A.G. Noorani

From Frontline: “First Steps

“In 2008, M.K. Narayanan imposed a crackdown in Kashmir on the eve of a peaceful March. Jammu protesters were handled with kid gloves. One must grasp realistically the fears that have gripped Indian leaders and inspire their outrageous conduct. The fear is that if the people are allowed to come out on the streets and the cries of “azadi” rent the air, what will happen to our atoot ang (integral part)?

The fear is too puerile for words. It is destructive of the very aim the leaders have in mind. Amusingly, in recent years, some of our columnists and TV anchors and analysts have begun to question what “azadi” means. As if they do not know. Evidently, they do not wish to know that in the Kashmiri context, it means secession from the Union, pure and simple. And in this the pro-Pakistanis and the supporters of independence are united. No one cares to think of a constructive response which will spell out “azadi” within the Indian Union by an accord with Pakistan which covers West Kashmir as well. The only response New Delhi can think of is suppression of the march, if need be, by killing the young, the women and the unarmed protester. What has it achieved?

Already memories are scarred. The Chief Minister on whose watch all this has happened is damaged goods; the shelf life of his father, the flamboyant Farooq Abdullah, expired long ago. Neither can deliver the people to the Union, still less the use of force.

People throw stones because their peaceful march is obstructed, because they resent the onerous presence of the forces and hate their men who harass them daily and behave rudely. Suppression only aggravates the resentment. As Massarat Alam told Muzamil Zaleel of The Indian Express (August 29): “We want peaceful protests…. The problem is that they (the security forces) don’t let people protest. They impose curfew and restrictions. They open fire straight at people. Then it becomes difficult to control passions and people rebel by throwing stones…. If the (government) allows protests I can vouch for the fact that nobody will throw stones.”

As Edmund Burke said in the House of Commons on April 19, 1774: “First, Sir, permit me to observe that the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.”

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