If nation is an imagined community, then the idea of a nation is a narrative that most people buy. The said narrative is set by the ruling elites, while the media and academia are entrusted to take it to the people and convince them of its truthfulness. The narrative is not permanent. As time passes by, things change, people change and so do narratives. A narrative that is considered final – the gospel truth, becomes an ideology. If enough people subscribe to the ideology with fervour of zealots, it can also claim to be a religion. Problem is that those who have benefitted by the prevailing narrative – the status quoist, don’t want the narrative to change. Even if it no longer reflects the reality.
The current idea of India, regardless of whether you’ve read Sunil Khilnani’s book or not, that is subscribed by most journalists (especially English language), academia and even judges is Marxist-Nehruvian. The narrative is great, but it is also biased and therefore flawed. It identifies India’s faultlines and it also provides a prescription for its remedy but erroneously tells you that only one type of force is bad for the country. Unfortunately, rather diabolically, it presupposes the aggressors and victims. It tells you what kind of news is to be highlighted and what kind of must be omitted or whitewashed. For the narrative is to remain unscathed, for the battle is always about the control of narrative.
Not just a film
The movie, rather a docudrama – The Kashmir Files, is in the news because it has shaken the foundation of India’s post-independence narrative. Those in position of influence thanks to that narrative and those who believe that setting narrative is their monopoly and guarding it their religious duty are flabbergasted. More so because the film, which they thought would be inconsequential (perhaps due to the filmmaker’s record), ended up becoming a blockbuster without much promotion. I suppose the overwhelming majority of people were simply shocked or numbed by what was shown in the film. Many kept sitting in their seats when the film ended, unable to move due to the film’s effect. And so they had to talk about it and get more people to watch it.
Detractors would have you believe that it promotes hatred. How? By showing the truth? Perhaps that is why our history books have thoroughly sanitised. Maybe the real reason they are dismissive of the film is because it runs counter to the narrative they have set over decades. Of course, those in the knowing, know that much worse had taken place in the valley during those years. Even Kashmir’s history is not on the side of the detractors.
What made the detractors, the guardians of the secular India’s narrative, uncomfortable, even angry, was that the oppressors and the victims were not who they had taught people to believe all these years. The thought influencers think people are not capable of thinking on their own. So, they have to be told what to think, whom to vote and when to feel ashamed of their identity. Again, this applies to only one religious community of India. Their narrative is sacred, questioning it would be akin to blasphemy. Sometimes they get White coloured Westerners to support their narrative, because how can a native question the intelligence of a person of White race. They know everything.
Demography dictates behaviour
India is a land of paradox, it’s true. The vocal minorities who always lament about their grievances about not getting equal treatment, about being oppressed, when living in Hindu majority states, don’t have a good record about their own conduct in the state in which they are the majority community. Example of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Mizoram are some, but more will follow. Fair to assume that the demography of a region has significant influence over the behaviour of communities that reside there. Manipur is a classic example of this. Meiteis who used to be the majority community, have virtually become minority in their state due to unchecked migration from Myanmar. Even their demand for constitutional protection by conferring ST status, is not making any headway due to fear of offending Kukis and Nagas. 2022 census, if not tampered with, is likely to produce some shocking results about changes in demography.
Some demography change fears are real, some imaginary. The imaginary ones are more dangerous because its purpose is to scare people and prod them towards violence. That is how amendment of article 370 was interpreted by the beneficiaries of conflict industry in Kashmir. As if people are sitting with packed bags and money to settle in Kashmir. Perhaps the proponents deliberately forgot why people migrate – in the hopes of finding peace & prosperity or violence? The real demography change is silent. It happens over a period of time and when achieved, is virtually irreversible.
Is there any justice in the end?
To write well, one has to know well. I’m sure the Kashmiri Hindu community, those who have been wronged and are the aggrieved, can write about their suffering, anger and quest for justice much better than I will ever be able to. Some have done it; more will do so in due course of time. But the question remains can the victory of Islamist forces, the victory of idea of Pakistan, be reversed in Kashmir and justice be done to the Kashmiri Hindu community?
The Kashmiri Hindus have been asking only for justice, not for any revenge. Sometimes justice has to be retributive. But the Indian state that failed them and chose to felicitate the very terrorists who carried out the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in valley, makes you wonder, if there is any hope for justice? The mass murderers were received and celebrated as honoured guests because the very narrative, that I mentioned earlier, made them into Gandhian saints fighting for freedom. That is nothing but a big lie. But such is the power of narrative setting, it can convince people that terrorism and brutal repression and ethnic cleansing is a peaceful struggle for freedom. The bitter truth is that it pays well to be anti-India. It gives you money, influence, and power. Who would want to give that up?
Politics Trumps Conscience
Guardians of current narrative of idea of India have a problem with calling ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus a genocide, which what it was – an attempted genocide. Reminded me of Armenian genocide in Turkey and the difference between Senator Obama and President Obama. While a senator, he made a passionate case for recognition of Armenian genocide by U.S. government. But when he became president, he acted as if he had never heard of it. Maybe for him relations with Turkey held more importance than acknowledging the truth. Thankfully, the genocide has been recognised by the current U.S. president.
A group of people when displaced from the land that gives them their identity are not likely to preserve their identity and memories beyond a few generations. More so if they are in insignificant numbers and are scattered, which is the case with Kashmiri Hindus. Therefore, the sense of urgency and the question – can the government reverse the genocide of Kashmiri Hindu community by Pakistan sympathetic Islamists in valley and resettle them with safety and security?
The friends and neighbours, who collaborated in the cleansing, now seem eager to have them back, at least in front of the camera. Although worth mentioning that most still believe in the Jagmohan conspiracy theory, so I wonder if they actually sorry for what was done to their Hindu neighbours. In my opinion, they know, the majority knows, that most Kashmiri Hindus are not coming back. Ethnic cleansing is an irreversible process. But I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.