Existence and Resistance define Kashmir

Kashmir is the world’s most densely militarised region with over 700,000 military, para-military and police forces failing to maintain the facade of democracy. The very presence of so many security personnel speaks volumes about the state of democracy Kashmiris are enjoying. In truth ‘democracy’ in the streets has already voted the ruling dispensation of Bharatiya Janata Party and People’s Democratic Party out! Not a single day passes without shoot-outs by warring parties—troops and militants while mostly ordinary people die in cross-fire. What all the families of the dead get in due season may be called ’brutal justice’ or one may call it ‘camp justice’. The roster of martyrs on both sides of the conflict presents a horrifying picture. The days are not far when people will have to face a Middle East like situation—permanent war and no peace.

As things are to most Kashmiris Kashmir is first an idea and an idea cannot be killed. For all practical purposes, fear and terror define Kashmir today. Military is no solution to a humanitarian problem left by history. But the ruling elites in New Delhi and Islamabad will never admit the reality. They cannot win Kashmir by force. Nor will they ever be able to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir.

Once upon a time leftists used to occupy some political space in the valley. But today they don’t exist at all. They had no long term agenda to organise toilers on class line. Nor did they ever try to dwell on the vexed question of self-determination of Kashmiris. For one thing right to self-determination of any nationality, big or small, is no longer discussed in leftist circles. They used to talk about it before 1947. After 1947 they became votaries of assimilation at any cost, not self-determination. But in Kashmir and North East it was precisely this demand of self-determination that galvanised broad masses. In the present-day Indian context there is no difference between left parties and non-left parties when the issue is right to self-determination. And right to self-determination to the point of cessation is unthinkable even to the orthodox Marxists in this part of the globe.

Political vacuum created by the Left’s inaction, rather strategy of inaction, is now being taken by all sorts of right-wing tendencies. Unless India and Pakistan deviate from their stated positions on Kashmir, a Middle East scenario, may be scripted, not in the distant future. About half a dozen civil wars promoted by major powers who are basically merchants of death have made millions of permanent war refugees. They have no hope to gain what they have lost—dignified life and peace. They are living on doles and charity in camps—the wretched of the earth. As per UN reports more than 1.5 million people have become refugees in South Sudan alone. The country is the third largest refugee crisis in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan. US President-elect Donald Trump reportedly called Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 14, 2016 and the next day East Aleppo in Syria had been turned into hell on earth with hundreds of thousands of civilians mercilessly bombed day and night by Russian planes. Then there was genocide. Aleppo’s survivors are now shivering in refugee tents while thousands of Afghan refugees are languishing in Pakistani camps still. They are all war refugees having no assurance to return to normal life anytime soon. Kashmir too is trapped by war, rather low intensity war but the prospects of a full-scale war with all its consequences, are not remote. But this low-intensity war is no less devastating. Even if there is no big war between India and Pakistan, a civil war can always be engineered because all the ingredients of a civil war are there.

The civilians in the valley are at the mercy of guns. The collapse of human values is not something that can wait to be addressed. For good or bad, some people in Pakistan are now in favour of abandoning their government’s rigid stand on Kashmir. They would like to peddle a soft stance to give peace a chance. A former Pakistani ambassador to the US said recently in Washington that even resolving the Kashmir tangle would unlikely address the challenge of terrorism, sectarian conflict or the Taliban refusing to establish an ‘‘Old Islamic Order’’ in Afghanistan. This swing of change in Pakistan’s hyper nationalistic perception in some quarters is directly related to Trumpism as a number of think tanks who matter in Trump Presidency, want to redefine US-Pakistan strategic relations much to the dismay of hawks in Islamabad. ‘A new US approach to Pakistan : Enforcing Aid Conditions without cutting Ties’ co-authored by Lis Curtist of the Heritage Foundation and Hussain Haqqani of the Hudson Institute, virtually stops short of recommending declaring Pakistan a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. But die-hard fanatics lost no time to dub Haqqani an Indian agent. In other words the very survival of Pakistan as a nation state would be in jeopardy if India loses enemy status in their political calculations. The ruling elites in Pakistan need a permanent enemy to divert public attention. Because of historical bitterness India foots the bill well and saffron hawks in New Delhi will continue to serve their purpose by frequently resorting to jingoistic rhetoric.

Faced with the possibility of deterioration in strategic relations with America in the coming months, Islamabad is now trying to diversify defence purchases from Russia much to the discomfort of the Modi brigade. They have probably realised the problem of putting all their eggs in one basket. But a diplomatic swing towards Russia cannot alter America’s strategic equation in South Asia. American multinationals can ill-afford to lose burgeoning Indian middle class market. But Islamabad can still heave a sigh of relief so long as China maintains their anti-India stance in formulating their South Asian policy. Pakistan’s defence system is so closely integrated with American strategic interests in the region that it is not that easy for the Pakistani military establishment to break with the past. A minor shift in defence-related purchases from Russia cannot really alter the ground reality.

But all these twists and turns in diplomacy in the sub-continent actually revolve around the Kashmir imbroglio and ironically Kashmiris are not discussed to decide their fate. ‘When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty’. If the authorities, military or civilian don't respect existence, they can only expect resistance. Dissent cannot be unpatriotic if it is the voice of the majority.

Vol. 49, No.34, Feb 26 - Mar 4, 2017