Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

I do not think ordinary Indians support the brutality of army occupation in Kashmir. Despite what the Indian state says, and despite what the Indian army and CRPF are doing, I honestly do not believe that any ordinary Indian supports the torture of young men, the blinding of people attending a funeral, the rape of women, the killings and maiming and abuse and humiliation that are now a routinized fact of daily life in the Kashmir valley. To believe that ordinary Indians enjoy watching this spectacle of violence, that ordinary Indians take pleasure in the torture of children, would be to think India is now a country comprised of sadistic psychopaths. I honestly do not think ordinary Indians are psychopaths. I do think, however, that ordinary Indians, and I count myself amongst them, have somehow managed, till now, to keep some distance between what is happening in Kashmir and the idea of India as a whole. After all, India is a large and complex country, a huge and diverse society. Everything that happens in Kashmir, the brutality of the army and the security forces, cannot signify the whole truth of India we tell ourselves. It seems somehow unfair to us ordinary Indians that what happens in Kashmir reflects on us all.

But the time has come now to squarely face some hard truths about ourselves, and the dissimulations, psychological and social, by which we continue to live in this country and call ourselves ‘Indians’.

If what the government tells us is true, that there is no ‘India’ without ‘Kashmir’, it is only stating a bald historical truth. The day India came into existence as an independent postcolonial country was the day ‘Kashmir’ came into being as an occupied territory. India became postcolonial and colonizer in the same instant. There is no historical contradiction here: this is the the zombie afterlife, as a friend describes it, of British colonialism. We know this history, we know its consequences, we are seeing it unfold every day in the Kashmir valley. But we still behave as though we can continue to think this is an abstract question or old history.

But we must stop lying to ourselves. We must find the courage to accept the truth that every killing in Kashmir by Indian security forces, every rape, every murder, every child brutalized, is a referendum on India. Not on Kashmir. It is a referendum on the existence of India as a political project.

If India can only remain India, as we are told by the government, by insisting Kashmir is an integral part of India against any wishes of the Kashmiri people. If India’s identify as India depends on the occupation of Kashmir then logically we must accept that India remains democratic not despite these horrors, but that the existence of India depends on this horror. It depends on the rape of women in Kunanposhpora. It depends on, feeds on, the brutal torture and disappearance of 6000 people in the Kashmir valley.

A CRPF soldier pushed a needle into the eye of a 5 year old child. A 5 year-old child. People attending a funeral have been blinded by pellets. This is what is being done in Kashmir today. This is what is happening in our name as Indians. Do we truly, as Indians, absorb the full weight of this fact? Do we truly, as Indians, understand what this means? There is absolutely nowhere for us to hide now. At all.

So what are we going to do as Indians? I am talking with my fellow citizens, to my fellow Indians: We need to free ourselves, as Indians, from Kashmir. We must free ourselves if we wish to call ourselves Indians without irony, in a non-pathological way. We must free ourselves from Kashmir for the mental and moral health of our country. If we do not have the courage to do this, then every time we cast our vote, every time we exercise our rights as citizens of an electorally democratic country we do so not despite, but because of India’s occupation of Kashmir. India is not a democratic country despite this occupation. India is a democratic country because of this occupation. Let us accept this as a historical and existential fact. Those of us who call ourselves Indians of any stripe – left, right and everything in between – should begin to inhabit the subject position of colonizer, not that of erstwhile colonized persons. As colonizers. Our personal and political solidarities may lie with the Palestinian people; but our actual identifications must now be with liberal Israelis. Our own locations are akin to those Israelis who may hate what is being done in their name, but nonetheless cannot escape the truth that their existence materially depends on the continuing colonization of Palestine.

The historical birth-story of India explains the terror that grips ordinary Indians when the question of Kashmir arises. This fear, fed and played on by the official position of the Indian state, says: If even once it were admitted that Kashmir is actually not an integral part of India, has never been a part of India, what will happen to the idea of India? If once it is admitted, even once, that the fantasy of territorial integrity and India’s credentials as a secular country can be undone by speaking of Kashmir, what will happen to India? What sense will it make to speak then of India as a country? This is a real terror for ordinary Indians but we must find the resources to reject this official position. We must unmask it for the lies it is peddling. If we want India to be India then Kashmir has to be resolved.

