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We, the bad guys

You don’t have to be a Kashmiri pundit to realise that a new generation of Kashmiris are thrashing out against a high-handed ‘shut up or we shoot’ force, writes Indrajit Hazra.

columns Updated: Mar 07, 2011 09:33 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Oh, it’s not nice to be treated like a perpetrator. Especially when you’ve been weaned on tales of you being the victim. If the Shoah (Holocaust) has provided the Jews a protective sheath against any guilt for the Nakba (Catastrophe) of the Palestinians, it would be fair to say that India — victim of colonialism, victim of global capitalism, victim of terrorism, victim of plain old bad luck — is gobsmacked to even think that it could be the bad guy.

Right on top of every Kashmir pundit’s priority of worries is the concern that he may be seen as naïve. So in a perpetual attempt to not be caught as a simpleton, we hear him say things that make the Kashmir problem complex. The very term ‘Kashmir problem’ itself is a giveaway. The pundits will yank things back to 1947, when the monarch of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh hastily gave into Nehru-Patel’s Princely State stamp-collecting spree to protect his independent kingdom from Yusufzai raiders sent by Pakistan to expand its two-nation theory eastwards into Muslim-majority Kashmir. The pundits will talk about Pakistan, the anachronistic diplospeak of ‘plebiscite’, the need or not for ‘tripartite talks’, the Simla Accord, Pakistan, terrorism, Kargil, the Agra summit, ‘vested interests’ and, for good measure, more Pakistan.

But never in their living daylights are they able to realise the wisdom of that old chestnut of William of Occam: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. And in the context of what’s happening in Sopore, Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley since July, the simplest explanation — a.k.a. a simple observation — is: people are protesting against police forces killing people who are protesting against police forces killing people who...

This isn’t a chicken-and-egg cycle. It’s a variation of Newton’s third law of motion: every police action of death or disappearance has an opposite, if hardly equal, reaction of stones hurled at policeman and violent mobs beating them up and burning down police stations.

It’s difficult to think that the stones being hurled at security personnel have been smuggled in from Pakistan or that their hurlers, overwhelmingly teenagers but most visibly younger kids, are all being mobilised or goaded on by nefarious agents of the ISI. When you see the corpse of an eight-year-old boy, killed in a stampede caused by police firing on protestors, wrapped in white funereal cloth being carried by crowds, you come to either of the two conclusions: that the people who think that the policemen and their bosses are the victims must be mad; or, that by simply hurling stones at those who have, since July 11, regularly killed civilians — just to underline the fact that these people haven’t yet morphed into ‘terrorists’ or ‘insurgents’ — Kashmiris are mad to have stopped at stone-throwing, police-beating and burning down police stations. We can think of doing those kind of things in helpless anger when stuck in bad traffic.

You don’t have to be a Kashmiri pundit to realise that a new generation of Kashmiris are thrashing out against a high-handed ‘shut up or we shoot’ force. To think that all this is being orchestrated by a Geelani or an Alam or an Andrabi is like believing that the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in 80s Afghanistan were working solely for an American purpose. It’s one thing to make hay while the sun shines and quite another to be the sun shining.

You do have to be a proverbial Kashmiri pundit to figure out why on earth New Delhi is not pulling out of the Valley. But surely you don’t have to be the (strangely quiet?) prime minister to know who are the victims here. A week away from India’s Independence Day and 79 days away from Jammu and Kashmir’s Dependence Day (J&K acceded to India on October 26, 1947), young Kashmiris with forceful and angry bowling actions don’t much care for history like they did some 20 years ago. All they care for is not one of their own to be shot dead by what any fool can see to be an occupying force.