The Unhappiness Factory of Kashmir

In an April 2012 issue of Open Magazine, the editor Manu Joseph wrote a provocatively titled essay, “Sorry, Kashmir is Happy”. Unsurprisingly, this article became the subject of heated discussion. In this InPEC article, the author – Sualeh Keen, a Kashmiri writer, poet and cultural critic – brings some perspective to the issue.  


By Sualeh Keen, 7th May 2012

Trauma in Kashmir is like a heritage building—the elite fight to preserve it. ‘Don’t forget,’ is their predominant message, ‘Don’t forget to be traumatised.’ They want the wound of Kashmir to endure because the wound is what indicts India for the many atrocities of its military. This might be a long period of calm, but if the wound vanishes, where is the justice? India simply gets away with all those rapes, murders and disappearances? So nothing disgusts them more than these words: ‘Normalcy returns to Kashmir’; ‘Peace returns to the Valley’; ‘Kashmiris want to move on’.

When Manu Joseph wrote these words in the Open Magazine article ‘Sorry, Kashmir Is Happy’, it was but expected that ‘they’ would get disgusted and outraged. ‘They’ are the intellectual writers and online activists that constitute the second generation of Kashmiri Muslim separatists, the first generation being the Pakistan-trained mujahideen who fought with AK-47s, grenades, rockets, and bombs against ‘Hindu India’ in search of Azadi (literally, ‘freedom’). While originally Azadi meant the valley’s accession to Pakistan, after the Pakistan-sponsored armed uprising in the early 90’s failed and with the onset of internal turmoil in Pakistan, the meaning of Azadi has shifted from accession to Pakistan to independence from both India and Pakistan. This demand is largely confined to the Kashmiri Muslim community of the Kashmir valley, while finding little or no support in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State. Even in the valley, opinions are divided in favour of independence, accession to Pakistan, greater autonomy or self-rule within the Indian union, and political status quo.

That the people of Kashmir have suffered in these two decades of militancy is an undeniable fact. Terrorism imposes a price on everyone including the non-combatants. In Kashmir, even a failed grenade attack can make life a nightmare for the people living or working in a locality—through crackdowns, identification parades, frisking, beatings, interrogation, torture—making the people resent this abnormal intrusion of fear, hurt, and death into their lives. Their resentment turns to hostility, which takes the shape of resistance to the State, and to military and paramilitary personnel, because that is all that they can react to. It is difficult to open a front against shadowy enemies (terrorists) who don’t wear uniforms that would identify them and who can take anyone down anywhere with no accountability whatsoever. This threat of random violence is what makes terrorism so successful. And when the State responds forcefully with counter-terrorism measures, again, the special powers accorded to the armed forces pave the way for the abuse of those powers. So, not just the costs of terrorism, the subsequent costs of counter-terrorism are also borne by ordinary people caught in the crossfire. Ironically, the violent Azadi movement and the misery it unleashed in society provided the raw material for the new generation of largely non-violent separatists to justify their demand for Azadi. Towards this effect, the separatists base their political narrative entirely on the “oppression and human rights violation by the armed forces of India.” While seeking justice for the fake encounters, custodial murders, etc. committed by the men in uniform (armed forces), the separatists are silent about the murders, rapes, abductions and extortions committed by the so-called mujahideen. In other words, there is an attempt to distort or redefine truth in a way that the effect becomes the cause.

After the mass mobilization during the Amarnath Land Row in summer 2008, the separatists have become louder and shriller. Over the past few years, there has been a significant shift in the position of the separatist intellectual ranks. Those who were ‘balanced’, ‘moderate’, and ‘diplomatic’ have suddenly taken a more extremist position and become more vocal in their tone. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, in an extremist camp, the loudest voices are readily hailed as the voices with ‘real pain’ for the people. As such, many formerly objective and moderate voices are becoming louder by the day, so as to be seen as the ‘legitimate’ representatives of the people. But secondly and more importantly, this pandemonium is strategic from their side. The separatists have for the first time in many years, after they picked up guns, been able to garner some sort of wider public attention and interest in Kashmir, and begun to extract solidarity from other groups in India and the West—mainly Leftist groups, which in my opinion may be well-intentioned but have a severe lack of understanding of the local complexities of the issue. The separatists feel that for the first time in years they have gained the moral upper hand on India (during the terrorist phase of this movement, morality was thrown to the wind) and they want to drive this in every time, not letting their guard down ever for once, not admitting any slippage, no room for doubt, no room for self-critique, no room to entertain those who exhibit less than complete service to the cause. This is a war that they need to win at all costs and they are encouraged by imagined signs of victory. However, not all of them personally think that Azadi is achievable, but they hope to achieve something lesser with this posturing and by playing hardball. But they dare not declare their scepticism about the achievability of Azadi publicly, lest it be seen as a sell out by the separatist crowd.

