Kashmir is happy. So what?
What makes Manu Joseph more qualified to talk about Kashmir
This in response to Manu Joseph’s Open Magazine article entitled “Sorry, Kashmir is happy” (22 April, 2012). I have a number of reactions to his assertions on Kashmir as expressed in the article. Having read the piece many times over, I am of the opinion that Manu Joseph’s article is ahistorical, deeply ignorant of facts, shockingly simplistic and dismally under-researched. At best, it is a celebration of half-truths. Following are the reasons why I say so.
One of Joseph’s key arguments is that “Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building—the elite fight to preserve it.” True, intellectual debates about the political resolution of Kashmir are mostly confined to the politically charged environs of urban Kashmir. Indeed, a lot of ordinary Kashmiris, more so in the rural areas of Kashmir, seem unconcerned about the political resolution of Kashmir. But what’s so surprising about that? Doesn’t Manu Joseph know that most revolutionary political movements have a vanguard that provides it with intellectual nourishment and political direction? This is true of most revolutionary political movements all over the world. What does he think the Indian national movement was like? Didn’t it have an urban, educated middle class that gave it the intellectual firepower to chase the British colonizers out of India? To expect every Indian in every remote corner of British India to have been motivated in equal measure by the freedom movement is unrealistic.
Joseph also argues: “what Pakistan has become, politically and economically, has ensured that accession to that country is not part of popular sentiment here anymore”. This statement reflects the usual fallacy that a lot of Indian analysts commit when commenting on Kashmir. For them, the azadi movement in Kashmir is all about joining Pakistan or propped up by Pakistan. While they may be partly right, they are mostly wrong: Kashmir’s azadi movement has political, philosophical and nationalist underpinnings of its own irrespective of Pakistan’s intentions and designs.
Joseph claims that “Kashmir’s elite, especially those who live in Kashmir, believe that a sovereign Kashmir is an impractical idea and to continue the status quo with the newly prosperous and somewhat secular India is the best way forward”. The fallacious assumption made by Joseph here is that Kashmir’s dissident elite prefers nothing but the status quo. He is wholly unaware of the dynamic nature of politics in Kashmir and how much the politics and the positions of Kashmir’s dissident elite have changed over the years. Joseph should read more on Kashmir or observe Kashmir politics far more carefully so as to avoid making such erroneous broad-brush claims.
Let's look at another one of his arguments. He, like a lot of conflict resolution specialists in New Delhi, seems to argue: “give them development, give them education and that’s the solution to the Kashmir problem”. Seriously? In fact, even if one were to accept that prescription who would believe that New Delhi can give Kashmiris development, education and other forms of economic prosperity? Well, forget about Kashmir, New Delhi has not been able to deliver proper governance in any part of the country.
Joseph contends that ordinary Kashmiris are only concerned about economic and governance considerations and not about the high politics of azadi. That is not completely incorrect but what’s so new about that argument? In fact, that is the case in all situations of enduring conflict – people always talk about their immediate problems. But that does not mean that there are no deeper, political problems in the society which should be resolved, not ignored.
Put another way, just because Kashmiris seem happy (and I don’t think that Kashmiris as a species are an unhappy people), it doesn’t logically follow that there are no political problems in Kashmir; just because Kashmir’s hoteliers are looking forward to having more tourists in their properties next year does not mean that there are no political discontents in Kashmir. It is simplistic and naïve to argue that because people seem happy, everything is hunky-dory in Kashmir. Did Manu Joseph expect to see unhappy, unsmiling, un-hospitable, unkind, ungraceful Kashmiris when he went ‘sight-seeing’ Kashmir? Sorry to disappoint you Manu Joseph, but Kashmiris are a bunch of lively people who happen to love life. You are right, Kashmir is happy (and they have a right to be happy) but their happiness is no reason why their political, civil and human rights should be trampled upon.
So since Kashmir is happy, does it mean that they should ‘just move on’ forgetting the past? What about the thousands of widows, orphans, disappeared, and the kith and kin of the countless dead lying unsung in the many unmarked graves of Kashmir? If the answer is ‘lets go past it, look at tomorrow’, then I am sorry to say that your idea of justice needs to become more sophisticated.
Joseph seems to argue that protests in Kashmir are carried out by electricity-stealing young Kashmiris. Seriously? Were the tens of thousands of young Kashmiris who took to streets in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were none but electricity-stealing Kashmiri hooligans? Or were they Pakistani militants? Or Al-Qaeda terrorists?
Why is Joseph complaining that a host of writers, intellectuals and activists are the ones who keep talking about the Kashmir problem more than anybody else? Even if they do so and thereby contribute to keeping the Kashmir issue alive today, what’s wrong with that? Is that not what Manu Joseph is doing in Delhi - pontificating the government/society on the various political and social issues concerning the country? This kind of anti-intellectual tirade is not something we expect from someone like Manu Joseph who has actively been engaging in the country’s intellectual debates.
Finally, why does Joseph have a problem with Kashmiri intellectuals and activists based in “North America, Europe, Dubai or Delhi”? What is the difference between Manu Joseph sitting in Delhi (with rare visits to Kashmir, hardly following the political developments in the state and still passing judgments on what is happening there) and the expat Kashmiris sitting in Dubai, London, US or Delhi (occasionally visiting Kashmir, closely following its political developments and passionately involved with what happens there)? How on earth is Manu Joseph more qualified to talk about Kashmir than the Dubai-London-US-New Delhi-based Kashmiri expats?
(Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi).
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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