Imagine walking down a street filled with misguided, innocent youth wielding sticks and stones. Imagine further, many of these youth mourn dreaded terrorists like Burhan Wani and celebrate their vision of an Islamic Caliphate, that intends to rid Kashmir of all plurality. While you probably carry orders denying even your basic rights to self-defense, your family waits anxiously for your arrival back at home, knowing not what fate awaits you every day, every hour, every minute. Amidst such scenes, the threat posed by these goons to India plays in your subconscious as does the fact that in India’s heart too stand some people who not only defend but, even passively provide intellectual cover to this criminal hostility.
When the soldier battling hostile conditions stands his ground in the Kashmir valley amidst stone pelters, it is to take up that unenviable (yet not quite so) task that has remained unresolved over the last seven decades because of the complete failure of the political helm across the spectrum. Right from Nehru’s creation of the Kashmir mess, the incorporation of article 370 in the Indian Constitution, the encouragement and rise of a hypocritical and at times dangerously anti-national Kashmiri political fabric, rise of Terrorism and radical Islam, purge of the Hindus from the valley, the handling of Kargil and Vajpayee’s Aar ya Paar rhetoric – the political class has failed miserably on all fronts across the spectrum with a remarkable degree of consistency. Their only achievement has been on the front of draining the Indian taxpayer’s money into an anti-national ecosystem hoping that appeasement and indulgence of secessionists would somehow foster harmony.
Interestingly, while Indian blood flowed in the valley, and politicians contracted cowardice and hypocrisy in the guise of generosity and liberalism, the mainstream Indian intellects – sections of new age TV anchors, liberal film-makers & artists, few vocal Indian academicians and authors – busied themselves relentlessly inventing and reinventing Kashmiriyat. While the respect for plurality was being decimated in the valley, these missionaries made sure to brush every kill executed, every rape committed, every temple destroyed under this carefully crafted concept.
This politico-intellectual nexus operated with unfettered dishonesty and made sure that the last thread of pluralism inherent in the Indian psyche is destroyed there. And the rest of India were gifted Kashmiriyat to relish on. Pakistani Actors, Artists, Cricketers and every person that ostentatiously covered up the grim realities with a palatable face were encouraged onto the center stage. More shamefully, it proved an edible excuse for us to look the other way while the ugly pre-partition story of Pakistan and Muslim League unfolded unchecked in the valley. Ordinary Indians found it embarrassing to take politically incorrect stands – and it gave us just the tool to justify our own dishonesty.
What happened in Kashmir has been a cleansing of an entire native Hindu population from their homeland due to the valley’s intolerance for religious diversity. What is still more alarming is the fact that a few people could manage to orchestrate and force a mainstream discourse down the throats of the Indian audience that brainwashed even many well meaning people to believe that the Indian Army, Indian State, and somehow rest of Indians are at fault while the peace loving valley only strive for warmth and peace.
After the forced exodus of the Hindu population, the subsequent handling of the situation by successive administrations and the coverage & presentation of the situation has only served to aggravate it to an extent that now the target of the violence has tangibly shifted to the armed forces. They, who despite spending their days in severe and ungrateful circumstances fighting some of the world’s deadliest terrorists, and giving relief to the local population during times of natural calamities, are being not only denied the opportunity to solve the problems but, now are denied even rights to self-defense.
The politico-intellectual nexus got down to doing everything imaginable under the sun to rob the forces of any means of self-protection. The recent incident of a stone pelter tied to an Army jeep to prevent local goons and stone pelters attacking the Army convoy, was a commendable improvisation born out of a significant handicap. There was indeed little that could be done in the circumstances when the decision was taken, and an ingenuity was shown to ensure protection and simultaneously non-violently punish the stone pelters. While a section of journalists and politicians, arguably the very people who have enjoyed the liberty of defining the Kashmir discourse till date, remained pretty stubborn in their criticism of the tactic but, they were, at the same time, very conspicuous in their empathy for the stone pelters and lack of constructive participation to resolution of the problems.
Today, though, it is very easy to recognize such negative machinations at work. Each day, the power and reach of technology grows. Social Media has enabled Peer to Peer direct communication. Public opinion may now be expressed with little censorship. The days of news intermediaries and brokers are of the past. Additionally, an unprecedented democratization of knowledge has practically rendered the ability to lie or be conveniently half-truthful severely hampered. So while it may still definitely be possible to arrange a convenient narrative on organized, controlled media, it is much more difficult to push it down the throats of the audience.
Today, when looking at the recent videos of Army Jawans being punched and kicked by some ‘misguided innocent youth’, the culpability of the heinous crime can no longer hide behind kashmiriyat. Reality dawns into plain sight as bluntly as it could. Period.
Thus when Gambhir, Sehwag or Phogat sisters take a stand that pierces through such insincere eyewash, they find tremendous support directly from the people. In fact, the time is due for public figures in every sphere of national activity to extend their encouragements to the Jawans without fear of political correctness. The amount of courage it takes for those few soldiers to walk down some of those streets infested with Pakistan-loving goons, to brave the physical threats and humiliation is only founded on the country’s support for them.
Summarily, while Kashmir has indeed been a battle ground having suffered pain and conflicts, the rest of India has bled more for it. The extent of disdain and ungratefulness with which the Army and India have been treated by sections of Kashmiris is condemnable. The only resolution to the problem lies in political uprightness and intellectual integrity. Each academic artifice that has been crafted out by insincere intellects must be fully deconstructed so that the reality of Kashmir and its stakeholders may lay bare to everyone across India and the world.
‘Indian Pluralism’ is not a modern invention of August 1947. It has always been an integral part of the life of the country since time immemorial. Indian Pluralism isn’t just the insincere ‘tolerance’ of people of communities – rather the all embracing outlook that encompasses the entirety of nature. Such pluralism is arguably one of the most exalted achievements of mankind across all times and geographies. Post Independence, Kashmir is the first province that has fallen victim in the charge for destruction of this legacy. While the Army, the state of J&K and rest of India attempt to heal the festering wounds, the gravest challenges are likely to arise from the intellectual proponents of Kashmiriyat, and the like.