It is easy to see why ‘peace’ and ‘normalcy’ is their kryptonite. Last year, lest a literary festival ‘Harud’ that was to be held in Kashmir be seen as a ‘sign of normalcy’, the shrill online Azadi supporters, including a few pro-azadi Kashmiri writers based abroad, launched a boycott movement that succeeded in convincing the organisers to cancel the event. But sorry, Kashmir is normal and happy. Anybody who visits Kashmir will agree that the scene has changed drastically from 2010; not just in public space but in private conversations as well. “Azadi is gone!” is the verdict of almost all the people one meets – in Kashmir’s villages and in towns. What are the people happy about? Happiness is a relative term. The people are happy that, after the three successive years of unrest (2008 to 2010) that brought life to a standstill, they can breathe again in a free atmosphere, live a normal life again, attend to their businesses, go to their educational institutions, without stone-pelting protestors taking to the streets, without deaths, without protracted shutdowns and curfews imposed by the separatists and the State respectively.

I have often criticized the extremism of the Azadi supporters, who, after the brouhaha over Manu Joseph’s article, can be called “The Unhappiness Factory”. The separatists are only interested in exaggerating the figures of victims, demonizing India, and exhorting people to make sacrifices at the altar of Azadi, while acting as fire starters or as torch-bearing cheerleaders standing outside the fire or as pall bearers and mourners. The most notable characteristic of the workers of the “The Unhappiness Factory” is that they are not content in seeing human rights violations (HRVs) being put to an end or seeing that victims get justice. No, they want nothing like that to happen, because justice for the victims and an end to HRVs would portray “Endia” (India) as a responsive and responsible “Demon-crazy” (Democracy), and that will undermine and devalue the sacrifices of the martyrs. They are very clear that they want nothing less than secession from India, even if India’s human rights record improves to become the best in the world, which is fine, because people may seek secession from a larger country for one reason or the other. But the aspiration of which ‘people’ do the separatists represent? The separatists are unable to or refuse to accept the hard reality of the divided opinion of the people of J&K State.

The cumulative positive contribution of the separatists towards the betterment of Kashmir draws a blank. Rather than supporting, the separatists can be seen pooh-poohing the local movements about RTI, corruption, environment, etc. They even try to morally pressurize victims against taking compensation from the State. These “Einsteins” think that switching off and rebooting the main power switch would make every malfunctioning appliance in the house function properly on its own, miraculously, as soon as the light of Azadi dawns. That Kashmir may on the contrary get plunged into darkness is a risk this vocal minority is willing to take on behalf of every Kashmiri, even those who don’t agree with them, because according to them “Azadi is for everybody,” notwithstanding the differing opinions of some Kashmiri Muslims and religious and ethnic minorities in the valley, the entire Pandit community that fled away from the violent Islamist Azadi movement in 1990 and the people of the Jammu and Ladakh regions of the J&K State. And until thy “Free-doom” has come, every other enterprise in the valley should be suspended, cynically mocked, or termed as inconsequential. Only Azadi is of value and only the separatist knows what is good for the people whether they agree to it or not.

Yoginder Sikand, in his candid article ‘Why I Gave Up On ‘Social Activism’, gave an apt description of such negative disseminators of unhappiness:

“The hatred that often passed for ‘progressivism’ in ‘activist’ circles was truly astounding, and I fell lock-stock-and-barrel for it. One was trained only to look for the negative in every nook and corner, and, if it didn’t exist where one looked, to imagine and fervently believe that it did. One’s whole life became one great protest. Protesting against real or imaginary injustice was almost the only respectable thing to do. It was as if there was nothing at all good in the world to celebrate, and even as if celebration and joy were themselves an ‘unnecessary diversion’ or a ‘unaffordable luxury’ that truly committed ‘activists’ had to carefully shun. That explained why many ‘progressives’ and ‘radicals’ were horrifically negative as human beings, many of them being irritatingly obnoxious, judgemental, cantankerous, dour and sullen. Their penchant for protest made them only more so. Believing themselves to be somehow morally superior to others because they had, so they thought, devoted themselves to the ‘oppressed’ made many of them painfully sanctimonious and proud.”

