the exception, and that they have sanction from above. And how could it be otherwise, when the chiefs of the armed forces are adamant that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which provides impunity for such crimes, must stay? All their arguments fall to the ground the moment they are scrutinised. They say that repealing the act will provide ‘carte blanche’ to insurgents, but do not explain how their ceasing to rape, torture and kill unarmed civilians will aid armed insurgents. On the contrary, reports of the recent outbreak of stone-pelting make it clear that the gratuitous violence of the security forces encouraged by impunity is actually the main cause of the problem, not any kind of solution to it (Parthasarathy 2010). The most bizarre argument is that punishing perpetrators of such crimes will ‘demoralise’ the armed forces. Surely security forces that beat little boys to death for sport have already lost much of their legitimacy? Wouldn’t punishing the psychopaths who engage in such activities help to rebuild their morale?

The decision as to whether AFSPA and other laws providing impunity for crimes committed by state security forces should be repealed or not is a political – not military – decision. Such laws violate the constitution in multiple ways. By dividing citizens into two sections, one of which (state security forces) can commit crimes with impunity while the other (civilian victims) cannot appeal to the law for protection, they violate the right to equality under the law and equal protection of the law, and also deprive civilians of other fundamental rights, including the right to life. As a public statement by concerned citizens puts it, ‘Draconian legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Jammu and & Kashmir Public Safety Act and the Disturbed Areas Act continue to facilitate human rights abuses in the valley…We therefore demand that the government take full cognizance of the continuing violation of human rights in the valley, make the security forces fully accountable so that the guilty can be prosecuted and punished’ (Public Statement 2010).

The marathon ten-year fast of Irom Sharmila, winner of the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize and many other awards, is in pursuance of the same demand. Her towering moral stature, as she continues to demonstrate her willingness to sacrifice her life in order to save innocents from suffering, injury and death, contrasts starkly with the immorality of security forces willing to inflict suffering, injury and death on innocents in order to avoid risking their own lives, and of political leaders who refuse to repeal AFSPA despite the fact that ‘The judicial inquiry commission headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy, instituted by the Central government to examine the advisability or otherwise of repealing the AFSPA, submitted a 147-page report on June 6, 2005, recommending repeal of the law’ (Iboyaima Laithangbam 2010).

‘Azadi’ may seem like a more revolutionary demand than the repeal of AFSPA, but it is not. As we saw, ‘azadi’ is compatible with authoritarianism, ethnic cleansing and the murder of political rivals: hardly a radical departure from the present. By contrast, the repeal of AFSPA and other laws providing impunity for human rights violations by the army and other security forces would help to provide an atmosphere in which the people of Kashmir and the North-East could work out solutions that guarantee democracy and self-determination for all, and not just for a privileged or dominant section. In India, a campaign for ‘Azadi’ may not get widespread support, partly because the meaning of the slogan is unclear and partly because the goal may be a situation no better than the present one, whereas a campaign against draconian legislation and human rights violations could appeal to a far wider constituency, on the grounds that failure to take up these issues undermines both India’s moral legitimacy and its claim to be a democracy.

Choudhary, Shoma, 2010, Interview with Arundhati Roy, ‘An independent Kashmiri nation may be a flawed entity, but is independent India perfect?’ Tehelka, Vol. 7 Issue 44, 3 November, http://www.tehelka.com/story_main47.asp?filename=Ne061110CoverstoryII.asp

Choudhry, Shabir, 2010, ‘Plight of Kashmiri Militants in Azad Kashmir’, Countercurrents, 1 November, http://www.countercurrents.org/choudhry011110.htm

Iboyaima Laithangbam, 2010, ‘Battling On’, Frontline, Vol. 27 Issue 23, 6 November, http://www.frontline.in/stories/20101119272304100.htm

Javaid, Azaan, 2010, ‘AND I ASK TO MY SELF “WHO IS STRONG AND WHO IS WEAK”’, United Youth of Kashmir, 7 September, http://ko-kr.connect.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=124383014279324

Luxemburg, Rosa, 1909, ‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination’, The National Question, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1909/national-question/ch01.htm

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, 2007, ‘Press Release: Human Rights Defenders from Burundi and Sri Lanka honored with 2007 Martin Ennals Award,’ http://www.martinennalsaward.org/en/press/2007-09-01.html

Minutes of the seminar on Azadi: The Only Way, Kafila, 27 October 2010, http://kafila.org/2010/10/27/minutes-of-the-seminar-on-azadi-the-only-way/

Parthasarathy, Malini, 2010, ‘Understanding Kashmir’s stone-pelters,’ The Hindu, 4 August, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article550058.ece

Public Statement, 2010, ‘Demand to Uphold Free Speech and Expression,’ South Asia Citizen’s Web, 2 November, http://www.sacw.net/article1672.html

Sikand, Yoginder, 2010, ‘Jihad, Islam and Kashmir: Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Political project,’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLV No. 40, 2 October, pp.125-134

65 thoughts on “Dilemmas of ‘Right of Nations to Self Determination’: Rohini Hensman”

  1. 1. How can the oppressor decide who the authentic representatives of the oppressed nation are? The oppressor can not be in a position to decide it neither has it the moral right to do so. The oppressor can not assert its right to oppress just because there are no ways to identify the authentic representatives. Even when oppressors have to retreat they always try to hand over power to sections favorable to them. So finally, the best thing that the oppressor can say is ‘granting self-determination’ to the oppressed people. Anything else, even done with a good intention, can be taken negatively by the oppressed people because they will never believe the oppressor?

    2. While opposing the oppressor the oppressed people may be swayed by the hardliners. It may be that the progressive forces lag behind in taking the leadership of the resistance movement in their hands. More often than not this is going to be the dominant trend in face of external oppression, the pendulum will sway from one extreme to another. The progressive forces of the oppressor nation can only provide support (what type of support, depends on the circumstances) to the progressive forces on the other side. But it depends on the oppressed people whom they choose, the hardliners or the progressives.

  2. Brilliant! Superb!

    After a long time read an article in Kafila which is crisply logical, and thankfully, does not dole out highfalutin moral rhetoric.

  3. Thanks for reviving this important debate. Luxemburg is an important voice which needs to be rescued from the great condescension of history. And it is equally important to revisit debates which Lenin had supposedly “won”. At the risk of self-promotion, I should mention my own attempt to do something like this with the question of democracy, both within the communist party as well as the relation of the communist party with democracy at large.

    Having said that, I was a bit unhappy that you did not really push the argument enough. The important question which Luxemburg asks is whether Marxists can ever accept eternal, universal rights….

  4. The argument completely decontextualises the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg. Apart from many ideological nuances within that debate, Luxemburg’s critique of Lenin’s arguments around the national question were staged in contrast to an argument for a world with no national sovereign territorialities, a world of socialist revolutions without national boundaries. In 1907-08 she wrote: “This duty (opposing any form of ‘national oppression’) arises (not simply from any special “right of nations” but) solely from the general opposition to the class regime and to every form of social inequality and social domination, in a word, from the basic position of socialism.”

    Also Luxemburg wrote:
    “If we recognize the right of each nation to self-determination, it is obviously a logical conclusion that we must condemn every attempt to place one nation over another, or for one nation to force upon another any form of national existence.”

    This reflexively means that if India accepts its own national self-determination–a principle on which it stands as a country, for which it fought during its own struggle for independence, then it has a moral obligation to not impose itself on other nations, like Kashmiris.

    The author’s critique of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, contra Luxemburg’s, is set in contrast to continued Indian (illegitimate) sovereignty over Kashmir, whose only legitimacy according to the author is that it is “at least constitutionally secular and democratic.” Does it mean any country which has “a little more” democracy than the next, has the right to rule over the latter? Somehow one can’t but help thinking that the writer is claiming that Kashmiris are not capable of ruling themselves democratically. How has this conclusion been reached.

