This increasing fanaticism does not augur well for Indian democracy
IDENTITY BY MASROOK AHMAD DAR
In the summer of 2009, I met a lady professor of Indian origin, who had moved to United States four decades earlier. I was introduced to the lady by one of my white American friends. In our first meeting, after the formal introduction, the lady asked me a question on the political scenario of Kashmir: What is Kashmir all about? I looked at her and thought, poor lady, haven’t she read a book of history on Kashmir.
Next week we met again, and she asked me the same question. I casually replied Kashmir is all about Kashmiris. The discussion, which was supposed to be informal and friendly, soon saw us confronting each other on the geo-politics of Kashmir. The point she was trying to make was simple – that whatever might be the reasons, Kashmir remains an integral part of India. Her Indianness overpowered her liberal values and she wanted me to be clear on one thing – that I accept I am an Indian patriot or else no discussion is possible. My thoughts went quickly to former US president George W Bush’s statement after the WTC attack: “You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” After repeatedly being asked the same question, I replied, “I am supposed to be one – that is what the gentleman from the Immigration Department at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport told me when he looked at my passport.”
Kashmiris are always looked as a potential threat to the India, a view held by many Indians. The reasons of this approach, on the one hand, are based on the brainwashing of a common Indian by Indian media. Whereas, on the other hand, right wing political parties have since the last two decades conceived and transmitted the notion and image of a Kashmiri as a ‘bad guy.’
Bollywood played an important role in maligning the image of Kashmiris. Ever since the rise of armed insurgency in Kashmir, Bollywood has tried to cash in on the situation. Mani Ratnam’s “Roja” portrayed Kashmir as a land infested with terrorists. In 2003, Bollywood thriller “Zameen” targeted SAR Geelani, unabashedly, when the case against him was in court. Indian TV channels have no different attitude towards Kashmir and its inhabitants, mostly Muslims. Ananya J Kabir in her article, ‘The Kashmiri as Muslim in Bollywood’s ‘new Kashmir films,’ writes: “In the episode entitled ‘Hindi Films: Stereotyping Muslims’ of her signature television programme, We the People, journalist Barkha Dutt (2010) can now add the ‘ominous terrorist’ to the list of stereotyped Muslim characters that the Indian media circulates, such as ‘the drunk nawab’ or ‘the benevolent chacha.”
From 1990 onwards, Kashmiris started moving to different Indian states, for purposes ranging from education to daily wages. These people who moved to the plains became easy targets. Indian police found it easy to see young Kashmiris as terrorists. They were arrested on the charges of suspicion and languished in different jails in India without been given a chance to prove themselves as innocent. To cite an example, it took fourteen years for a Delhi court to prove Mirza Iftikhar Hussain, arrested in Lajpat Nagar blast, as innocent. In between these years, young students and people of other professions found it hard to rent a house in most of the Indian cities.
I had heard such stories but I always felt that these were exaggerations, may be because I always lived in a hostel and never felt a need to rent a house outside. In 2007, a Kashmiri friend of mine came to Lucknow for his PhD program. We went to search a house for him. For three days we knocked every door with a hanging signboard “To Let”, but no one was ready to rent a flat to us. I suppose everyone identified us as Kashmiris from our physical appearance: long nose, goura chitta rang (fair complexion), which means you are a Kashmiri. After a week of unsuccessful search, we finally landed up in a hostel dorm. There are many such stories when Kashmiris were unable to rent a flat outside.
The treatment Kashmiris got from the people of plains, in a subtle way, increased their love and passion for Kashmir. I call this love and passion as Kashmiriness. This Kashmiriness was direct product of this indifferent approach from a common Indian. However, it has a psychological impact on an average Indian’s mind. The term becomes antithesis of Indianness (patriotism), therefore, making Kashmiri as ‘Other’ and sometimes as antinational. Speech of freedom, universally acknowledged fundamental right, is a distant dream for a common Kashmiri. Indian security agencies monitor even the social media where these ‘Other’ people talk about their daily lives, like buying chicken, bread, having fun, dating a girl or even a discussion on Kashmir.
In literal sense this Kashmiriness, loosely associated with the term Kashmiriyat used by most of the scholars, is not in direct confrontation with Indianness. The behavior of making it an antithesis of Indianness can be best understood through the psychology of a common Indian. The Kashmirphobia in India, which entails that every Kashmiri is not a ‘bad guy’ but every ‘bad guy’ is a Kashmiri, a notion based on the premise of the western concept of Islamphobia, and subsequently inherited by Indian state. These western Islamphobes claim that Islam is intrinsically a terrorist religion. It has even become axiomatic in some circles to chant: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims.”
Not only students, but also anything related to Kashmir is opposed. In January 2012, Pune's Symbiosis College, under pressure from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), stopped screening of a documentary Jashn-e-azadi by Kashmiri filmmaker Sanjay Kak.
This religo-political divide, Kashmiri (Muslim) versus Indian (patriot), in India is fostered by Right wing agencies. The rise of Hindu extremism serves as a catalyst for such divisions in India. For that reason alone, it is and should be a cause for concern both in India and in the international community. Hindu-revivalist organizations have defined Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra in a manner that renders adherence to minority religions and loyalty to India incompatible. The standard reaction by minority community to such oppression turns them to religious movements for identity. Therefore, Hindutva should not be ignored merely as electoral expediency. Religious fever can in the long run only tear apart the various communities of India and harm the country's stability.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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