EU: An Inquiry into the nature and causes of turmoil in J & K, India

Bhaskar Majumder

It is once again – the Europeans have proved that they are superior to us, the Indians. Or that we have proved that we are inferior to them. Or by alternative interpretation, we the Indians are great in inviting any sub-continent for India is a civilization and a great host. Whatever the interpretation is, the ground reality remains that the European Union (EU) members have landed on the soil of J & K perhaps routed through Delhi (India) to inquire into the nature and causes of turmoil in J&K. I am not sure if this visit is formal by invitation by the Government of India or informal. If it is formal, then it is internationalized. It is not clear who sponsored (funded) the tour of the EU members because it needs a high Budget. It may be public-private partnership (PPP). What I am sure is it is not for conquest like what Alexander did centuries back. Visitors are always welcome when the purpose is clear.

15-year back because of my the-then innocence I penned the invasion of the US in Iraq that drew little attention of the commoners in India but that drew the attention of some bureaucrats who questioned me why I wrote that article because of their knowledge curiosity (sic) and they were made to be convinced that Iraq produces POL and not potato! I abstained from explaining the geo-political location of Iraq or central Asia as a strategic location to control Asia. I hope this time I am not going to face any such person with quest for knowledge.

I abstained from penning anything on J&K for my ignorance – personally I had visited up to Jammu and stayed in Jammu University more than a decade back for some academic/innocuous purposes. I found tranquillity there. Now I find through media hydra-news – baffling. But what I understand from the processes is that something is missing. Why the EU visitors in J&K, end-October 2019? Why not in Bihar-UP? It may be that J&K is a better tourist location! But the EU visitors are not going to tell if it is for tourism. Then what they are going to tell us the Bharatvasis? And why this timing? Is it because now it is Diwali vacation for them? Again the EU team will remain silent – they talk less and work more. History records that the Europeans worked more in Asiatic region to civilize others in a mission mode beginning with trade through East India Company. 

Where are we, the Bharatvasis? I used to make my students at D.Phil. level in the Heartland alert that all the serious academic works were done by the westerners – meaning the scholars in west Europe and the US. Now some of them are asking me the counter-question! Why they and why not us. I am in a dilemma. I asked some of my friends in Kolkata what were the problems. Most of them told it was about abrogation of Article 370 on August 05, 2019 – and they were happy about that. Most of them told, there were problems in modus operandi but the decision was perfectly fine. I wandered and wondered. How could shallow knowledge lead to a robust conclusion? But then that is what my country is – living in innocence!  I asked them about human rights. Many of them wondered, ‘Is not India a single country?’ Again I wondered. Bengal people are known for their intelligence and radicalism! Many of the comments, however, come late these days because of confusion in left leadership there if my observations as an outsider do not go wrong.

In social science often viewing from outside helps understanding better relative to viewing from inside like if one is inside a forest it becomes difficult to get the idea about the whole forest – what at best  can be studied or looked into is a tree. Here J & K is to be understood in its totality – hence the outsiders. This hopefully answers why foreigners and why not insiders. Bharatvasis are insiders if J & K is an integral component of India. Hence, they may be reluctant to say ‘’I got headache’’ that the non-resident foreigners may not be. After all, J&K is the head of the country by geography – at the top-north.

It is not geography as such – it is geo-political. It is the central location post-1947 for many countries to operate that include Pakistan, China, Nepal by short distance but this region may draw the attention of not only the toothless lion (Britain) but also the US. While India is engaged with Pakistan post-partition of 1947, others are difficult to be engaged with. J&K produces neither oil nor potato – it produces apple and provides services to tourists by house-boat. Earlier wars were fought for land and (because of) women (like Sita in the Great Epic Ramayana or Draupadi in the Great Epic Mahabharata). Since it is not war so far but occasional conflicts, hence I abstain from focusing on land or women for the time being.

The central question remains: why the EU team visiting J&K now? If it is not to conquer land-women and not to trade in oil-potato, then it must be an inquiry into the nature of ethnicity-diversity in J&K; now it is going to be in two parts: not J & K but in two UTs as decided by the Government of India.
It does not help current discourse much if we go into remote past pre-Vasco De Gama when India was superior to Europe by mobility-philosophy in the Asian Age. Current history seems to be the history of past five centuries and particularly post-1648 that taught us what the state is. Perhaps this is the reason the EU team is there. Otherwise by size of population the whole of EU is only one-third of India. The number of languages and enriching culture hopefully put India ahead of many countries in the European club. It may be that the Government of India has consented to get a second view of what is going on in J&K for juxtaposition.

In academics, any degree obtained from the (west) European countries and the US is valued more relative to that from Universities in India whether or not we have consensus on that so far. In parallel, the visit by the EU team members may shower on us a valuable thesis to show us which way to go. The problems remain – what I had been parrot-repeating was India is a civilization and that may hardly be understood by the members who suffocate in Europe itself. There is no denying the fact that Europe is superior to us by technology but that does not guarantee that they understand our language-culture and in many situations the scripts of the cross-sections of people in India are absent. The country that is India was/is in oral tradition that may go above the vision of the visitors. I hope they offer a new way of visualizing J & K rather than looking at it from Islamic part or Hindu part of the glass.

But the question remains. Of late, in-migrant labourers and truck drivers are reportedly being killed in J&K by unknown assailants. These labourers had no gun in hand for self-defence. The latest news received through electronic media is the UN spokesperson on human rights has urged the Government of India to unlock Kashmir. Was Kashmir locked? The question is on fire. Fire produced Draupadi (in the Great Epic Mahabharata) with the consequence known to all.  At this historical juncture fire must not be allowed to spread. That is again a big question mark. Often realities get obscure in the smoke from fire. Are we to look into a part from the angle of the whole? And what is the whole – is it the rest of India or the whole world? The part considered here is J&K. I hope the error does not cumulate for he who pays the price in errors of adults is the child. Even if people in India are innocent, I think many such questions need to be answered now.               

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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Oct 31, 2019

Bhaskar Majumder [email protected]

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