    Kashmiris are not demanding right to self-determination based on identitarian notions (yes, perhaps, some are), but on the basis of the fundamental democratic principle that allows a political community (as people constitute it, around political needs, logical goals, and legitimate aspirations) to decide its own path. It is a principle without which any democracy (especially the ones that are “at least constitutionally democratic”) becomes an artifice, husk. Luxemburg’s criticism too was based on pragmatic considerations of how national self-determination can provide practical guidelines for solving day to day problems for the proletariat. Indian rule over Kashmir clearly solves no day to day problems, but only adds on to the miseries of the people. And history stand witness to its moral and political failure in Kashmir.

    It is also interesting that for all these years Geelani was seen by Indian intelligentsia as a marginal figure in Kashmir, where most people were believed not to subscribe to his ideological position. Now Geelani’s position is seen as the sole one, and is instrumentally deployed to deny morality to the Kashmiri demand for right to self-determination. Geelani’s is not the only position in Kashmir, and not all Kashmiris expressing desire for freedom with democracy and dignity are trying to please Delhi’s (human rights!) activists. The author’s argument suggests that these Kashmiris are dissembling, and are not honest–and I would like to know what is she basing such an accusation on?

    There are no ethical arguments that can prop Indian rule in Kashmir, if most Kashmiris decide (and they for sure do) not to be ruled by India. That is what even the ‘at least’ of democracy suggests, right? Kashmiris want their own democracy, not Indian.

    1. Just to clarify: I am not opposing self-determination for Kashmiris, only suggesting that there should be equal self-determination for all, without which the situation there would end up no better than what exists at present. And if Geelani has for all these years been seen as a marginal figure, why was he invited by the conference organisers (who obviously supported Azadi) to be the keynote speaker? Do you know? I am genuinely baffled by this.

      1. What does this mean: “Equal self-determination for all”? I can’t figure out my way out of this statement. Obviously, it is not what you are suggesting in your article, but what Kashmiris are fighting for. When we say “for all” it means equally for nations “big and small.” And even if we agree that it is your novelty, why is this principle in contradiction to/unsupportive of/evidence or argument against right to self-determination of Kashmiris? On what basis are you suggesting that the situation in a post-Independence Kashmir “‘would’ end up no better than what exists at present”? Either you have very little understanding of the sort of situation that exists there at present, or are (as I mentioned before) fundamentally doubting Kashmiris’ ability to democratically and freely rule their own lives, without Indian presence there.

        I am not saying Geelani is or has been a marginal figure (it is what Indian intelligentsia claimed to delegitimize him). I am saying his position is one of the positions and it has some supporters. There are multiple other debates within Kashmir, but most of them agree on one thing: Indian rule over Kashmir must end. These are debates internal to Kashmiri society which is quite capable of dealing with them in a mature manner, and in no way does it impinge on the right to their self-determination. Does presence of Hindutva thought in India (in both congress elements and BJP ideology) delegitimize India as an independent country? Or presence of Islamist thought in Pakistan, delegitimize Pakistan as a country? Or Christian fundamentalism in the US?

        Geelani had a right to speak as and when he wants to. He has not killed anyone, nor has been charged with violence. I don’t agree with his political ideology. If you have beef against conference organizers, that is a separate matter, but you can’t use that conference-event as evidence to delegitimize Kashmir’s demand for freedom.

        And i again think you need to really think through debates rooted in socialism around national questions.

    2. “….any country which has “a little more” democracy than the next, has the right to rule over the latter? Somehow one can’t but help thinking that the writer is claiming that Kashmiris are not capable of ruling themselves democratically. How has this conclusion been reached….” : BRILLIANT…THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE BRITISH THOUGHT OF INDIANS…..IN FACT THIS IS THE OUT COME OF A CHRONIC COLONIAL MINDSET…AND SOONER THE INDIANS COME OUT OF IT THE BETTER….THE ADVICE FOR INDIA FROM WE KASHMIRIS IS: GROW UP YOU ARE A 63 YEAR OLD DEMOCRACY!!!!!!!

  5. I found quite mischievous the (carefully) careless analogies the author has strewn around generously along the article. Indian state-Kashmiris yearning for freedom-Pandits = Nazi-Jews-Palestinians = Sri Lankan state-LTTE-sinhalese civilians killed by LTTE ! Without going into details, such loose comparison only breeds misunderstanding and misplaced notions, and paints a very biased picture in the undiscerning readers’ head. I hope that is not the author’s deliberate intention.

    Also, the jumpy extrapolation from discussing Geelani’s political line (in the context of Roy sharing a dais with him) to making comments about the ideology and morality behind the 60-yr old (actually even more) call for Azaadi in Kashmir is completely disingenuous. This is also done very casually, as if no one would notice the discontinuity in the argument there.

    It is very interesting to note that Geelani has suddenly become the favourite poster-boy of Kashmir’s Azadi for some Rip-Van-Winkle-esque Indian liberals who are suddenly waking up to review that call, as if alarmed by a monstrous hardliner posing a threat to our constitutionally secular democracy. Have they not read the popular mandates in opinion polls like the Chatham House Poll and others (that clearly do not tow Geelani’s line)? Even Geelani is perhaps not so sure about the fan-following to his ideology ;) Very strange. Overall, a pathetic attempt at going lengths to defend the denial of the very basic and core democratic right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

    1. Does the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners consist of ‘Rip-Van-Winke-esque Indian liberals’?

      1. Well you choose to evade the points I raised. If you are basing your analysis of the ‘right of nations (in this case kashmir) to self determination’ on a meeting in Delhi or its organisers sharing platform on one occasion with one geelani, then the scope of your article is very limited and you perhaps should have made it clear.

  6. the fatal error is the assumption that those in power can choose whether or not to grant the right of self-determination – as we have seen this summer in Kashmir (and before, many many times in anti-colonial struggles) that power rests solely and clearly with the people concerned –
    – the comparisons with Sri Lanka are totally unwarranted, the Kashmiri militants have shown nothing like LTTE’s aptitude for and delight in violence, and that may in fact be a cultural difference –
    the purpose behind this piece is the most troubling of all – is this the ideological foundation for a “final solution” in Kashmir on the Sri Lanka model – and why would Kafila publish this? Editors, can you justify?

  7. Dear Ms. Hensman,

    Having read your nicely written note, I find myself puzzled whether this is a disquisition on the theoretical merits of a political position or a commentary on strategy or indeed your advocacy of the most useful strategy to be pursued either by Kashmiris or by the Indian state in Kashmir. Some of the premises on which you rest your case, (or is it cases?) seem to me problem-ridden in the domain of cogent argument and the search for theoretical consistency, even as they might make sense in a pamphlet outlining political strategy. I hope this explains my query about the nature of your note. In anticipation of your correction if I am wrong, I will for the moment say that it appears to me as a strategy note with selective reference to political theory. No one would be happier than I to find myself wrong, given the sincere admiration I have for your writings on Sri Lanka. Having said this, I have several questions of this particular note.

    (1) Why do you make Geelani the focus on which you hinge your assessments regarding the validity (theoretical or strategic) of Kashmiri demands? And they are demands in the plural, while you have reduced them to a singular one, and in ways in which you brush aside a whole history of trying to make and define demands during 20 years of too-often brutal occupation: these are not the easiest circumstances in which to formulate either demands or identify even the various injustices against which Kashmiris are raising their voice. In these circumstances, isn’t it unfair and unreasonable to expect the kind of coherence and consistency you seem to demand? Unless, of course, you are speaking not of the demands of a people but of one particular political strategist. If it is the latter, since when and why has Syed Ali Geelani come to be deemed the fount of all political authority in Kashmir and why do you, in your piece, treat his views as representative of those of all Kashmiris? Why do you also give it the power to determine the shape, form and flavour of a Kashmir that might emerge as an independent entity. This tendency is of course more widespread and goes beyond you, involving large numbers of people who wish simply to deny Kashmiris their right to make claims for anything, let alone demand the right to self-determination. I would have thought you would find yourself an odd fit in this group. This sudden assumption of Geelani’s writ in Kashmir is just getting curiouser and curiouser. If it is strategy, it is regrettably a dishonest one.