Some of the shrillest proponents of Azadi operate online from urban Kashmir, elsewhere in India, or from abroad. Beneath their veneer of Leftist ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ word salads resides a foundation of xenophobic regional-religious chauvinism they can barely conceal and is hardly an improvement over that of their gun-wielding Islamist predecessors. Using what is essentially a Leftist jargon, they warn of the “occupying forces” using “progress, development and peace” to undermine the Azadi movement, even though a better education or a career in a peaceful setting is what took many of them to places outside the valley. Those who warn of the “capitalist consumer carrot” should go to a Kashmiri wedding and Waazwan (wedding feast—no carrots on the menu) where ordinary Kashmiris can teach them (and the rest of India) a thing or two about consumerism that is very much indigenous! It becomes a futile task of imposing and seeking to universalize the unfettered-capitalism debate (legitimate in other contexts) to a localized phenomenon and to individual choices to the point of absurdity. It is extremely patronizing and hypocritical of the computer-savvy city slicker or a non-resident Kashmiri to tell people that they did not need decent jobs and infrastructure.

No wonder, Manu Joseph’s interview of the top ranking Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer from the valley, Dr. Shah Faesal (which forms the backdrop of his ‘Sorry, Kashmir Is Happy’ article) was harshly criticized of by the online separatists, which compelled the target of criticism to respond in a Facebook group (Dr. Shah Faesal’s comments on Facebook group ‘Moderate Voice Of Jammu, Kashmir And Ladakh’ can be found here and here). The separatists conveniently turned a blind eye to the pioneering work done in the area of RTI (Right To Information) by Dr. Shah Faesal. Incidentally, one of his first RTI cases was about finding the whereabouts of a civilian picked up by the Border Security Forces in 1990 and never seen again. But the separatists are not interested in all these ‘charades’ of justice or making heroes out of individuals who work within the ‘system’. How dare Dr. Shah Faesal say that to love peace and normalcy is commonsense and commonsense is winning in Kashmir.

When Manu Joseph criticizes the non-resident online separatists, it makes him sound more like a writer who is just getting to know Kashmir. By no means are a few non-resident Kashmiris the only intellectual cheerleaders of street violence and ideologues of separatist sentiment. The very same Kashmiri youth residing in Kashmir whom Manu Joseph interacted with and who want peace, normalcy and KFC in Kashmir are the ones who become votaries of street violence and anti-State sentiment. The reason cannot be generalized because each person has his own motives. Reasons could range from some young people going for a radical chic image, the emotional contagion of the vocal separatists, guilt-laden psychodynamics, occupational hazards of being an aspiring journalist in the valley who wants to be noticed, of being a victim of the ‘victimhood’ propaganda, being paid or instructed to write with a certain slant, not to mention the instant fanfare among mutual back-patting Azadi supporters. Indeed, the main bulk of the output of “The Unhappiness Factory” is home-made and not manufactured on the laptops of non-resident ‘intellectual stone-pelters’.

Also, Manu Joseph’s article is to be faulted for doing a superficial symptomatic diagnosis. It does not address why the same people who want normalcy now, were in the streets three years in a row, and, given a suitable stimulus, may well come out on the streets again in the future. The article does not offer solutions for ensuring that normalcy is not disturbed by the forces of unhappiness in future. Yes, many people have moved on, but to where?

The ball is in the State’s court and it is up to the State to ensure that the dividends of peace are not squandered away with its habitual apathy, complacency and inefficiency. I recommend that Manu Joseph’s article be read in conjunction with the nuanced piece by Praveen Swami and by Ajai Shukla, which I feel should be taken seriously by the State. The committed workers of “The Unhappiness Factory”, a vocal minority, are not the same as the majority of Kashmiris. Many of the latter also have no love lost for India due to the high-handedness of security forces and the political machinations of the Centre, but they simply wish that the rule of gun would end and they could live life normally, like people anywhere in the world, including India. While “The Unhappiness Factory” is inconsolable, the majority of Kashmiris will settle for something less than Azadi or make do without political restructuring. They do not appear to be so keen any longer on utilizing the blood of martyrs but in seeing that blood is shed no more. The State needs to address the desires of these people rather than a loony fringe.

In a nutshell, the State also needs to get a move on. After all, “The Unhappiness Factory” will do what it does best and that is not going to change, perhaps never. Oppositional politics derives its raison d’être from the wrongs of others, and if the state is farsighted and forthright, the “Factory” will shut down on its own. In any case, negativity has diminishing returns, and finally the quest for happiness and affirmation of life wins the day.

So here is to happiness and normalcy. Here is to life!


Sualeh Keen is a Kashmiri writer, poet, graphic artist, and cultural critic. He works as a marketing communications professional. He created the Facebook group “Moderate Voice Of Jammu, Kashmir And Ladakh” as a platform to promote dialogue between various stakeholders of the State.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect InPEC’s editorial position.


