Mohamad Junaid

From Pulse Media: “Trapped within Hindu Nationalist Imagination

“On 26 January 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, after travelling by road all the way from the southern tip of India, was airlifted from Jammu to the heart of Srinagar where he half-raised the Indian flag near historic Lal Chowk. All of Kashmir was put under severe curfew, and the army was given shoot-at-sight orders. Throughout the day soldiers shot dead more than a dozen Kashmiris in the streets of Srinagar. Over the previous two years, the Indian government had unleashed a reign of terror on the people, with massacre upon massacre of unarmed protestors dotting Kashmir’s timeline. Joshi’s Ekta Yatra (Unity March), protected and provided of full support by the Indian government, was an important reminder of the nature of the Indian state and the relationship it sought with the people of Kashmir. The event was designed to put on display the majoritarian character of Indian nationhood, and line up power of the state behind it to send barely coded messages to audiences in India and in Kashmir.”

“On the other hand, Kashmiris had real political choices. The order of mass politics in British India and in Kashmir was different from the beginning. When the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League took an anti-colonial stance, Kashmiris focused exclusively on fighting for the end of their oppression at the hands of the Hindu monarch. Despite British protection to Dogra rule, Kashmiris did not connect their struggle, in discourse or in deed, with the anti-colonial struggles in the Indian subcontinent. Sheikh Abdullah, the predominant leader of Kashmiris, envisioned an independent state of Kashmir, a vision that only reflected a historically ingrained sense of Kashmir as a realm of its own. The National Conference’s “New Kashmir” document had independence as one of its chief goals. In fact, its entire socio-economic and progressive political program was intrinsically linked to Kashmir as a separate state.”

“In annexing Kashmir, Indian leaders put aside their progressive anti-colonialism, and pursued a policy that stood in direct confrontation with the goals of struggling Kashmiris. Nehru’s professed derision for princes and despots proved facile in Kashmir in this first real test of his commitment to anti-colonialism and democratic values. His decision to urge the discredited and runaway Dogra ruler to sign the imperial Instrument of Accession, and then accept it, was a defeat for the oppressed Kashmiris who had, with great sacrifices, forced the Dogra ruler out. By recognizing the authority of the Dogra ruler, Indian sovereignty over Kashmir simply replaced the sovereignty enshrined in the Dogra maharaja. But along with that sovereignty, India inherited Dogra rule’s illegitimacy as well. The Indian condition of accession before intervention in Kashmir proved disastrous for Kashmiris. It was not that India couldn’t have intervened without the accession of Kashmir. It has done so a number of times since, in East Pakistan, in Jaffna.”

“From the beginning, the Indian state’s claim over Kashmir consisted of a breach of democratic principles, and stood in direct contrast to the spirit of its own Constitution. India’s claim was based on an implicit acceptance of the Hindu nationalist notion of Indian sovereign territoriality. Kashmir, in the view of Hindu nationalists, was an “integral” part, or an “atoot ang” (inseparable body part), of Mother India. (As was Pakistan. That is why India’s Hindu leaders saw Partition of the subcontinent as a tragedy; not because it divided people, but because it divided the organically united territory of the living goddess.) Kashmir was imagined as India’s crown, not so much a “secular crown” as we are led to believe, but an actual crown of Bharat Mata’s image superimposed on the map of India. This Hindu nationalist view is intrinsically arrogant and violent because it denies the histories and unique experiences of Kashmiris. It didn’t matter, for instance, that Bharat Mata’s symbolic, if not militant, equivalent in Kashmir was “Mouj Kasheer,” representing a separate Kashmiri nationhood.”

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