    (2) If your wider concern is to problematize the recourse to a language of national self-determination by Kashmiris, I find your discussion of Ms. Arundhati Roy’s opinions gratuitous, unless this is to invoke strategically the sympathy of a section of Indian opinion who oppose her for the sake merely of opposing her–because she has made vocal her opposition to a number of processes and projects of the state that they might endorse. Whether they are right in that or not, is not for me to say, but is it useful for you to bring her into a discussion about Kashmir, Kashmiri demands and their validity? I would have thought no. If your justification is that she is one activist or public intellectual who was present at the symposium in Delhi, perhaps if you looked harder you might have found others. It would be a pity if you were just using her as a straw woman to automatically delegitimize the views of many Kashmiris she finds herself in sympathy with, the keywords being “the views of Kashmiris”, which predate hers and were formed independently of hers.

    (3) To turn to your reference to the Lenin-Luxembourg debate my question is a simple one of whether that debate is at all relevant to the circumstances of a dilemma so separated in context, in time and in space? Unless, of course, you believe particular theoretical positions are eternally and universally true. Couldn’t one interpret your privileging of that debate and assuming its appropriateness as a prism through which to assess Kashmiri demands, as an instance of Euro-centricism which is with us too much still in too many spheres of intellectual and political action and that people like Niall Ferguson, gaining political endorsement by the British government, have given intellectuals of the non-West fresh reason to dread and decry?

    (4) Too much of your argument rests on your claim that “India is at least constitutionally secular and democratic, whereas this vision of azadi is neither”. I would like to suggest that this is a dubious premise and to rest your argument on it is at the very least intellectually flawed and, at the very worst, politically disingenuous. If just being “constitutionally secular and democratic” is sufficient then you’re not holding any polity to very exacting standards. Any number of polities around the world can claim to be that, whether or not they are deemed to be so in practice (the “democratic” republic of Congo, the “people’s” republic of China etc). One might argue that an independent Kashmir can equally be ‘at least constitutionally secular and democratic’ if that’s all it might want to be. To deliberately refrain from discussing the actual reality of those constitutional tenets in the political life of India is to play footsie with sloganeering and propagandist jingoists in India. More importantly, however, it completely misses a large part of what Kashmiris are disputing: that India cannot claim to be a better option for them on the grounds of its being democratic and secular (compared with, most frequently and in most cliched fashion, Pakistan) because there is too much evidence that it is neither. Kashmiri opinion, writing and critical discourse is not ignorant of conditions in India, you know. If anything the information deficit is in the other direction. They are quite well versed with the fact that Narendra Modi has never been indicted for his role in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat. They are aware of the neglect of “marginalized” peoples in India’s physical heartland. They are aware that large segments of the citizenry of democratic India–such as many of its female or dalit or physically challenged citizens–are denied the full exercise of their democratic rights or the full and free use of their civil liberties. On the last point, they have ample demonstration of the suppression of their own.

    (5) You rest much of your argument on the assumption that India is not a colonial power in Kashmir. Unless, you clarify your definition of colonialism, that will have to be merely an assertion that is not more valid than the perception to the contrary of many Kashmiris.

    Finally, (6) the leeway you allow for certain kinds of violent action is so subjectively based as to mean little. You say “Only where the violence is directed strictly towards actors inflicting violence on a community can we talk of the violence of the oppressed: Vietnamese shooting down planes that were dropping bombs and napalm on their towns and villages, South Africans fighting against the Apartheid state, and so on.” There is rather a lot of conceptual confusion in your attempt to define the violence-inflicting-“actor”: your examples identify a visible actor and a visibly violent act in one case and a state system and ideology that inflicts invisible violence in the other. If at heart you are suggesting that the only violence that qualifies as the “violence of the oppressed” (frankly that term means very little unless you mean add the word “legitimate”) is if it is in self-defence, then I don’t see how you are going to qualify one as legitimate and the other as illegitimate (or as you put it the violence of the oppressed vs that of the oppressor) except in the case of the first instance of visible violence and immediate retaliation. Even there you’d be left with the problem of sorting out which violence is in retaliation or self-defence and which the first act of aggression. On the second example you bring up, you seem to suggest later in your piece that it belongs to the domain of the violence of the oppressor because it is that of “an Apartheid state in which discrimination against non-Whites was written into the constitution”. Again a constitution used as as a touch-stone for the validity of some forms of political action! Where should we stand, then, on the question of the continuing discrimination and violence against dalits (other than deny it, of course) which India’s constitution has abrogated but which we know exists nevertheless?

    Without answers to these questions, I am afraid I find your note based on too selective a reference to theory and too subjectively argued to be persuasive. I think you may have missed what I find the most valuable dimension of Rosa Luxumberg’s rhetoric against Lenin’s position; “who is to decide” what nation, what violence, what claim? It seems to me that you have simply raised the same questions and have at best struck down two strawpersons, viz Geelani and Roy.

    Mridu Rai

    1. Dear Mridu,

      Let me try and answer your questions. (1) Why did I choose Geelani as the focus? Because the conference organisers did so. Why did they do so? Please do ask them, I haven’t a clue. I am not a priori opposed to more progressive definitions of Azadi. (2) I took up Arundhati Roy’s views because she was there and supported the demand for Azadi. To do her justice, she is more nuanced than many others. (3) The Lenin-Luxemburg debate is relevant so long as Kashmiri independence is argued in terms of the right of nations to self-determination. If that is dropped (and I agree with you that circumstances have changed dramatically since then), there would be no need to bring it up. (4) I totally agree with your point 4, and that should be obvious from my article. That is why I feel that the best form of solidarity for Kashmiris from Indians in general is to ensure that they have the space to determine their own future and destiny by discussion and negotiation with one another. (5) Whether Kashmir is a colony or not, its peoples are entitled to self-determination. The question is, how can it be achieved for all of them equally? (6) My definition of violence of the oppressed is not at all subjective. I am saying that violence of the stronger against the weaker is always the violence of the oppressor, but is often passed off as the violence of the oppressed.

      1. Dear Rohini,
        I see that your piece has prompted a lively debate here and that you already have a large number of comments to respond to. I add my responses (to yours above) to this pile with some misgivings but in hopes that your intention was in fact to occasion a debate. And given that the opportunity for one on Kashmir is so rare, I canot pass up this one. Feel free not to respond because I certainly do not intend this as a brawl in which the only aim is to silence the other.

        In reading the many comments and your responses to some of them, it seems that at least the more sober interventions here are unable, as am I, to fully comprehend what it is that you are proposing. Unless you are not proposing anything but your only objective is to bring up, as your title suggests, the dilemmas of making demands for national self-determination. If that is the case, then I’m afraid I am not surprised that you are not getting a sympathetic hearing from some of us here. Let me link this to my response to (3). Your answer to my question is that the Lenin-Luxemburg debate will remain relevant so long as azadi is being argued in the terms of the right to national self determination, with the emphasis being on the term “national” right? First of all, in an era of nation-states, wouldn’t it be considered preposterous for Kashmiris to demand independence (if that is the sum total of what azadi implies to all of them) in terms other than those? Considering it is difficult enough already for them to get a hearing, I can imagine how easily dismissed their conceptualizing their demands in any other terms–including the beautiful idea of belonging to a world without borders–would be. While I think your word of caution about the ability of nations to become oppressive rather than emancipators is well taken, I believe you will understand why it can also appear as striking down on yet another front the demands of large numbers of Kashmiris for a just resolution of their grievances and denial of rights. The Kashmiris’ numerical preponderance in the state earns them the unexamined charge of acting necessarily as the sub-regional bully. Add to that numerical preponderance the fact of its being Muslim and the demand for azadi is struck down for being religious intolerance disguised in another language. Separatist and Secessionist were made dirty words in 1947 and unconstitutional soon thereafter. You will have to agree that there seems to be way to phrase their demands correctly enough to merit consideration. And now you appear to be saying that that far away, even if admirable, person Rosa Luxemburg’s views make the demand for rights in the language of national self-determination so hazardous that Kashmiris should discard it. You insist in your response to me that she, or rather that debate with Lenin, is relevant in the here and now of Kashmir. But isn’t that insistence based on some understanding that there are pure archetypes of some ideas and that everyone, everywhere, at all times must necessarily conform to it. So any one demanding the right to national self-determination must always read from that one script? Where does that put the adaptation of the Western concept of secularism that was belatedly inserted in the Indian constitution, I wonder? Rather than hold every concept hostage to their outdated origins, isn’t it more useful — and more challenging — to examine how concepts develop meaning in the context in which they are used. And Azadi is not a static concept but has shifted in the various contexts in which the demand for which it has been made. It is probably shifting even now while we debate as many Kashmiris themselves struggle to understand what to make of this past brutal and fatal summer in the valley.