Let us become an actually postcolonial country. To become an actually postcolonial country means that we have to move beyond the legacy bequeathed to us by the colonizer. Let the Kashmiris decide their own fate. Let the people of Jammu and Ladakh decide. Let there be a political program and will for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley.

Kashmir is the great moral question of our time as Indians, most especially for those who call themselves Indian nationalists. Indians must be able to talk about the self-determination of Kashmir because the alternative is that to be an Indian is to be an occupier. This is the true moment of Indian independence. Now, at this moment. This is the moment at which India must achieve its independence from the colonial legacy that has transformed us into the image of our colonizer. In order to be something else India must commit to ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The only way to make the identity ‘Indian’ a politically and morally defensible one is to let the people of Kashmir decide their own fate. All of us, whether we are nationalists or not, whatever ideological and political position we may occupy, whatever may be our investment in Indian politics leave alone Kashmiri politics, still call ourselves ‘Indians’. In this matter we do not have any choice: we are born into Indian citizenship. If we wish to live with this identity with some modicum of non-pathological sanity, then every Indian has to think about what is happening in Kashmir as a conflict that inhabits ourselves. This is not about the Kashmiris, it is about Indians and how we wish to live in India.

We, Indians, should be demanding our azadi. Azadi from the killing and blindings and rapes and torture that apparently enable our freedom as Indians. Azadi from occupying this horrifying role in which we find ourselves. We should refuse to accept this role: we must have the courage to say our existence as Indians cannot be determined any longer by the continuing oppression of the Kashmiri people. If this is the condition of India’s existence, then we do not want it. We want Azadi from this position in which we have all been placed.

Hum kya chahte? Azadi.

8 thoughts on “Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

  1. shaturya

    Let us be free from emotional polemics. Any killing be in a war or otherwise is sad and deplorable. For that matter any violent settling of issues is not recommended.

    But, on a realistic plain, the main issue remains how one does react if he/she is attacked to be killed. The attackers are guided by many reasons , primary one being greed, in one colour or the other.

    Kashmir issue , without going into history ( History will have many facets , one being ‘how far back’ one is willing to go ! ) is simple one. The fomenters of trouble are getting all help from across the border and they are using religion, money and history , in that order, to emotionally charge the young population of Kashmir.

    The trouble is that our state is inconsistent . They don’t know whether Kashmir is to be treated as inviolate part of our country or somehow to get Pakistan to agree to leave Kashmir as a part of India. Neither New Delhi nor Srinagar know how to treat Pakistan. As an enemy or as a collaborator to this issue.

    Look at BJP . Till it was in opposition , it was a hawk, it wore so called nationalism on the sleeve and made life difficult for Congress and National Conference denouncing there every step to build peace as surrender to terrorists. Even Man Mohan Singh’s ancestoral roots were brought into question. Now, with PDP, it is unable to reply to Pakistan’s overt terrorist activities lest it upsets PDP’s applecart with the separatists.PDP is also similar dilemma.

    PDP openly sympathised with separatists while it was in opposition. Now it finds that its earlier cohorts have come to bite the same very hands which fed them.

    We must be clear that people in general want peace and job to engage with. Certain emotional issues temporarily may occupy their mind space , but they are temporary only . I am of the firm belief that Kashmiris want peace even at the cost of terrorism and separatism. Separatism is a bogey kept alive because of political interests and with a ready help from across the border.

    A firm no-nosense policy treating Pakistan as an enemy state and Kashmir as an Indian state will go a long way in ensuring lasting peace. So long as we keep engaging with pakistan , the disputed nature of Kashmir will be kept alive and people of Kashmir will keep getting confused.

