Dibyesh Anand

From Kafila, “We Are All Kashmiris! Or at Least Should Be!

“Democracy is as much an idea, as it is a political system. An idea for which millions have given life and even more have been killed. When non-democratic or quasi-democratic states suppress people, it is a shame, but when established democracies kill their own citizens for exercising their legitimate right to protest, it is a bigger tragedy. Bigger because it is not only men and women who die, but also the hope that democracy offers a humane and representative form of government at least for its own people.

This is the hope that is dying in the world’s largest democracy as the security forces continue to kill unarmed protestors every day for the last two months in Indian controlled Kashmir. Till date, more than a hundred, mostly young men and children, have been killed by those who are supposed to be the protectors. Evidence of torture, gratuitous killings, and sheer brutal dehumanisation of ordinary people are in abundance and yet the Indian state responds by threatening action against those who reveal the evidence and against forums (such as facebook, youtube) that allow these to be made public. There is no sense of humility, regret or introspection. No promise of impartial inquiry and strict punishment for the law-enforcers who kill and maim with impunity. Not even A of an apology.

Taking up guns is always an option. But for the last few years Kashmiris have remained steadfast in trying to keep their movement for self-determination confined to civil disobedience. With all the killings by the Indian security forces, Kashmiris have mostly refused to fall into the trap being set for them – to act violently so that they can be labelled insurgents and terrorists. Indian state seems to prefer the language of violence – the security mindset can fight violent insurgency and Islamic jihad. It feels frustrated when Kashmiris refuse to conform to the image of Islamic terrorists because India’s politics of violence is exposed for the whole world to witness. And yet, the world remains mute.”

“Democracy is not about choosing between political parties. It is the right to dissent without fear, right to express different views and be heard. Democracy is also about responsibility to fight for the rights of the others, especially if these rights are being denied in the name of our security. What Indians accept as norm (open society, right of assembly) is an exception in Kashmir (and in the restive North East regions); what Indians see as exceptional (extrajudicial killings, torture, rape by security forces with impunity) is the norm as special laws protect armed forces from scrutiny. Accountability of the coercive arms of the state is absent here and still Indian leaders harp on about Kashmir as an ‘integral’ part. If Kashmir is indeed integral, why force their lives under special draconian laws?”

“That Kashmiris are alienated is undisputed, that the Indian democracy has failed them is for all to see. However, Indians still have a slim opportunity to change this – but only if public in the country remind the Indian government that humanity and justice, not intolerance and control, should be the driving force behind a solution to the impasse. Azaadi, the call for freedom by Kashmiris, may still have room for accommodation with India if the Indians show that they care. If they rise up and express solidarity with fellow-humans in Kashmir and say ‘No, Not in Our Names’.”

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