        This response has grown long enough and I’m not at all hopeful that it will make an iota of difference in the wider schema of things, but I wanted to quickly add the following reactions to your responses. To (1) your focus then is to be understood as really on that particular conference rather than on Geelani per se? Therefore Geelani’s views get so much play in your piece–not to the exclusion but certainly only to the cursory acknowledgement of what you term “other progressive definitions of Azadi”– only as an ancillary effect of your choosing to concentrate on that one conference that gave him focus. More’s the pity then that despite your recognizing other definitions they do not get the fuller treatment they merit of being considered and debated in a piece such as yours. And it is such a great pity that you did make that conference such an exclusive focus. But I am optimistic that you you might be willing to enlarge your frame of reference on Kashmir in a future analysis by accessing the many other exchanges and debates and conversations in and about Kashmir that are at least as lively intellectually as the one in Delhi and many older than it. I , and I am sure others here, would be more than happy to refer you to some of them. On (6), I’m afraid I have to say that “stronger” and “weaker” are also subjectively determined.

        Best wishes,

  8. Though i agree with the general import of the article (apart from the caricature of the idea of ‘azadi’ that it has presented) and wish the resistance in Kashmir came up with a self-definition which is at complete variance and a rejection of the idea of majoritarian hegemonic nation-state that India represents, I do not see on what moral grounds can one deny an occupied people their right to claim an independent state which mirrors the occupation that has been thrust upon it.

  9. Mridu Rai asks Rohini Hensman “Why do you make Geelani the focus on which you hinge your assessments regarding the validity (theoretical or strategic) of Kashmiri demands?”

    What is wrong in Rohini Hensman assessing the validity of the Kashmiri demands as represented by Geelani? Isnt it one of the politico-idelogical positions in Kashmir? Why should it be spared assessment?

    Rohini Hensman does not say or suggest or hint that what Geelani represents is the ‘only demand’.

    Mridu is being dishonest when she tells Rohini Hensman “And they are demands in the plural, while you have reduced them to a singular one …”

    Rohini Hensman did not reduce the demands to ‘a singular one’

    Rohini Hensman has clearly acknowledged and stated that there is a plurality of demands in Kashmir before going on to comment on what Geelani represents and the participation by Arundhati Roy alongside Geelani at the seminar.

    Rohini Hensman wrote on that ‘plurality’ of demands:

    “Indeed, even the meaning of ‘azadi’ is far from clear. For one of the keynote speakers at the meeting, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, it means that Kashmir would be an Islamic state and would be part of Pakistan. For many others – probably the majority – it means that Kashmir would be independent of both India and Pakistan, and for some of these that it would be a secular state.”

    A repetitive Mridu Rai’s dishonesty continues in saying to Rohini Hensman:

    “since when and why has Syed Ali Geelani come to be deemed the fount of all political authority in Kashmir and why do you, in your piece, treat his views as representative of those of all Kashmiris?”

    Rohini Hensman does not say or suggest or hint that Geelani’s views are “representative of those of all Kashmiris”

  10. <>

    in what bizarro alternate universe is India secular and democratic?
    – when the army has collaborated for over a decade with Hindu terrorists to plant bombs that kill and maim hundreds and Muslims are blamed for the attacks and and persecuted?
    – to say nothing of the attacks on Muslims and Christians carried out with impunity by Hindu terrorists
    – when Professor Sabharwal is beaten to death by Hindu thugs who are acquitted by the courts and appointed to important positions in government?
    – when universities change their curriculum under pressure from Hindu terrorists?
    – when M F Husain is hounded out of the country by Hindu terrorists?
    – when Hindu thugs terrorize and destroy with impunity libraries, offices, homes of those who annoy them?
    Is this the standard you think the Kashmiris should aspire to, Ms. Hensman? If this is your definition of secular and democratic, I for one am profoundly grateful that the Kashmiris will never achieve it –

    1. Dear Small blue dot,

      If you had read my article, you would know that I am as opposed to Indian nationalism of the Hindutva and other varieties as you are. Does that mean we have to support every other nationalism that is counterposed to it, including that of Geelani? I don’t think so. The one thing that Lenin and Luxemburg agreed on was the need for proletarian internationalism, but that is precisely what is lacking in the debate on Kashmir. The response to one nationalism doesn’t have to be another: there is a third alternative – internationalism – and that is what I would support.

      1. your being opposed to Hindu nationalism does nothing to change the reality of the course of Indian history for the past 60 years – I would ask how you can forget that in the course of your analysis except of course it isn;t forgetting but a very cynical attempt at bolstering the myth that India is secular and democratic – how about answering some substantive points for a change?

  11. the entire argument, and Hensman’s non-response, would be laughable except that it represents a thought-out and co-ordinated attempt by the Indian intelligentsia to take back the discourse on Kashmir. It won’t work, and shame on you Kafila for being part of it.

  12. at least a part of the debate here on kafila hinges on the issue of precisely where Geelani is located in the broader political landscape? i’d take it a bit further and ask, precisely how is the demand for an Islamic state located within it?
    I’d be curious to find that out.
    Certainly, and from the reports in the alternative media, Geelani’s schedule of civil disobedience does seem to be have wheels in the Valley–how much can we read into that?

    To the extent that he matters, there is very little complexity in his agenda: Muslims must, in all circumstances, be part of an Islamic state. In his words, “Islam teaches that Muslims must follow the guidance of Islam in every action of theirs — not just in prayers but also in matters such as war and peace, trade, international relations and so on, because Islam is a complete way of life…[Hindus and Muslims] are totally separate nations. There is no doubt at all about this. Muslims believe in just one God, but Hindus believe in crores of Gods…” Geelani then collapses the public/private binary, something central to the modern ‘secular’ nation-state. One wonders here 1) why does Geelani not lead a larger movement for secession from India of all Muslims, and not just Kashmiri Muslims? and 2) what he thinks of something like the US, with about 6-7 million Muslims–should they secede?
    One wonders too what he makes of several of the countries of the Gulf, no doubt Geelani’s role models, where millions of Muslims [and others] live as second-class residents even though they create value for those countries?

    But as I said, my point is not that Geelani represents the entire gamut of pro-Azadi opinion in Kashmir. I merely wonder what exactly does he–and his ideology–represent?


  13. the ONLY applicable arguments in this situation are the ICCPR Art 1. 1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
    which India has signed and ratified
    and the recent judgement of the ICJ on Kosovo – all the rest is eyewash and the kind of mystification Indian intellectuals excel in – heaven defend us from government-funded leftists, the deadliest variety

  14. What would the Islamic state in Kashmir that Indian intellectuals – as they say, because they are so concerned about the welfare of the Kashmiris- so dread look like? for a start, it would be the only country in South Asia that has actually carried out land reforms that gave land to the tiller, and managed to sustain it – it might have ideas of equality and justice that would be so dangerous to the out of control fascist consumerism of the Indian middle class -of course it must be opposed –
    yesterday I wrote, shame on you, Kafila, but on second thoughts, thank you for showing your true colors

  15. Dear Small Blue Dot,

    This is in response to your angry comments ‘shame on you Kafila’ and ‘thanks for showing your true colours’. Three things:

    1) Kafila is a place for debate, dissent and discussion. There may be views you like and others you don’t and you are invited to join this caravan of ideas with some of your own. Kafila is not a place for set, monolithic ideologies which betray their weakness by their unwillingness to heard difference of views. That, in my view, is bigoted.