  2. K SHESHU BABU

    What is the entity called ‘ India’s ? It is a group of people living under a common set of principles. Supposing a certain section of people differ from the set of principle, they form another group and firm some other set of principles. Even if the main group wants them to stay, they will not stay. The main group compels them by forcing them . But, in reality, the splinter group cannot come and mingle with the main group.
    Kashmir is that splinter group if people. It was never a part of mainland India ( as Arundhati Roy opines) and it was forced to accept Indian union. It remained alienated and majority of Kashmiris did not accept India. The unrest through the decades is a testimony to this. Kashmiris, if they desire for a seperate’ nation, have the right to do so. Let alone Kashmir, even many states people do not fully subscribe to the idea of ‘ india’ . Otherwise, there would not have been so many states and so many agitations for seperate’ states. Telengana, Assam agitation, gorka or Sikh agitation ( khalistan) reflect the weakness of a nation called ‘ india’. No matter how much the Hindu fanatics browbeat of ‘ akhanda Bharat’ comprising of the whole south Asia, reality is that the notion of ‘ India’ is a fictitious self- flattering patriotic propaganda to show the hegemony of Hindu culture. Hence, if India as a nation splits into smaller ‘ nations’ , with each state having its independent government, people have a right to form their own welfare governments.

    1. shaturya

      ‘…people have a right to form their own welfare governments.’ ..who are these ‘people’. How do you determine what ‘ people’ want ? In Brexit, about 50 % people didn’t want to leave. Should they form their own nation to remain in EU? Further , referendum in UK , if done now probably will throw opposite result… So you know..

      Coming back to Kashmir issue, remember Kashmir consists of Jammu, Valley and Laddakh. What about Jammu and Laddakh? Also remember ( particularly Arundhati Roys ) it was Sheikh Abdullah who at one point of time decided valley to be part of India and some years laters , when he fell out with Nehru, wanted independence of Kashmir. How can a opinion of people change in 2-3 years just because one person wasn’t satisfied with what he, as a person, was offered by Nehru ( not India) ?

      Also , what about Gilgit-Baltistan? Who decided the fate of Gilgit-Baltistan? One rebel leader who took advantage of weakness and ineptness of Raja Hari Singh declared that area to be part of Pakistan without knowing the wishes of its ‘people’. So..

      India is , all said and done , is democracy and firmly reject the two-nation theory ( notwithstanding some voices contrary to it ! ) while Pakistan is a religious republic and therefore has no right to speak about kashmir ( Pakistan hasn’t even given local governance right to Kashmiris and inhabitants Gilgit-Baltistan). J&K is governed by locally elected governments. Please notice the difference.

  3. Homers

    We do not have the courage to face this reality. Facebook and Twitter is full of writers who will call you names and question you, call you anti national if you express anguish or express concern. We need to become objective and aware of issues, raise our voice if we feel the powers are wrong. A concerned Indian

  4. dr suhail

    To be frank kashmiris have always faced stepmotherly treatment from the govt of india. They have alienated the ppl of kashmir right from their occupation and left at the mercy of forces. They have always conspired about the status of kashmir which created a sense of insecurity among the ppl of kashmir. As a kashmiri i know ppl in kashmir are very soft by heart. Development jobs etc would hav done the job for india to hold back kashmiri ppl but that should hav been done way back when they were conspiring abt the special status of kashmit. But now its too late. At the end it wll be foolish to say that its pakistan sponsored and delibrately hide away from the truth…

  5. Sad to see another over simplification of the issue. I did not expect it from Kafila at least. While there is no denying that the atrocities by security forces is a fact and it comes from inherent power that comes along with AFSPA and general presence of security forces in Kashmir, the other side of the story is often overlooked by even the sane minded people. The ‘why’ part is never studied deeply. It is as if it was designed to be this way. As if these atrocities were a part of the plan. And the ones carrying them out come from some kind of alien planet and not one of us. Also, historical misrepresentation of how Kashmir became part of India has become almost an integral part of narrative on both the sides

    It’s either azadi or AFSPA. Either Pakistan or ‘atoot ang’. And it is this oversimplification that stands between the problem and real solution. You cannot find a solution when you believe that either side of the problem is ‘purely evil’. Frankly, we should refrain from this kind of narrative.

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