Also Read: Heyns, the Final Straw for AFSPA in India? – This article discusses the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) of India. A United Nations Human Rights Council report is set to be released on this in the near future.


Bibliography

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20 thoughts on “The Unhappiness Factory of Kashmir

  1. An interesting and objective assessment of the erstwhile strife-torn Valley. Autonomy is not a dirty word. In fact, federalism should be extended to all the Indian states in the right earnest. Moreover, we should revive the basic spirit of the Panchayati Raj so that the benefits of development are percolated to the lowest level. However, the strengthened nexus between the politicians and bureaucracy wishes to see that the spirit of the democracy is throttled without holding any bars. Sikand, the first non-Muslim professor in Department of Islamic Studies in Jamia Hamdard University and writer of a beautiful book on Tabligi Jamaat, deserves kudos for an introspective piece, which should be read and discussed threadbare by all sane and liberal persons in the country. Human Rights organisations give strength to a democratic government and save the later from resorting to the state terrorism but unfortunately and sadly, most of the HR organisations in the country and the wonderful magazine EPW (Economic & Political Weekly) have fallen victims to the inaudibility syndrome on account of their abject failure to adopt holistic approach in making assessment of any given situation. The tendency of ‘generalisation’ is another bane in our society. Both of my sons have studied in the Aligarh Muslim University after getting admission through entrance tests. They love to be called Aligarians.They remained secular while the AMU is generally, though wrongly, viewed as the ‘last post of Pakistan’.

  2. Brilliant article by Mr. Keen, especially when it just a literature review of the other articles he puts in the Bibliography. Being a Kashmiri, Muslim, Urban, Online activist living under the veneer of Leftist ideology and desperately trying to hide my xenophobic regional-religious chauvinism, it is my duty to rebut this bag of generalized falsification of falsehood.

    Firstly I see the decline of militancy as a victory of Kashmiris who for centuries have been peace loving people. It is the common Kashmiri Muslims who with their own bare hands defeated the ideology of violence.

    Regarding independence Mr. Keen must be knowing that it was the Maharaja in 1947 who first expressed the desire of remaining independent rather than joining the newly formed States of India or Pakistan. Also JKNLF the militant front of the Plebiscite movement was formed in 1966 with a sole aim of attaining Azadi for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Kashmiris have a right to be happy, Mr. Keen being a cultural critic should know this. Kashmir is nowadays relatively “happy” (read peaceful) but the Government had to arrest 25000 youths to make it happy. I know this number is exaggerated because Mr. Geelani quoted this. Even the Government by its own admission says that 1200 youths have been put in jails over the period of 2011-12. As we all know how governments all over the world downplays the numbers, the “price” of happiness is a wild guess.

    But the linking of “happiness” with the fact that Kashmiris have given up on Azadi is sinful. Kashmir enjoyed many honeymoons with “happiness” 1953-88, 2000-07 and so on, but the sentiment of Azadi hasn’t waned a bit. Asking any Kashmiri, walking down the bylanes of Islamabad, sitting under the shades of Chinar in S.P. College in Srinagar or tending his cattle in the fields of Handwara, if he is an Indian will provide a good statistic for Mr. Keen to understand the psyche of common Kashmiri’s.

    I was not paid to write this, but Mr. Keen since you have put the garb of sainthood and arisen yourself on the pulpit of morality and righteousness I want to ask you the same question.

    Thanks and God bless you

    • Travelling on the G.T. Road (re-christened as Sher Shah Suri Marg), I have frequently spotted written on the back side of trucks, plying or parked on the road “Ham nahin Sudhrenge” (We shall not mend our ways”. Asking for azadi is no crime. But should not Kashmiri supporter of the Azadi movement in the valley introspect what went wrong. Who were the leaders. What sort of havoc they wreaked on the valley? From where they got finances to sustain the movement? who were their mentors? Were not they successful on account of the fact that they were double-agent as any successful agent has to be a double-one? Why no murmur was heard when the religious extremists sidelined the ‘moderates’ in the secessionist movement? An honest person will not like anonymous comment. Moreover, the comment is in bad taste. But Don’t worry. At least Government of India won’t like to see return of peace in the Valley as the vested interests in the form of unlimited financial gains for self by the bureaucracy will be the last to welcome return of the peaceful days.

    • @ Mr. Obie: Your accusing the author of being paid to write this shows that you have no counter-argument to offer other than personal attacks. And one thought being one of the Fai types was lucrative! How would you feel if someone says that an Oboe makes only sad sounds, as a counter-argument? Anyway, let me have a look at your so-called arguments.