    2) Please read http://kafila.org/policy to know more about us. Specifically, see the last two points there. There are 22 Kafila writers, who possibly have 22 different views on various aspects of the Kashmir issue, and all 22 of us are open to listening to and engaging with any number of different views on Kashmir.

    3) Specifically on Kashmir, surely, Kafila’s “true colours” should be judged by our entire archive of over 50 posts on Kashmir, many of them written by Kashmiris?

    While I’m grateful to you for engaging here, I request you and everyone to do so without personal attacks. We can all show the maturity, surely, to disagree intellectually and respectfully?


  16. small blue dot seems to be fun …confirms cliche of bolshevik cadre going amok.

  17. precisely because of kafila’s past coverage on Kashmir all the editors must be aware that Hensman’s piece is really the Panun Kashmir line wrapped in Marxist language – the hurt innocence and the right of the right wing to “free speech” defence just doesn’t wash – Kafila shoudl also be aware that it is with the arrogance of power that Hensman lays down the law on a matter where she is clearly ignorant of the history, politics. culture (yes, culture, all she knows of how Kashmiri pandits are and how they relate to Muslims comes from Indian propaganada), while ignoring the ground realities in both India and Kashmir –
    you’re welcome to ban me from posting, in fact I’m thinking of banning myself from this blog, life’s too short to waste on that odd southasian hybrid, the islamophobic leftie

    1. Thank you for that response, which proves that there is no well meaning innocence behind this post – true colors indeed
      the question is of the arrogance of power, of the oppressor telling the oppressed what to think – I couldn’t care less what you think about nationalisms, until you address the reality of the longlived viciousness of Hindu nationalism – your refusal to address its reality and consequences show how seriously you take it – do you think a few mealy mouthed words about opposing all nationalisms can absolve you and all Indians (I am one, by the way, I am not Kashmiri) of the responsibility for the violence of our state and society? or magically remove it from the storyline?
      a wonderful display of colonial arrogance, the Kashmiris can’t have freedom because of the way we Indians F—–d up ours

      1. Clearly you have not read the other posts on Kafila if you think we have not addressed ‘the viciousness of Hindu nationalism’ – and equally clearly have no intention of reading it. Yet you call it our ‘refusal to address blah blah…” Lage raho small blue dot…:)

    2. i completely agree with small blue dot and sandeep sensible arguments always sound to many people especially on kafila as ‘old bloshevik cadre going amok’..you are guys are cliched!

  18. Dear Rohini .

    Thanks A lot for putting your idea with such a conceptual clarity and unbiased manner.I m completely agree with this. I also share this opinion that any fight for right to self determination must qualify the criteria of federalism , surety of dignified life for each and every individul and minority within that region,rule of law and substantive democratic functioning.As per our information geelani is not insuring any of these demand in that jammu and kashmir for which he is fighting.So in my opinion to any kind of contested secession the only solution is Habarmassian notion of dialouge negotiation ant talk so that disagreement could be converted into agreement.

  19. Ms.Hensman,
    your ignorance of ground reality in kashmir is astounding,Beyond all the Lenin -luxemborg subterfuge,what is your point,
    self determination for all,who all,Kashmiris or their sectarian subdivisions,whose construct is it ?
    you take great pain to paint the turmoil in the kashmir state as if it is some Lebanon in a microcosm and address it as if it is a sectarian conflict which needs to be resolved by addressing aspirationsof various so called groups,
    for your info,Kashmir is no Lebanon and Kashmiri Pandits etc are no Christians of the Chouf fighting some kind of long and brutal war, struggling for what they consider their share,against Muslims and other sects.
    A symbolic minority of Pandits now lives in the valley after migration of 1990s,and the migrants political mobilisation ,miniscule as it is limited to few people, is to portray themselves as a spanner in the works,Period,if they really have the strength and numbers is debatable,
    Rest of all your polemic on violence of oppressed /oppressor and virtues of secularism and democracy in Kashmir reminded me of Camus’s famous quotes,

    ….. slave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy or by a taste for the superhuman, in one sense cripple judgment. On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence — through a curious transposition peculiar to our times — it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself…..”

  20. i wonder what do these pro azadi elements mean when they use word “oppressed”? would they clarify?

    1. ….these “pro-azadi elements” are the people of Kashmir, who live under the shadow of the Indian military occupation involving more than half-a-million soldiers, thousands of spies, and a deadly mix of Hindu nationalists and fake liberal bleedhearts… By denying Kashmiris their right to be free, stifling their voices and killing those who question and protest, Indian state is the oppressor and Kashmiris the oppressed. What is so hard to get? Denial of freedom is a clear sign of oppression.

  21. Thank you small blue dot. I think with your comment, as well as of some others here, Rohini Hensman can rest her case. Such vitriol, such anger and viciousness, and such name-calling, when just one out of fifty posts raises questions about the Azadi project! And you simply choose to ignore that she does this while condemning unequivocally the rapaciousness of the Indian armed forces. It is quite easily imaginable what the likes of you can do when they have power. Rohini’s is a reasoned piece and raises questions about nationalism in general and you really have no idea as to who she is when you say that she is an ‘islamophobic leftie’ and reflecting the Panun Kashmir voice. It is this intolerance, precisely that nationalisms of all hues spawn and we will always need voices that can dare to stand up to to your blackmail of either unconditional support to your cause or be condemned as agents of the Indian state. You really mirror the Hindu right in every possible way.

    Rather than spew venom against Rohini and others sympathetic to the Kashmiri struggle while being skeptical of Azadi, could you even once in your arrogant statements above cite one thing that about the place of minority rights in Azad Kashmir? Everything in your tone suggests that minorities are in for a bad time – if you represent even a marginal voice in the Azadi struggle.

    Once again, let me say this for the benefit of others who might be reading this debate: Rohini (the author) and myself (as one who posted the article) are from very different positions, against all nationalisms. If the British said ‘the same thing’ about India’s freedom struggle (that Indians are not capable of ruling themselves), that most certainly is NOT what Rohini is saying. What she is saying and what I certainly have maintained, is that ALL nationalisms without exceptionare violent and it is a precondition of all nationalisms that they suppress minority voices. There is blood enough on the hands of the British, French or German nation as far as minority rights and beliefs are concerned. John Locke, that father of liberalism, famously held that ‘toleration’ could not be extended to Catholics because their loyalties lay with Rome!

    Do you really understand the difference between this position and the kind you attribute to Rohini? Or in your blind rage you simply refuse to see that? In that case, let me say this: We almost nearly proved the British right with the partition holocaust (which continues today and of which Kashmir is only one chapter). Look at the north east – the first physical attacks of self-determinationists is on the Bihari migrant workers. Routine ethnic cleansing is on in many of those parts even as we speak. So while we certainly criticize the British, I for one do not have the smug complacency to believe that we have proved them wrong. Many minorities were probably safer during British rule. Debate, anyone?

    Finally, does my opposition to nationalism mean I insist that Kashmir should always remain part of India? Certainly not! Ours is an expression of a fear about the national self-determination imagination. And to the best of my knowledge, the only country that has managed to escape the framing logic of nationalism is post-apartheid South Africa. And it did so because, it did not say that we will think of what new South Africa will be after apartheid is over. The ANCs Freedom Charter way back in 1955, defined South Africa as belonging to “all those who live in it, Black and White”. It was this vision that laid the foundations for Thabo Mbeki’s opening speech (however problematic he may have subsequently become) at the time of adoption of the South African Constitution Bill (1996). In this speech “I am an African” he declared what constituted present day South Africa:

    I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still a part of me.
    In my veins course the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East..
    I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots of Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle…
    I come of those who were transported from India and China whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour…

    This is the vision that led to the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the unprecedented move whereby the leadership of oppressed majority took it upon itself to convince its own people that retribution would not solve problems in the long run. The vision of a Mandela or a Gandhi alone could have achieved this. Gandhi, alas, could not convince his own and had to spend the dawn of ‘freedom’ away in Noakhali and other parts of Bengal when the ‘nation’ was rejoicing in its new-found power. We have yet to see self-determinationists spell out their vision apart from repeating moth-eaten truisms about national freedom.

