Most Indians would have made up their minds to judge the following piece of writing as frivolous, inflammatory and anti-national way before even finishing to read the entire topic sentence, forget analysing the whole article first. Now prior to getting involved in the arguments of as to what cons equates us Indians into being rash and un-thoughtful in our judgements, I would first like to define the term ‘Nationalism.’ There is a broad selection of definitions relating that to the term of ‘Nationalism’ which vary on levels of complexity, understanding and most of all historical precedence. For our purpose, we will take an explanation that is recognized and understood by the aam aadmi.
“Nationalism is a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.”
(Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
India is a land overrun by hard-line nationalists who were thrown right from the sight of birth into an endless pit of misguided facts, beliefs and an irrational hate for reason that goes beyond the nation, national interest or national prestige. In a response to my question – “What unites India?” Suhel Seth (TV talking head & Newspaper columnist) replied that it was the idea of Indianness, sadly not the idea of India” that truly unifies the country, its citizens and more necessarily their religions. Based on his language and my understanding, I interpreted Indianness as something that identifies with the brand image of India. For example: the food we eat; the clothes we wear; the way we talk; the way we live; the things we enjoy; etc. The idea of an India is that of a land bound by the amalgamation of its people of all religions, languages and cultures through self-accustomed choices. Going a step further, I came to the premise that it is the threat to this Indianness that hampers an Indian mind and forces it to impede the sight of what is right and is needed to be done, and glances in a more egotistical and self-centred approach of thinking. We Indians are just not able to cope with even the slightest of variations in our accepted standards of authenticated forms of Indianness in our daily being, ranging from the nation’s administrative boundaries to a wrinkle on the national flag and everything in between. This lack of self-questioning and argumentation against the fundament entities of what is claimed to radiate India, and hence Indianness, has lead to the fuelling of two most violent and scrutinised issues of our homeland which ideally correspond the exposed outlook – the Naxal uprising & the struggle for Kashmir.
On 18th March, 1967, the Siliguri Kishan Sabha, a local Peasants’ Council of a city of West Bengal, announced that it was ready for an armed revolt to redistribute all land controlled by the landlords or jotedars, and end centuries of barbarous exploitation. On 23rd May, a sharecropper Bigul Kisan, near an unheard village of Naxalbari, entered a piece of land with his plough and his ox and was beaten up by the henchmen of the local jotedar over a land dispute. On 24th May, Inspector Sonam Wangdi led a police posse to arrest the peasant leaders. He was ambushed by a group of tribals and was killed in a rain of arrows. The next day, the peasants called a meeting at Prasadjote district in Naxalbari. The version of what precisely unfolded that day differs from person to person, but a total of 11 people died in police firing, including seven women and two children. The events that occurred over the week urged other tribals and lower economic classes to join the movement and stand a chance to regain their ancestral lands from the higher class landlords, a task their government had failed or ignored to execute for scores of years since India gained its independence. The movement got its name from the place, Naxalbari, where the uprising initially began and came to be known as – The Naxal Movement. Over the next 43 years that the Naxal movement has managed to resist extinction, it has made several twists and turns through the medium of addition and subtraction of new and old ambitions and ways of accomplishing them. It is not necessary for us to either agree or disagree with these changes, but to observe the things that have remained constant. The displacement of tribals from their ancestral land, the only alteration being the higher class landlords have been replaced by Multi-National Corporations (MNCs), and the continued ignorance of our government’s stance towards their developmental and social struggles. According to a report published by the Asian Indigenous & Tribal People Network titled ‘The State of India’s Indigenous & Tribal People 2009,’ the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in its Draft National Policy on the Tribals stated that nearly 85.39 lakh tribals have been displaced until 1990 on account of mega developmental projects like dams, mining, industries and conservation of nature etc. Tens of thousands of tribals have been displaced from 1990 onwards without proper rehabilitation; no study has been conducted in regard to displacement and rehabilitation of tribals in the country.
