On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa

This is a guest post by Dia Da Costa

‘If Trump is elected, I will move to Canada,’ many Americans noted in passing, in jest, and then in all seriousness once the results were out.

If it has taken this election result to make people recognize the pervasive racism in the US, that is because of the success of US exceptionalism and its ability to deflect attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless imperialism, Islamophobia, and ongoing brutalities against black people in the aftermath of abolition and the civil rights movement. If it has taken this election result to make people really want to move to Canada, that too is because of the success of Canadian multicultural exceptionalism. Apparently, Canadian exceptionalism is still able to pass as not-as-racist by deflecting attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless participation in imperialism cloaked all too often as humanitarian development, growing Islamophobia, and its self-congratulatory representation of itself as having no history of slavery even as its anti-Black violence pervades cities and small towns alike.

For those of us who can recognize these forms of exceptionalism, I want to ask if we acknowledge Indian exceptionalism, and its specific relation to Kashmir? ‘If Trump is elected, I will move back to India’, I saw many Indians say on social media. If it has taken this US election result to make Indians really want to move back to India, that is not just because of the apparent success of US exceptionalism among Indians, who could see racism but could ultimately deal with, and even love life in the US. It is also because of Indian exceptionalism. To be sure, Indian exceptionalism is nurtured by the caste and class privilege that allows some Indians to declare that they will simply up and leave when the going gets tough (whether it is in India or in the US), or joke about the same.

But there is more to it. Indian exceptionalism is a state projected discourse turned commonsense perception of India as a complicated and diverse nation that is ultimately unified against all odds by the absolute commitment of its people to democracy. Whether we believe it at face value or we critique the many excesses of the Indian state, ultimately something draws us to this idea of India as the world’s largest democracy. Continue reading “On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa”

When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah

This is an excerpt from the introduction to the anthology Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir, edited by FAHAD SHAH

Once militancy took root in the Valley, it continued unabated, with a few exceptions in the years to come. The sentiment of the resistance movement prevailed across Jammu and Kashmir. At one point in time, blasts and encounters occurred almost every day. The first few years of the 1990s were the most brutal in the history of the conflicted Valley. After the 1996 assembly elections, when people were forced to vote at gunpoint, the National Conference Party and counter-insurgent groups ruled the state. People lived with trauma and threat – treating the injured, mourning for the dead and searching for those who had disappeared.

This was the story for more than a decade. A shift in the nature of resistance has been seen in the past few years; the generation that was born during the start of the war has been able to glean the nuances of the homeland’s political situation. Most of the youngsters from this generation, born between the late 80s and early 90s, choose stones over guns. Continue reading “When the lid will burst: Fahad Shah”

Eleven things India must do in Kashmir: Justin Podur

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Indian Army soldiers at an encounter site with militants in Kashmir on Friday. AP photo

Guest post by JUSTIN PODUR: I spent a week in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, at the end of April 2013, talking to people among whom there was a wide range of opinion. While almost everyone supports freedom, some are resigned to India never letting Kashmir go, others believe that the struggle will go on and take different forms, some are just trying to survive. It seemed to me, at the end of a calm week during tourist season, that India is bringing about all of the things that it fears: Pakistani influence, violence,  radicalisation of youth, political Islam, and hatred of India. Continue reading “Eleven things India must do in Kashmir: Justin Podur”

In mourning and under siege – A despatch from Srinagar: Saadut Hussain

Guest post by SAADUT HUSSAIN

Photo: Getty Images

The evening prior to Afzal Guru’s hanging, Kashmir was being prepared for a siege. The state had already started working towards barricading the entire population of Kashmir and enforcing curfew. A backlash in Kashmir was already anticipated, not only because Afzal was a Kashmiri but also because in Kashmir he is perceived to being an innocent man, used as a pawn by New Delhi in the larger political theatre of mainland India.

Even though Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday claimed that he “was informed at 8 pm on Friday night that Afzal Guru would be executed this morning” other media sources claimed that “Omar was informed about the decision when he was in New Delhi on January 31 where he met several leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.” Clearly the differing reports on claims (or denial) of his knowledge about the hanging had more political reasons to it. Continue reading “In mourning and under siege – A despatch from Srinagar: Saadut Hussain”

Is the Hurriyat divorcing democracy and freedom?: Gowhar Geelani

Guest post by GOWHAR GEELANI

By any stretch of imagination, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC] has ceased to be an amalgam of ‘all parties’. It seems that this conglomerate of several pro-freedom political, social and religious parties is actually being run by a chosen few in a dictatorial manner. It is no secret now that the fissures in the Hurriyat ‘M’, the one led by the popular head-priest based in Srinagar, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, run neck deep.

The APHC was formed on 10 March 1993 to find a political solution to Kashmir dispute after a large-scale armed rebellion since 1989 had successfully highlighted the need for a resolution to the long-standing dispute. Essentially, this conglomerate was formed with the clear aim of achieving the “right to self-determination” for Kashmiris in accordance with the United Nations’ Security Council Resolutions vis-à-vis Kashmir.

But all is not well with the Hurriyat (M). One of its prominent leaders, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat has openly challenged group’s constitution by declaring that the UN resolutions on Kashmir have become “irrelevant”.

Continue reading “Is the Hurriyat divorcing democracy and freedom?: Gowhar Geelani”

A Brief Summary of the Interlocutors’ Report on Kashmir: Shoaib Rafiq

This guest post by SHOAIB RAFIQ is an analysis of the Home Ministry-appointed group of interlocutors’ report on Kashmir 

We swear by the fundamentals of absurdism
of that all we have learned
our solutions will mimic the ludicrousness
that we employ in our education, research, and other related shit. Continue reading “A Brief Summary of the Interlocutors’ Report on Kashmir: Shoaib Rafiq”

Z for Zalim: Semiotics and the Occupation of Kashmir

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip. – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

A for Apple and Z for Zebra. Children are taught the alphabet with the help of images. And the association of images with sound. It helps them associate the sound of A with the sound of Apple, and associate that in turn with the image of an apple. The alphabet book depends on images that may be familiar to children. The word Apple is a signifier, and the apple itself is the signified. This is, most simply, what semiotics or the study of signs and sign processes.

In a future world, if there are no zebras, alphabet books may have to replace the last entry with something else. What could it be? Zebra crossing? Zimbabwe?

Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a case of sedition, defamation and criminal conspiracy against six officials of BoSE, the government’s very own Board of School Education, for this:

This is a page from a book called Baharistaan-e-Urdu. This attempt to teach Kashmiri children the Urdu alphabet (note to self: this is what I need to learn Nastaliq!) makes them say, “Zoi se Zalim,” Z for Zalim, meaning cruel. That is only one of four examples. The other two are: zaroof (utensils), zahir (visible) and zarf (ornamental cup holder).

Continue reading “Z for Zalim: Semiotics and the Occupation of Kashmir”