Looking at it from Kashmir
For last two weeks India is on a boil.
For last two weeks India is on a boil. A rampage of sorts. What could have disappeared in the evening as yet another daytime student activity at one of the campuses in India, turned into a national issue. Thanks to Indian TV channels, this madness knows no limits. Every night we see Indian TV studios turn hysterical. It's Prime-Madness, it's Super-Madness. From X to Z it's Now sheer madness. One day Indians will sure hit the streets demanding Azadi from this media circus. Hum Kya Chahte…
It's all noise, no communication. It's in fact incitement to violence. If there were saner people running the country called India, many celeb-anchors, and their chosen panelists, would make a fit case for sedition against the state-of-life. Is this called talking! It's war against sense. It's a threat to life. Did anyone say Rwanda!
But in this madness one can spot sense sneaking in from different directions. Some hitherto forbidden themes are opening up for discussion in public spaces. There are people who have written about very sensitive issues in the backdrop of this whole event. Though less loud, and to a great extent frightened, there are voices that underline the very fundamentals of human freedom, and the limits of the state. There is, yet feeble though, a refusal to accept emotive explanations on what comprises nationalism. There is a willingness, up-and-coming, to dig into the foundations of a Nation-State. The foundational value of Individual Freedom is struggling to find an articulation like never before. It's not just the extreme behaviour of the ruling party that is under scrutiny, but the larger themes of State, Nation, Law, Freedom and Culture that are informing the responses.
Looking from Kashmir, how does all this appear. For a while keeping that sense-of-being-tormented by India aside, is there anything for a place like Kashmir one can positively think of engaging with. In the event itself, that took place at JNU, Kashmir and Kashmiris are a major presence. In fact Kashmir is inside and outside of this event. No surprises if Kashmir becomes the ultimate target in this and many of our young boys are dragged into a labyrinthine penal procedure. It would be a great loss for India, as well as Kashmir, if this event finally boils down to Kashmir, and the 'problem' in Kashmir. For a while we might feel euphoric that all public spaces in India are busy discussing Kashmir, but that is what must not happen. If TV studios, University Campuses, and even the Indian Parliament is filled with the sounds related to Kashmir, it would be erroneous to think that it yields anything good for us, and the region.
While the real issues remain alive, there is a need for serious and private thinking. The issues of marginalised in India, the issues of minorities in India, the issues related to the religious radicalisation in India, the issues of military oppression in J&K and North Easter states in India, must be discussed in the public spaces, but deep underneath a good number of minds must continue working on the core content of these problems. If the timely responses to these issues are not bolstered, in the long run, by a fresh impetus from new generation ideas, no form can emerge from this chaos. What India needs, and what Kashmir waits for, is an idea of politics that goes well beyond Nation-State. As long as this region is ruled by an oppressive application of this Nation-State idea, militaries will remain powerful, religious radicalism will poison the politics, and people will find it extremely difficult to raise questions of human dignity and freedom, beyond the limits set by the state itself. We now need a Human Constitution, not an Indian, or a Pakistani, or a Kashmiri Constitution. We need freedom from the history of one time freedom struggles. This needs re-affirmation of universal categories of human freedom, and a subsequent struggle to raise new structures of politics.
If a Dalit stands up and asks freedom from an oppressive politics, any hint at Kashmir can only spoil his case. If university students and faculty pitch in for freedom of expression and a refusal to be dictated by some chosen interpretation of any holy texts, they can do it better if Kashmir stays away, at least in the beginning. If the understanding of Nationalism requires a fresh debate in Kashmir, it shouldn't start with Kashmir, because there is every likelihood that it would be aborted. If the emotive presentation of Indian armed forces has begun to be deconstructed, any mention of Kashmir can make it only difficult. India has million different issues that want to flow out in the open; it's Kashmir that acts as a rubber seal. It's better if Kashmir only carefully watches how India opens up its problems. Kashmir's presence will act as a hurdle in the path of India's progress on new ideas. And the possibility of Kashmir finding a just response from the people of India opens up only if the prevalent understanding of Nationalism, Nation-State, and Sovereignty goes away.
While India gears up for a new politics, the old power structure would be keen to reinvent Kashmir as a threat to India and the Indians. It would do everything to bring back focus on Kashmir in a negative way, and we must try every bit to stay out of the frame. We have different things to do, meanwhile. We too have to start the search for new ideas. In the end it will be the coalition of new ideas in Kashmir, India and Pakistan that can get freedom to all.
For this some of us need time, an undisturbed solitude, and a life long commitment to thinking.