      You start off with a lie when you say “Firstly I see the decline of militancy as a victory of Kashmiris who for centuries have been peace loving people. It is the common Kashmiri Muslims who with their own bare hands defeated the ideology of violence.”

      I am curious to know what happened to the centuries old “Peaceful Gene” of Kashmiri Muslims (I am one) when we picked up guns? I suppose our gene was switched off for a couple of decades by some hi-tech Pakistani remote-control. The ideology of violence was defeated, to some extent, by the bullets of our own Kashmiri Muslim counter-insurgents pulled from the ranks of surrendered Mujahideen. As we all know, our counter-insurgents turned out to be as ‘peace-loving’ as our Mujahideen. And it seems that our violent ideology has not been defeated fully. 2010 saw some of the most violent street protests by our youth. Bullets and stones are both projectiles, the former high velocity and the latter low velocity. Some improvement it was to go back to the Stone Age, in our bid to emulate the Palestinian Intifada, throwing young children into the line of fire to garner sympathy, while the stage managers cheered the young stonepelters from the sidelines, saying not to give up the offensive, keep making sacrifices and becoming martyrs, because Azadi is round the corner, like it was 23 years ago. What has changed is that earlier we were saying “Do this! Or I will kill you!” by pointing a gun to someone’s head, and now we are pointing the gun against our own heads, and saying “Do this! Or I will kill myself!” A great change of strategy, except that the suicide of the fidayeen is also an act of violence.

      “it was the Maharaja in 1947 who first expressed the desire of remaining independent rather than joining the newly formed States of India or Pakistan.”

      Since we put so much value to Maharaja’s expressions, it was the Maharaja who acceded to India. End of story. Why are we jockeying with a confirmation bias to a convenient point in history when an independent Kashmir could have been one possibility, a possibility that was immediately ruled out by the attack on Kashmir by tribal plunderers back by Pakistani army. You are ‘free’ to revisit the road we did not take; not all people move on. I am glad you were honest enough to concede that 1953-88 was a peaceful and happy period in Kashmiri history, when there was NO support for separatism (even the word ‘Azadi’ was not in circulation). What changed in 1989? We got a free supply of arms, ammunition and explosives from Pakistan and we thought we could do anything and achieve anything at gunpoint. It is ironical that our elders had fought Pakistan in 1947 and then some of us became Pakistan’s proxies in 1989.

      “Also JKNLF the militant front of the Plebiscite movement was formed in 1966 with a sole aim of attaining Azadi for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

      The first Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 by six army veterans. How many members did JKLF have when it was founded? Every nation has a few people like this, at any given point. The point is, there was NO mass support for Azadi prior to 1989.

      “Kashmir is nowadays relatively “happy” (read peaceful) but the Government had to arrest (1200) youths to make it happy.”

      I see your comment as an admission that these radical youths do not constitute Kashmir. Let us not get into the incentives that made these juvenile delinquents to indulge in stone-pelting in the mornings, before going to play football for the rest of the day. Indeed, Kashmir is safe from them, and they are safe from themselves. I cannot speak on behalf of Kashmiri Muslims like you, but most of us will not be held hostage anymore by a few extremists.

      “But the linking of “happiness” with the fact that Kashmiris have given up on Azadi is sinful.”

      Sinful? Why, because it is a Holy Cause? What lies beneath the veneer is showing.

      “Asking any Kashmiri… if he is an Indian will provide a good statistic.”

      If there is anything that we Kashmiris have learnt in this conflict, it is that we cannot trust anyone, least of all the militants and their overground supporters who did not spare their own. What we answer depends on who asks. I am sure when you ask us, we look at you tip to toe before answering “No, I am not an Indian.” We reckon this is the answer you are looking for, because what lies beneath your veneer always shows and we are afraid.

      I apologize for my harsh comment. I did not intend to be so harsh to a fellow Kashmiri, a Kashmiri Muslim at that, but the sooner we realize that we have been tricked by Pakistan and our (mis)leaders into this way of thinking, the sooner Kashmir will attain a state of happiness that cannot be disturbed by anyone.

      — Aslam M.

    • Dear Obie – “Firstly I see the decline of militancy as a victory of Kashmiris who for centuries have been peace loving people. It is the common Kashmiri Muslims who with their own bare hands defeated the ideology of violence.”

      Off course decline of militancy is first a victory of peace loving Kashmiris and then a victory of counter-insurgency measures, but can you please explain how Kashmiri Muslims defeated the ideology of violence with their ‘bare hands’?

      • @ Pestonjee: While you are at it, you might also want to ask him what ‘falsification of falsehood’ means.