In November 2009, the Indian government initiated Operation Green Hunt – a paramilitary offensive against the Naxal rebels, for which 50,000 troops were dispatched. Since then, close to 650 members of the security forces, nearly a 1000 civilians and about 400 Naxalites have been killed, either through directly or indirectly violence. Majority of public outrage has gone against the government for being unable to curb rising movement, and the Maoists leaders who are seen as terrorists out to capture their motherland under a sheet of authoritarian governance. If you notice here, this is the first instance where I have used the term Maoists, and not Naxalites. The reason I did so, is to identify a crucial difference. A tribal or a lower class member who initially joined the movement in his or her own right, after being repetitively left thwarted and aggravated by the government, to regain some form of self-determination for the sole purpose of earning back lost ownership of one’s property or estate, a stable livelihood or ones and one’s loved ones security can be termed as a Naxal. Whereas, an individual who preferable joined the movement to fight against the forces of a claimed failed state for the sole purpose of capturing sovereignty over the region and establishing a distinct classification of governance based on the principles and dynamics of Maoism can be termed as a Maoist. The issue of whether to viciously eliminate all Maoists is an action up for debate, but the task of killing deprived citizens of India who have been forced to the path of violence after consistent negligence of the administration towards their troubles cannot be justified through any logic, facts or reason. Any personal who till now is known to have raised such or similar focal points in the realms of the Indian society, governance or bureaucracy, has been harshly criticized by both the diluted public and the political forces of our nation. In most cases, such as of (Writer & Activist) Arundhati Roy, individuals have been branded as Maoist sympathisers or worse as an enemy of the state, when in fact the only act they can be found guilty of is preserving human life and upholding the principles of morality which include the acts of accepting ones responsibilities and failures. Submission to failures is an act that nationalism backs to be resisted, even at the price of hindering the truth. The threat of erosion and dismemberment of the current Indian political system, which structures out to be an integral part of brand India, has disarrayed ourselves into performing acts of mass killings in the name of callous justice, so just as to protect the tag of Indianness attached to our nation in the name of nationalism.
The duty of an ideal citizen is to obey the rules of law and to honour the constitution, while the obligation of a parliamentary government is to implement the same constitution to the fullest of its abilities and to keep a check on the interests of its citizens. Both the Indian government and the Maoist leaders are a part of the same hypocrisy. The government kills its citizens in the name of defending the nation, while the Maoists kill the powerless in the name of a class struggle against the power hungry. The only victims that remain are the ones that lie in between – the deprived citizens-come-Naxals and the aam aadmi.
Before laying the case for rightful assertion of support to the stone-pelters of Kashmir, I would foremost like to provide a snippet on the history of pre-disputed Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir came into being as a single political and geographical entity following the Treaty of Amritsar between the British Government and Gulab singh signed on March 16, 1846. The Treaty handed over the control of the Kashmir State to the Dogra ruler of Jammu who had earlier annexed Ladakh. Thus a new State comprising three distinct religions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh was formed with Maharaja Gulab Singh as its founder ruler. The feudal dispensation in the State, however, was too harsh for the people to live under and towards the end of a hundred years of this rule when their Indian brethren were fighting for independence from the British under the inspiring leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the Kashmiris led by a towering personality, the Sher-I-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, rose against the autocracy. The autocratic rule came down heavily on the people’s freedom movement.
(Source: The Official Website of Jammu and Kashmir Government)
In the aftermath of Partition, the princely states of India, which had been left by the Indian Independence Act 1947, passed by the exiling British Empire, to choose whether to accede to the dominion of Union of India or the new dominion of Pakistan or to remain outside them as an sovereign independent state. The same proposal of choices was made to the then Maharahaja of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh, a man against whom a movement of fierce discontent and rebellion had by now reached the zenith of sustainability. Yet, when such a preference was being presented to Hari Singh, neither the Indian National Congress nor the Muslims League raised any objections. Both the interest parties were locked in a battle of nationalists, with each wanting to acquire as much sovereignty over a land as they could, for the desire of structuring a nation on the standards of democracy. It can be argued that it was the dire suspicion of each other that forced them to overlook and shelter the self believed greater good, but it cannot be deprived of the truth that the right to choose a good which would alter the lives of people for the better or worse could only be made by either the people themselves or leaders backed by popular support. The issue essentially became complicated when Hari Singh opted to establish an authoritarian regime of his own, instead of acceding to any dominion. Hence, this lead to the balkanisation of public opinions into three major groups – pro-Indian, pro-Pakistani and the least heard pro-Kashmiri, which would fuel the dispute over the coming generations.