    1. Mr.Aditya Nigam

      Excellent response. It is precisely because of people like “Small blue dot” that we need to make sure that minorities in Kashmir are protected and are ALSO able to decide their own future , who by all accounts wants to be with India.

      Otherwise we can expect things like:-


      “”You really mirror the Hindu right in every possible way.””

      You are absolutely right. I have dealt with many religious right-wingers of both hindus and muslims and i can say with confidence that they are just like “brothers” who are united in hate for each other and also hate for communists/liberals who disagree with their ideas or as you rightly said who do not provide “absolute support” to their dreams of utopia.

      Finally , i would like to say that i FULLY SHARE the ultimate liberal dream of a border less world. For that to happen ,religious fascists of every color needs to be defeated first.

  22. I would really like to know what Small Blue Dot’s real name is…..he / she claims to be Indians, spews hatred on India, wishes to break up India into little pieces…. where does such deep feelings come from ?

    1. Red, there are many legitimate reasons that the Indian state itself has given by its own conduct that would want to make people hate it and want its break-up. And per se, there is no sanctity to the present borders. After all, even within families, people hate each other to the point of breaking up and sometimes even killing. And these are states that embody power relations in ways no family can. So there is no need to speculate why people might hate the Indian state.

  23. Dear small blue dot,

    Not for naught does the old adage go – look before you leap, and think before you speak. Perchance you have encountered a Kafila author by the name of Subhash Ghatade on these here pages? It so happens, that in the four years of kafila’s existence he has written about 46 posts on Hindutva terror, not to mention posts by other authors. Of course this is probably a trifling amount for one as dedicated to the cause of addressing ” the reality of the longlived viciousness of Hindu nationalism” as you, but we try.

    Warm regards

    1. aarti

      one of the strengths public discourse in india retains is to have the space available and the courage to talk about and condemn something as despicable as ‘hindutva terror’

      ‘kafila’ providing just one such example

      i would be interested in knowing, since you seem to have the numbers …… how often have there been posts on ‘kafila’ that similarly talk about and condemn the despicable nature of ‘islamist terror’ ? ……. not as a passing reference woven into some other topic but in an exclusive and focussed manner akin to the subhash ghatade posts on ‘hindutva terror’

  24. Dear Alok,

    There are some, but they are few and certainly no where near the numbers on Hindu terror. And there is a very simple reason for that. Kafila set itself up with a very clear mandate – to articulate and represent voices and views that do not get an airing in the mainstream press. And there really is no doubt today is there who wields discursive, articulative hegemonic power in this country? You don’t need to read Kafila for news on ‘Islamic’ terror, its all over the press, on TV, everywhere, everyday. It is only in the last year or so that there has begun to be any reporting on terror by Hindu-right wing groups.

    We are not here interested in producing false equivalences, where every condemnation of Hindu terror must be met by a prompt condemnation of Islamic terror. The fact is, we don’t live in an equal world. You have on the one hand a systematic colonization of all avenues of power and decision-making by a small Hindu upper-caste elite, and the systematic denial of equal citizenship to legions of others – be it Muslims, dalits, women, sexual minorities – on the other. Don’t you think the former’s views get enough airing in public life? Don’t you feel there should be at least some spaces where other voices are heard, where other forms of speech are possible?

    That at least is our effort here. I hope this answers your question.
    war regards

    1. aarti

      yes you have answered my question …… thanks

      i wasnt looking for equivalences ….. that would be foolish of me ……. demanding equivalences between societal issues, even when they have similar contours, is an avoidance from serious contemplation of each one of them

      you have stated the ‘mandate’ for kafila and i can appreciate some issues figuring oftener and more prominently than others

      since you have mentioned it ……. i would agree on “sytematic denial of equal citizenship to legions of others – be it Muslims, dalits, women, sexual minorities” even as i would disagree on “a systematic colonization of all avenues of power and decision-making by a small Hindu upper-caste elite”

      the “avenues of power”, in my opinion are not controlled and ‘used’ by just “a small Hindu upper-caste elite” but included in the ‘power-masters’ and ‘power brokers’ are many from some of those very groups who suffer “sytematic denial of equal citizenship” ……. that, in my opinion, brings in a complexity that does not allow for an easier and speedier demolishing of the entrenched exploitative structures of ‘power’

  25. i’m aware of other posts dealing with HIndu nationalism, but the question here is that this one on Kashmir chooses to pretend that India is secular and democratic – how come Hindu nationalism and its consequences go missing in Hensman’s piece and in your responses? my post which you did not publish referred to your hysterical denial of the right of self-determination to Kashmiris – given the changing discourse on Kashmir among peace and justice circles in the US and UK, I think panic is the more appropriate
    word –

    1. Dear Small blue dot,

      Hindu nationalism and its consequences are not missing in this article if you read it carefully, and I have taken it up in more detail elsewhere, for example in my article on the Ayodhya verdict, which was also posted on Kafila. And neither Aditya nor I have any interest in denying the right of self-determination to Kashmiris – that too would have been obvious to you if you had bothered to read what we wrote. You seem to take a George W. Bushite position that if someone is not with you, then that person is with ‘the enemy’!

  26. A solution that protects the democratic rights of all the diverse peoples of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be summed up in the slogan of ‘Azadi’ or formula of ‘the right of nations to self-determination’; it requires a process of discussion and negotiation between all the diverse peoples in the state.

    This sounds nice but may not always work. Of all our founding fathers, Dr. Ambedkar was acutely aware of the problem. I have seen Dr. Ambedkar use the following anecdote more than once in his writings and speeches but it is worth quoting it again. (I am taking this from Mr. Gandhi and the Emancipation of the Untouchables, page 42 available through Google books.)

    The incident is worth recalling. Redmond said to Carson, “Ask any safeguards you like for the Protestant minority of Ulster; I am prepared to give them but let us have a United Ireland under one Constitution.” Carson’s reply was curt and brutal. He said without asking for time to consider the offer “Damn your safeguards; I don’t want to be ruled by you.”

    In his speech to the Constitutent Assembly on the adoption of the Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar again used this anecdote and told his audience that “We are lucky that no minority has taken this position.” He was aware of what might result if a minority did take this position.

    Anyway, to be blunt, this is exactly what the Kashmiri Muslims are telling us. Fair enough. I suppose what Rohini is noting is that Kashmiri Muslims may themselves be at the receiving end of such sentiments since that state (even just the part currently under Indian control) is hardly homogeneous. Is there a solution which meets everyone’s desires? Rohini seems to have faith in something she calls “internationalism”; I tend to be far more pessimistic probably because of my acquaintance with one of Amartya Sen’s mathematical contributions called The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal. (Check the Wikipedia page on the Liberal Paradox.)

    It is a dilemma all right and small blue dot notwithstanding, we have to address it intellectually. But of course we should never forget that there is a real tragedy being enacted in Kashmir (and other places).

    1. Dear Suresh,

      I was not familiar with this example, but it confirms the point I am making. There are probably some elements like Panun Kashmir who would say to a potential Kashmiri state ‘Damn your safeguards; I don’t want to be ruled by you’. And there may be other minorities, say in Ladakh or Jammu, who may be willing to consider it provided there are strong safeguards. But there is certainly a need for safeguards, given the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

      All I meant by ‘internationalism’ was solidarity between working people across the various boundaries that divide them, including national boundaries. In this case, solidarity between working people in India, Kashmir and Pakistan is something that can be worked on even under the present circumstances. Not all Kashmiris regard Indian workers as their oppressors; for example, the Jammu and Kashmir Trade Union Centre is affiliated to the New Trade Union Initiative, whose affiliates are mainly trade unions in India.