    • To accept the rhetorical assertion that the “Kashmiris were peace loving people for centuries”, one will have to define Kashmiri people. So who were Kashmiri people centuries ago? Indo-Greek people who invaded the valley in second century BCE? Or the Saka infiltrators? Or the Kusanas who ruled the valley in the early centuries of the CE? Or Yue-chis? Or the invading Huns? Or the Gurjaras? Or the violent Bhauttas who came from Tibet? Or the invading Mauryans? Or the Dardic speaking people from Pamir? Or the Burushaski speaking people? Or the Nagas, the Pisacas? Or are you saying that Kashmiri people came into existence with the advent of Islam in Kashmir?

      In any case, all the tribes and communities that settled in the valley, did not arrive as peace missionaries. The people, who ruled the valley, were not installed in bloodless coups. From palace intrigues, murders, and oppression of people to coercive conversions, the history of Kashmir is replete with stories of bloodshed and violence. No, there are no such people, in history, who have not been violent at some or the other point.

      “It is the common Kashmiri Muslims who with their own bare hands defeated the ideology of violence.”

      Yes, common Kashmiri Muslims which include J&K Police, with their own bare hands defeated the terror groups in the valley. Common people became sick of the violence and loss of life and property and as a result became informers for the police and the army. They stopped giving shelter, food, clothes etc. to terrorists and instead turned them in. They also realized that the geopolitics of the world had changed after 9/11 and there were no buyers for Islamic violent movements. So yes, indeed they defeated violence in the valley. Kashmiri separatists and their supporters can’t take credit for this achievement because they are yet to apologize for the death and destruction of thousands in the valley and they are yet to give a clear call for an end to violence. None of them have ever come out protesting against Hizbul or Lashkar or Jaish.

  3. Mir Mohd. Aslam,

    To say that azadi was not there before 1989 was to ignore the 1987 rigged election and the path that led to that rigging. To say that azadi was not there before 1989 was to ignore Premnath Bazaz’s pen and millions of Kashmiri voices. Being subdued was not a sign of acceptance. Being silence was not a sign of submission. That’s why India had to rig elections. Protest against Indian imperialism emerged in multiple forms: from rejecting “Indian” identity to refusing to wave the Tricolors to the call for emancipation. It manifested in the forms of “low and high velocity projectiles” and now keyboards.

    It is interesting to note that the “stonepelters” were ridiculed as youths doing someone else’s dirty work. At least you didn’t view them as “paid Pakistani agents”. The “stonepelters” fought with “low velocity projectiles” in unison because that’s the only method of resistance they had. What you hate in these “stonepelters” was their desire and audacity to reject Indian imperialism. Therefore, you targeted the method, lest the intention and reason for using the method sounded just and rational.

    “The first Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 by six army veterans. How many members did JKLF have when it was founded? Every nation has a few people like this, at any given point.”

    Aslam, you affirmed that you are a Kashmiri Muslim (with genes proving it), so have Kashmiris now become similar to “white supremacists” supporting a KKK type of organization for demanding azadi? Were the Indians “white supremacists” when they rebelled by creating their own independence movements and for using “low and high velocity projectiles” on their pathway to independence? Or such label only suit Kashmiris?

    • @ EMG: My citation of Ku Klax Klan was to show that a terrorist organization can be formed by a couple of friends, which should not be mistaken as it having widespread support at the time of launch. I did not wish to elaborate on this, but since you have asked me for similarities, I can think of a few. Like the Klan, the militants were engaged in a war based on identity and their method was terrorism as well. Like the Klan, the militants too did their work through pamphleteering, lynching, shooting, blasting, and other forms of intimidation, such as sending threatening letters, abduction, extortion, forced marriage, forcible takeover of property. They targeted anyone who dared defy them or were instructed by their handlers to target or simply because they themselves wanted to, for personal reasons or gratuitously. They used force and terror, to prevent all political / civil action not in accord with their views or of their handlers. Like the Klan wanted the federal govt. withdraw troops from the South to establish a white civilization, the militants had/have similar designs – – just replace White with Kashmiri. And yes, both were naqab posh (hooded hoodlums). K for Klan / Klashnikov-totting-militants.

      Regarding your justification for militancy:

      Did “India” rig the elections or was it the local (our own Kashmiri Muslim) leaders of Congress and National Conference, whose workers also were among us? And Muslim United Front that lost the elections was not some “Azadi front” (though some of its members found alternative careers as militants and militant leaders later). They were a coalition of Islamists who sensed that loss of popularity of NC and an election pact between Congress and NC left a vacuum in the opposition that they could fill, so that they become the new elites. Many years later, People Democratic Party did exactly the same – – they even took the election symbol (pen and ink pot) of MUF. Previously, Kashmiri votes used to get divided between NC and Congress, with no other party in sight. Jamaat-i-Islami used to fare pathetically in elections.