In the autumn of 1947, an army of armed Pathans, tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, marched into Srinagar with the solitary intention of freeing their Muslims brothers from the shackles of a pro-Hindu imperialistic rule. Then on 26th October, 1947, Hari executed the Instrument of Accession, a legal document that settled the question of the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir princely state to dominion of Union of India in exchange for help to overcome the Pathan invasion. India refused to come to his aid unless he acceded to India, irrespective of whether Hari Singh’s action represented the desires of the majority of Kashmiris. Thus, the preceding action triggered the first Indo-Pakistan war, merely months before after their newly established independence. After a yearlong bloodshed over the disputed territory, India moved the case to the UN Security Council which order an immediate ceasefire between the two now rival nations, and proposed to monitor the conflict of Kashmir. On 21th April, 1948, UN Security Council passed Resolution 47, which asked of Pakistan to evacuate its army from the territory of Jammu and Kashmir and prevented it from including itself in the territory’s politics. According to the resolution, India would retain a minimum military presence in the region and was asked to hold an impartial plebiscite, to express the opinions of the general public, on the foundations of which a final resolution to end the dispute could be made. At the time, both governments agreed to the resolution, but Pakistan failed to withdraw its troops off Kashmiri soil. In consequence, Pakistan violated the conditions for holding a plebiscite. Ever since, several organizations, institutions and nations have tried to intermediate a solution to this endless dispute, but all have been forced to shake their heads in agony of disappointment as both the India and Pakistan restrict to budge from their inconsiderate stands. Much like the issue of the tribals and the Naxals, not largely has changed for the people of Kashmir whose voices still go vary and unnoticed in the backdrop of a Pakistani administered propaganda.
Since the first rebellion in 1989, the death toll in Kashmir has closed in to 47,000, and this is a government figure which many Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have often contested and claim the actual figure to be twice the accepted size. Up to 20,000 civilians have been estimated killed during the turmoil, and more than 10,000 labelled as disappeared. In this war of nationalists, the only winner seems to be death and the biggest victims appear to be the people of Kashmir. The common man or aam aadmi of Kashmir has been pulled into a vicious cycle of murders, assassinations and explosions; a cycle which is claimed to be the decider of all his outstanding concerns, but neglects to include his words, opinions or beliefs. Today in Indian mass culture, Kashmir is seen upon as a rightful assertion of Indian power and ownership, and Pakistan as a contender to this title. Kashmir has become a proxy war between the two nations, which fails to find a solution on the tables of dialogues. A crucial question that arises from the preceding statement is of knowing as to why India chooses to open a new chapter of dialogue with Pakistani forces each year to resolve an issue that doesn’t concern them, or less can be resolved through a more productive dialogue with the people of Kashmir? The issue of Kashmir has been marginalised by popular disbeliefs and egoistic standings into an issue between India and Pakistan, rather than the obvious truth of an issue of the people of Kashmir with both India and Pakistan. Every outrage or differential opinion that originates in Kashmir which goes against India or its mass accepted beliefs is labelled as Pakistan or separatist power sponsored. Kashmir has become a mere commodity of ownership for Indians, and more essentially a momentous part of Indianness and nationalist prestige. A more humane approach that fluctuates from the general mass philosophy to the issue is dismembered and ridiculed as a separatist roar or a traitor-ish tone against the nation. After two distinct picks of means by adjacent generations of Kashmiris, starting off with a fight for votes and then fallings into the arms of guns and violence, a new generation has picked up stones and the advancements of protests to make their voices be heard and their dreams of independence from Indian chauvinism and nationalist ignorance, to their troubles and problems, be seen and felt. Individuals of all age groups, may they be 8 year old infants or 90 year old experienced heavyweights, and sexes have come together to join the movement which has risen to be called as – The Stone-Pelters Movement of Kashmir.
In the not so distant past, Arundhati Roy made a deceleration that – “Kashmir needs freedom from India.” In a counter-response to her statements, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that her remarks are “against national spirit and nationalism,” and that “she is attacking the integrity of the country” which “is nothing short of sedition.” Contextualising further from her declaration, I have conclude that it is not India from which Kashmir requires freedom, but the thought of Indianness, as demonstrated by the BJP. In 1951, a popularly elected Constituent Assembly, led by Sheikh Abdullah, unanimously ratified the accession of Kashmir to India in trade for a promise of running a more autonomous administration in, and for issues relating, to Kashmir. He was later to be arrested on 8th August, 1953, and imprisoned for 11 years only to be replaced by, son of the tyrant ex-Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh, Karan Singh. Hence, India chose prestige over peace.
In the end, to capsulate the entire subject matter, it can be duly advocated that India and Indians are required to step out of the shadows of an -“India is always right, and always the best” mind-set and see the world for what it is, not what it should be. And, instead of striving to project and impose the philosophy of Indianness, we should endeavour to configure and oblige to a better idea of an India. The world is bursting of colours beyond orange, white and green.
I would like to finish with two quotes from the greatest minds of our time:
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
– Albert Einstein
“…Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary
desert sand of dead habit…
let my country awake.”
– Rabindranath Tagore (Geetanjali)