      1. hello rohini,
        “But there is certainly a need for safeguards, given the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.”
        This sentence in one of your responses does indicate something doesnt it? you might have said India but you chose to say pakistan. you do have an understanding of the superiority of indian state vis a vis the pakistani state . does it stem from an idea of anti statism? i cant even feel it. your internationalism is so much premised on a “democratic state” as if that makes it not a state and an organisation of organised violence and perpetual slavery. i dont read any where in your vision or perspective or imagination about how we end this “perpetual” system of state which has a monopoly over violence. i personally am clear that nationalism even in the form of national self determination has hardly any connection to end of state,statism and so on. but having said that the colonial oppression in kashmir in manipur in nagaland in palestine and elsewhere is obvious. if you prefer to be a skeptic about national self determination so be it. i personally have adhered to a position of demanding that indian army get out of kashmir , an end to occupation army and its accompanying horrors and an end to laws connected with this occupation. it is my ethical duty to demand this. and i have no need to argue about geelani and so on. if you are a skeptic of national self determination why dont you leave it at that. you are free to say that you would like a egalitarian society in kashmir as arundathi roy also wants. but what about the indian state and we indian citizens? what are we doing about the indian state? is it meaningful for anybody who wants a classeless casteless stateless non patriarchal world , a world free of organised violence and alienation of all kinds to emphasise in every arguement as i have read you making in kafila about the importance of the constitutionally democratic character of the indian state? for a radical critique of nationalism i would suggest reading ( or rereading?)for example Fredy Perlmans ” continuing appeal of nationalism”. my problem is not that you critique national libertation movements , but that you seem always to be holding a brief for constitutional democratic states regardless of if you are writing about chhatisgarh or about kashmir . and attacking arundathi roy seems also a favourite continuing activity. we the citizens of india if we want freedom ourselves are obligated to express our solidarity with resistance to oppression by the india state in kashmir and the northeast india regardless of if we were marxists or humanists or anarchists or internationalists or whatever else. let us do that well as well as our own resistance to OUR fight for freedom . you have a particular left social democratic vision of a world and others including me obviously dont share it. i must say that i have hardly been impressed by your particular manner of intervention. you do seem to think every time that you have a solution to social questions. and i find that approach in itself problematic. there is resistance , there are visions and perspectives and dreams and yearnings. but Solutions????? they dont exist! i do feel that about south africa what you and aditya nigam talk about are like speeches of Evo Morales . they have nothing really to do with the reality in south africa which is that it is extremely violent racist statist class society.( do get to know about the neighbourhood resistance in south africa and the violence of African National Congress in alliance with police against them. i for one squirm when somebody talks about nelson mandela in such glowing terms. he who used his prison suffering to come to power , claiming to be the represantative of the resistances in south africa and do as much harm as possible to the resistance for freedom. for sure he was different from geelani , so what? how does that privelge him over anybody else accross the world? i really feel the manner of discussion about all these topics were really problematic. can we by priveleging the example of south african resistance to say No to an independant kashimir because it doesnt adhere to this or that standards? in a world of states and statism where we all of us have till now been incapable of putting an end to it ,it is really hypocritical of any of us to use some abstract philosophical discourse to say that kashmir seperating from india might not be good. in any case is the state of affairs in independant kashmir going to become worser than the Occupation by the indian state there and the mass murder and torture and repression in kashmir by the indian state ? to be wary of national liberation and to be critical of many of the constituent elements is meaningful and even necessary . but inspite of your repeated protestations i read i n your responses somehow that it would be better for the kashmiris to be part of the indian state .

  27. that was really a very well written piece…..especially the comparison u drove were worth reading…..one question..rather a confirmation i wud say…u have mention in your refrences that you have reffered my note who is weak and who is strong..was it the example of jewish holocust that you used this note in?the oppresed and the opressors?

    1. Dear Azaan,

      I referred to your note ‘Who is Weak and Who is Strong’ to illustrate my points that Indian security forces are committing horrific crimes in Kashmir, that these have become routine as a result of legislation and policies guaranteeing impunity for them, that there is sanction for them from above, and that there is no way in which an occupation that commits such crimes can be morally or politically justified.

      I gave the example of the Jewish holocaust to show that within a community that has been so viciously oppressed, there can also be some who viciously oppress others, namely the Palestinians. Therefore, coming from an oppressed community or country doesn’t mean that you can’t be an oppressor.

      Thank you for your piece – I found it moving and utterly chilling.

      Warm regards,

      1. However the difference in your views and my truth remain…..god bless

  28. Dear Rohini,

    First you say we don’t know what azadi means, but then later you write, “As we saw, ‘azadi’ is compatible with authoritarianism, ethnic cleansing and the murder of political rivals: hardly a radical departure from the present.”

    So first you say we don’t know what azadi means; then you tell us what it means and it’s ugly. Is there a contradiction here?


    1. Dear Shivam,

      Thank you for pointing this out. It would have been more correct if I had said ‘Some versions of azadi are compatible with…’ etc. I am sure there are more progressive versions of azadi, which are based on democracy and equal rights for all, but surprisingly, no one in this discussion has defined it in this way.

      Best wishes,

  29. Dear Aditya Nigam,

    On what bases can Indian citizens who already live in the nation-state of India, which has occupied Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiri people, demand that Kashmiris reject their nationalism? On what bases can Indians demand anything of Kashmiris? What conditions do YOU lay for Kashmiris before they are allowed to be a free country? What standard must they measure up to?

    If you are for “internationalism” (a contradiction that you don’t see: inter-nationalism already demands recognition that there are nations) wouldn’t you better demand that India dismantle itself as a nation-state first? Isn’t that your first moral responsibility, instead of demanding of those whose country your nation has illegally occupied to reject their right to determine their own future?

    When Marx says: “Workers of al countries unite!” I have no doubt in my mind that workers from my country will unite with workers of your country, but for that my workers first need to have their own country. Otherwise, to my country’s workers, workers from your country just appear as occuppiers with whom unity means collaboration, complicity in illegal occupation.

    Internationalism, especially in the hands of those safely ensconced within the bounds of their own nation-states, has become a bourgeois charade. There is a moral responsibility that we all have as citizens (even if highly unequal) of the world, beyond our ideological/theoretical predilections.

    1. The only possible solution in my humble opinion is bifurcation(or trifurcation) of Jammu and Kashmir with hindu majority areas and buddhist majority areas remaining with India…..and the muslim majority areas can have their independence OR merge with Pakistan.

      A free J & K will hardly be secular. Most probably it will be an “Islamic” country OR merge with Pakistan. And hindus and buddhists DONT want to be ruled by muslims in an Islamic country.

      As suresh points out :

      “Damn your safeguards; I don’t want to be ruled by you.”

      It will also take the wind out of the sails of hindu right-wing whose main battle cry is plight of Kashmiri pandits.

      1. Ron,
        But won’t that leave “unwilling minorities” in the two or three separated parts you visualize for whom Ms. Hensman rightly wishes to ensure protection? How is that a solution? How do you envisage their protection especially since you already assume that at least one of the three majorities is for some reason pathologically incapable of accommodating its religious minorities.

        I don’t know how you will receive the following remarks because I am about to bring up Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the very idea of him seems to raise hackles and cerebral shutdown in some quarters in India rather than neutral consideration of the ideas of a very fine constitutional lawyer. People who have grown accustomed to blaming him alone for the Partition of 1947, either forget or know nothing of his proposals of March 1940, known also as the Lahore Resolution. At the All-India Muslim League’s annual session in Lahore, arguing that there were at least (people forget the “at least”) two nations in India, he demanded independent Muslim states in the north-west and the north-east of India. These were to consist of grouped Muslim-majority provinces (punjab, sindh, nwfp and later baluchistan on one end and bengal in the east) . He said nothing about the territorial separation of these states (so this was not a call for partition).