      And which million voices are we talking about? There sure were millions of voices and they were shouting electoral slogans of their favorite mainstream leaders. Do you think we were faking our fanatic worship of Sheikh Abdullah, Albaen, Atha, etc. while pretending not to have one single separatist hero to worship? Before militancy, no one had even heard of Maqbool Butt. I am not sure what your age is; it seems you are not personally aware of history, or are belting out separatist propaganda. Things were not perfect before 1989, but not so bad that you can justify terrorism.

      Besides, a rigged election is no reason to pick up guns and become terrorists. Rigging used to happen all the time, everywhere, in rest of India as well; they didn’t pick up guns against the govt. Where did the guns come from? Pakistan. Did we ask them for guns? No. Pakistan simply trained a few radicals and people supported them, being naive. If we wish for clean elections, demand that. Peacefully. If you unhappy with the existing leaders, float a new party and contest election, or don’t vote for them.

      Also, I will continue to criticize extremist and violent methods, irrespective of how ‘just’ or ‘noble’ the cause is claimed to be. I don’t ‘hate’ (too strong a word) stonepelters for their ideology but for their methods. Because me, my family and friends and relatives and their families are affected by this violence. Enough is enough. We are not going to sacrifice ourselves anymore for anybody’s political goals. If last year the stonepelters had demanded for a simple shifting of camps and bunkers from civilian areas in 2010, their demand could have been met. But no, their maximalist demand had some non-negotiable 5 points that are difficult to meet just like that. End result: Nothing was gained, but more than a hundred young lives were lost. What kind of intelligence and pragmatism is it? Becoming a martyr is the easiest thing to do, but living for our ideals and contributing positively in the reconstruction of Kashmir while using our commonsense is not. Now Kashmir needs more Hosh than Josh.

      • Mir Mohd. Aslam,

        I agree that terrorist organizations could be formed by a couple of people. That’s why we witnessed Ikhwan rising in Kashmir with full backing and support from India. Plus, by substituting the word “militants” with Indians, one could sense the exact modi operandi even when separated by 150 years and 7,000 miles. One had hood while another is wrapped in flag. However, in Kashmir, it does not matter whether you are “Klashnikov-totting-militants with hood” or “stonepelters with bandana”, your call for azadi would deserve that modi operandi.

        It was India’s forced marriage, eviction, threat with KNC which led to Farooq Abdullah being unseated, married in convenient and raised to be India’s stooge in Kashmir. It was India’s hand which stole the election for the benefits of New Delhi in 1987. I am glad you normalized rigging in the world’s largest democracy (even in its occupied land) but the 1987 election also witnessed violence and given the history of occupation since 1947, it ended the veneer of normalcy.

        The millions I am talking could be found in this poll: http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Asia/0510pp_kashmir.pdf

        “Also, I will continue to criticize extremist and violent methods, irrespective of how ‘just’ or ‘noble’ the cause is claimed to be.”

        Good. Does India come to mind?

    • P.S. With respect to your comment: “low and high velocity projectiles” and now keyboards.”

      1) So first we start we the most fatal weapon: AK-47.

      2) And when that doesn’t work, we change strategy and shift to Stones in the hands of children. (A former militant even gave a presentation about the new Intifada strategy in Kashmir University, some years ago).

      3) And back it up with some incendiary write-ups by radical keyboard warriors.

      The chronological order of phase 1, 2 and 3 shows that non-violence was not the first preferred method of the Azadi seekers. The only fault they find with an AK-47 is that it did not achieve the goal; had it succeeded, Bitta Karate and Yasin Malik would have been heroes today (they are, among a few people) and they would not have to pretend to be Mahatmas and Gandhis, but would been proud Military Dictators of Free Kashmir. The later developments are clear strategic and opportunistic signs of a violent movement trying to pose as a non-violent movement to get support from International quarters. Of course, the ideology of hate, xenophobia, etc. remains the same as it was in phase 1.

      • Did you forget “Phase 3” was there since the first occupation of Kashmir and that “Phase 1” only came when “Phase 3” were brutally subdued? Do you also forget “Phase 1” is the language of the current invaders who faced little retaliation from the international quarters? So what inspired the imperialist to opt for “Phase 1”? Muhabbat? Democracy?

  4. Mir Mohd. Aslam correctly and objectively observed: Did “India” rig the elections or was it the local (our own Kashmiri Muslim) leaders of Congress and National Conference, whose workers also were among us? And Muslim United Front that lost the elections was not some “Azadi front” (though some of its members found alternative careers as militants and militant leaders later). They were a coalition of Islamists who sensed that loss of popularity of NC and an election pact between Congress and NC left a vacuum in the opposition that they could fill, so that they become the new elites. Many years later, People Democratic Party did exactly the same – – they even took the election symbol (pen and ink pot) of MUF. Previously, Kashmiri votes used to get divided between NC and Congress, with no other party in sight. Jamaat-i-Islami used to fare pathetically in elections.

    In 1987, Peer Salahuddin, the MUF nominee (later the leader of the JI) was robbed of his electoral victory in Amirakadal Assembly constituency. The circumstantial evidences corraborate this allegation. But the NC nominee who became the education minister in the Dr. Farooq Government used to roam freely while the terrorists (or you say militants) made the life of common men including Kashmiri Muslims miserable in 1989. Were these terrorists accomplices of the NC minister or just wanted an excuse to let the terrorism ride the political and social scenes?

  5. @ EMG: I will respond to your substantive arguments and not empty rhetoric.

    You said: “but the 1987 election also witnessed violence and given the history of occupation since 1947, it ended the veneer of normalcy.”

    I thought 1953-1988 was a happy honey-mooning period. Kindly check with Mr. Obie first. At least, separatists should repeat the same revisionist historical narrative (euphemism for ‘confabulation’). Or is it Narrative-G and Narrative-H, just like the separatist leadership is divided. That police acted as the puppets of the ruling party is also not something unprecedented in the subcontinent. The leaders, the opposition, their workers and supporters and the JK Police were all Kashmiri Muslims (mostly, lest we forget that Pandit minorities also existed before militancy started).

    You said: “The millions I am talking could be found in this poll:”

    This is a poll from a couple of years back, and I know what its findings are. It shows how opinion is divided in the J&K State along regional lines with border areas as special regions with distinct opinions (they want LoC to be converted into International Border), though, to be fair, it does show that 2 YEARS BACK the mood in the valley (not to be mistaken for J&K State) was overwhelmingly in support of Azadi.

    But let us not pull a fast one. Earlier, when you talked of millions, you said, “To say that azadi was not there BEFORE 1989 was to ignore … millions of Kashmiri voices.” To say this and to use as proof the poll of 2010 does not add up. If this a typical separatist ploy of doling out upside-down chronologies, I won’t be surprised. Anyway, the situation has changed even from 2010, which is what is being denied by down and out separatists.

    You said: “Does India come to mind?”

    It depends on whom I am talking to. When I criticize “India”, I point out its shortcoming and don’t dwell on the shortcomings of separatists, because that would dilute the impact. Am I allowed that much freedom, or do I have to curse and abuse “India”, Narendra Modi, Shah Rukh Khan and whatshisname before I am allowed to criticize militants?

    You said: “Did you forget “Phase 3″ was there since the first occupation of Kashmir and that “Phase 1″ only came when “Phase 3″ were brutally subdued? Do you also forget “Phase 1″ is the language of the current invaders who faced little retaliation from the international quarters? So what inspired the imperialist to opt for “Phase 1″? Muhabbat? Democracy?”

    The criticism of democracy, which is very much required, however, is not convincing when it comes from those who support a non-plural ethno-religious violent movement.

    Can we be a little less cryptic and we tell all about the first and the middle and the last occupations and everything in between? If nothing, it will serve as a case study of how the history of oppression is constructed and used by Kashmiri separatists and what similarity this his-story of never-ending grievance has to that of right-wing Hindu extremists.

  6. Hats off to u Mr. Keen , its an astounding piece of art written in words about the true picture of kashmir , i have left kashmir about 22 years back before terrorism started in kashmir , but ur article reminded me of the happy days which I have spent in early years of life when i remember a fight between two neighbouring ladies was sort of happiness to others watching them because everyone knew it will cease in the evening . Hope the normalcy in absolute returns in Kashmir forever…………………………………

    • i agree with vijay zutshiji totally. i too was thinking ” o my goddess, let men like Sualeh multiplY” in fact if all over men and women who have the courage and the audacity to stand up for some basic principles irrespective of their family, community, religion, race, caste etc etc. bonds, the world would be a much better place to live in. asha

  7. Pingback: What Those Agreeing with Manu Joseph Have To Say – An Analysis [Part 3 of 'A Fresh Wave of Thinking in The Kashmir Valley' Series] | Youth Ki Awaaz

  8. Pingback: What Those Who Disagree with Manu Joseph Have to Say [Part 4 of 'A Fresh Wave of Thinking in the Kashmir Valley' Series] | Youth Ki Awaaz

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