        Further “the constituent units” of these states (that is the Muslim-majority provinces on both sides of the subcontinent) would be “autonomous and sovereign” (i.e. giving “provinces”, not states, autonomy and sovereignty). There was to be no redrawing of frontiers for these independent states. They were to be the existing frontiers of the grouped Muslim-majority provinces. This was meant to leave sizeable minorities in both Hindustan and Pakistan. Jinnah and the League wanted reciprocal arrangements to protect minorities in both entities, and at no point envisaged a transfer of populations.

        This was the way out of a bad mess that a constitutional lawyer devised. His goal at the end of the day was that all constitutional arrangements in a future independent, united India, should be arrived at through negotiations between the (at least) two nations of India acting as equal nations and not as minorities and majorities. This parity in the negotiating parties he believed would be better able to ensure a more just constitution than simply a majority deciding its shape and content. It’s a different matter that many factors combined to scupper these plans.

        I wonder how this idea of states without territorial separation and without transfers of population would sound to your line of thinking as I glean from what you have outlined?

        1. But won’t that leave “unwilling minorities” in the two or three separated parts you visualize for whom Ms. Hensman rightly wishes to ensure protection? How is that a solution?

          There is no “solution” as such. Indeed, the word “solution” itself suggests a similarity to a mathematical problem for which you either have a correct answer or you don’t. Politics doesn’t work that way, as I am sure you are more than aware. The correct counter to Ron’s proposal is an alternative proposal which is “better.”

          If I understand you correctly, what you are proposing roughly is an independent Jammu and Kashmir with a weak centre and significant powers to the provinces (Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, may be also the areas now administered by Pakistan). That may or may not be better than what Ron is suggesting. Belgium seems to be having significant problems with a variant of such a formula and it is not clear that all the different groups in the state will accept this formula even if the Indian state accepts the idea of letting Jammu and Kashmir secede. Furthermore, what happens if a province decides to secede from the future Jammu and Kashmir state? Wouldn’t that destroy the whole principle of “balance” (minority group in each province acting as a check on the majority in the other provinces)?

          The point, I think, is this. When you have significant mistrust between groups living on the same piece of land, there can be no “solution.” All that will happen is that we will keep going round in circles. This “solution” has this drawback; that “solution” has that drawback and so on.

          The only hope is that over time the groups will learn to “trust” one other. It can happen. Northern Ireland is an example where after so many years and bloodshed, the two groups there have reached a stage where they sort of “trust” one other. (I am not sure many Ulster residents will remember the Redmond-Carson exchange that I quoted.) But if there is no trust, it might be better to have a clean break — notwithstanding all the problems that you note.

          Finally, for those Kashmiri Muslims frustrated with the fact that the Pandits don’t seem to trust them, no matter what they say or do, perhaps they can now better appreciate the problems faced by some of the Indian leaders like Gandhi or Nehru. Building trust is never easy and with the Muslim elite, Gandhi failed miserably. No doubt Gandhi’s own mistakes contributed to the eventual outcome but I think the Kashmiri Muslim leadership is now finding out just how difficult it can be to build trust.

  30. /So first you say we don’t know what azadi means; then you tell us what it means and it’s ugly.

    I am sure Rohini will pen a response but your interpretation is hardly supported even from what you quote her as saying. I guess part of the confusion is that the word azadi has been used both to refer to nationalist movements in general and also to the specific case of Kashmir.

    One can hardly disagree with the claim that nationalist movements generally have been associated with ethnic cleansing, authoritarianism, killing of rivals etc. There is no contradiction between saying this and saying that what azadi means in the specific case of Kashmir is not clear.

  31. @ksnblog,
    Times like the ones we live in are characterized precisely by this cacophony of voices, where no one is either listening or even interested in listening to what the other is saying. Every one speaks past the other. Or simply speaks. Thanks, then, for your supposed reading of what I said. I can only say in my defense that if you misunderstand, maybe it is my lot to be misunderstood. We on Kafila have been attacked by people like you and small blue dot as agents of the Indian state, Panun Kashmir etc and by the Hindu Right and other assorted nationalists as antinational, Hindu-hating Islamophiles. We, despite our very different positions, have been attacked by the Maoists as agents of the Indian state and by the CPM supporters as agents of the Maoists. So be it. Everyone is at liberty to understand what they wish of us. On earlier occasions, I personally have even been accused by CPM supporters, on this very blog, of being paid by the US and thriving on US dollars!

    I personally refuse to surrender to this blackmail of an “either you are with us or against us” position. If you ask me, these quaint remnants of my old Leninist past no longer interest me. If I have learnt anything – at great political cost – from my own experience is that one must always insist, on the contrary that “if you are not against us, you are with us”. That is the only way, political movements can build allies. That however, seems to be far from your purpose. You would rather that every critic of the Indian state, people who at some risk, demand the withdrawal of the Indian occupation forces from Kashmir and the North East, people who demand the immediate abrogation of hated laws like AFSPA are all reduced to “agents of the Indian state” and you will, Inshallah, force every reasonable critic of the Indian state into that position. And yet, if at all Kashmir’s independence has any chance, it is only because there is a vibrant opposition to the Indian state’s doings in Kashmir within India – from civil liberties and human rights movements to figures like Arundhati Roy. But unless they unconditionally support Azadi, they are all stooges, in your language. What else can I say but that that is your right.

    Clearly, no conversation is possible as long as you read my comment as saying this:

    “What conditions do YOU lay for Kashmiris before they are allowed to be a free country? What standard must they measure up to?”

    Let me, for the benefit of other readers quote exactly what I said:

    “Finally, does my opposition to nationalism mean I insist that Kashmir should always remain part of India? Certainly not! Ours is an expression of a fear about the national self-determination imagination.”

    Does it take too much effort to understand that I do not see Kashmir as “an integral part of India” as most nationalists are fond of claiming – because I believe that, in the final instance, nations are not pre-given from eternity but are historically imagined and if the Kashmiri people do not see themselves as part of India, they cannot be kept together by force. And just in case you are interested in reading and understanding positions other than yours, you could see our book (Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam, Power and Contestation: India Since 1989, Zed Books 2007, especially the chapter “When was the Nation?” where were argue to this effect at great length – including the fact that Kashmiris unlike Junagarhis never got the plebiscite that was promised to them). But you might not want to read such nonsense when it comes from ‘citizens of a colonizing nation’ and that is also fine.

    But from this if you or anybody else were to demand that we give unconditional support to the Azadi cause, I refuse. I refuse not only for Kashmir but for every nation state including the one I live in. My support to it – if at all it has been there – is never unconditional. You may, along with small blue dot, call me and others on Kafila, stooges of the Indian state or whatever else you please, that is entirely your prerogative.

    And finally, by the way, I have not invoked ‘internationalism’ even once (another instance of your not reading and jumping to make accusations). Rohini did use the term and if she so wishes, she might clarify what her argument is. As far as I am concerned, I am not interested in these categories any more. My normative horizon is that of a world without borders and is not constituted by ‘my country’ and ‘your country’ – you are most welcome to them. But others (i.e. not ‘your country’) every right to ask uncomfortable questions (not the least about minority rights in Azad Kashmir) even when recognizing that the Indian state has no business being in Kashmir.

    I do not think that I have anything more to say. In any case, who is interested in listening, anyway:)

  32. i have been following one-sided debates,considered opinions, thoughtless discussions, socially significant posts, thinly veiled abuses, baseless allegations, scholarly responses, childish comments, pre-conceived notions, and creative conversations on kafila for more than a year. one thing that has attracted my eyes and ears(the nature of such writing requires listening) is this: very few people know how to read a text and listen to its ambient sounds. what is the first word of rohini’s post? Dilemmas. if you read closely, she has articulated precisely this. no wonder, aditya ends his last post in a despondent manner.

  33. Well the whole argument, and the debate it insued is fruitless, as i agree with Mridu jee, that this, at best looks like a ‘strategic
    paper’, and for a ‘strategic paper’, such arguments are unnecessary.
    This article and the debate it has insued, to me was a drag.

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