Commentary

Speaking truth to power is no Romanticism 

Edward Said throwing stones at an abandoned IDF post near Lebanon.

With summer dripping on our foreheads and vacations hurried into, because of the Burhan Wani and Martyrs Day anniversaries, we decided on a trip to Pahalgam, already brimming with people, local as well as the militarized pilgrims from neighboring India.

A couple of days before the scheduled trip, two of our comrades excused themselves. The reason was funny but prudent: Pahalgam belongs to Islamabad in southern region and lies on the “National Highway”, on which an attack, in a highly securitized precinct, on yatris had taken place (for which the Indian type liberal condemnation brigade here in Kashmir & there in India put its burden on Kashmiris, as if they carried out the attack). This was the argument of the families of these two friends who belong to other regions, which by far are no less “volatile”.

If Pahalgam becomes a no-go zone for non-southern comrades, what about us, who have grown there and who continue to live there? What of the youth who grow up in Sopore, Downtown, Maisuma & many other militarized places? And putting it more appropriately, what about the youth who grow in Kashmir? What about their social conditioning, political socialization and political participation? How are they expected to act and react to daily happenings throughout the valley?

A child of conflict, born in curfew, running for his life and not medals, studying under the nozzle of a Kalashnikov cannot grow up to become a Gandhian and preach nonviolence. Violence becomes but a natural riposte. Decolonization of occupied territories is violent by default. The act of dissent is itself a violent act. The act of speaking truth to power, fearing no brutal consequences, is violent. The act of taking up side of the oppressed, which increases insecurity of life and susceptibility to death, is violent too.

Freedom is not served as a delicious dish on plates. It has to be snatched from the occupier’s hands. The “health of a nation” is incumbent upon the freedom that its people possess. In Kashmir, we have a long history of aspiring for genuine political rights but have witnessed mammoth violence in return. The situation that has dawned upon us is politically the most precise one, not disguised, not be-fooling us for the umpteenth time, not selling us dreams of diplomacy and peaceful resolution.

The primary actors and subjects in this struggle are those laced with arms, braving unfavorable weather conditions, away from their homes, separated from their families and those on the streets, armed with no more than a stone, bringing down the crumbling wall of occupation. Every other form of protest, be it music, literature or films, stands infantilized by the above two tropes of revolutionaries who possess utmost dedication and commitment beyond any measure.

The cultural and literary dissenters are foolish to think that their work does effect a change on its own, in vacuum. Ink has failed in front of swords. Pen has been reduced to a toy which puts resolutions of negligible importance on the United Nations’ papers. This game is of power. The struggle is of power. And in present times, more important than ever, you have to pick up the gun to put another down.

The question here is: whether those who write resistance do have any connection with what happens on ground? The answer is yes. In a valley, where a seven lakh military is hell-bent to eliminate people for the sake of grabbing land, the very act of survival becomes resistance. When people are being killed day in and day out, existence becomes an act of rebellion. A student boycotting his classes or a worker not going to work contribute in ways that make their contributions the most valuable.

That does not mean, however, that they supersede someone who puts his life on the line of fire. The death of a human is the death of humanity, right? But the death of a Kashmiri is the death of that Kashmiri alone. It does not affect his/her relatives or friends. It does not traumatize those who witness the death. It does not feed the psyche of those who read about it in newspapers or watch visuals. It no way matters if somebody reads about militant bodies being charred down. This news is “normal”. Hota rehta hai.

A group of columnists having ‘occupied’ newspapers seem to interpret the society and the colonized state as two separate entities when both of them are one, or at least deeply interconnected. Their response to the pervasive occupational structure is different from that of societal criticism. They fail to understand the deeply penetrative, surveillance mechanism of an occupation that perforates the social, political, cultural and economic fabric of any society. An occupation thrives on such coercive and submissive tactics to muzzle any dissent.

One among them has argued, our case should be segregated from constant harping on tragedies like rapes, fake encounters, arrests but when the people are on an offensive, with whatever meager means they have got, it is termed as “mayhem and mobocracy”. When protests happen for a definite period, it is termed as “seasonal revolution bereft of legitimacy” and when the torch of resistance is burning daily on the streets or in schools, it becomes “an excuse to skip classwork.”

What is “romanticism in resistance writing”? Structurally seeing the discursive strategy that one columnist used is mitigation and intensification where language is modified in a way that it either mitigates or intensifies illocutionary force of what is being said. Resistance writing in Kashmir would simply amount to writing the truth but how does that truth become romantic? For example, let’s take the recent student protests across the Kashmir, if we say protests were not against the excesses of Indian troops against students but were an excuse to stay away from attending classes. This clearly mounts up to vilification of the freedom movement that students have their hearts and minds on.

If the ‘columnist’ thinks that they get provoked by the resistance writers and then come on the ground to fight the Indian state, that would be utterly nonsense, because then you aren’t only building a rusty narrative but illogically run off with the ability of the Kashmiris to understand violence done by Indian state & who come on the streets to fight Indian state. In Kashmir people don’t need our writings to understand the Indian occupation. They see it and live it every single day.

Most importantly a parallel arrangement of writing which can be made possible, where solutions would be offered, always begins with the denouncement of what exists and tearing apart of what the society already engenders. Do we have to write comics after Indian army barges into our houses and flays our families? Did Insha and hundreds of others “get” blinded because they read violent stuff which was “romanticized”? Did Burhan take to arms influenced by “romanticism”? Do Kashmiris lose their lives because death is romanticized and glorified? Is human life so worthless to fall prey to a fascination?

Another important thing to ask is: do these street fighters read what we call resistance writing? Indeed they do not because our writing doesn’t make their fighting but instead their act makes our writing possible. All the resistance writings that happen to come out get relevant only when ground is grabbed hold of. The chaos they give to Indian state spurs creativity in us. Our conscience owes thanksgiving, let alone criticism.

The Indian State’s once “role model” for Kashmiri youth, Shah Faesal, recently in an excerpt rightly pointed out that neutrality is never an option in a war. Theoretically seen neutrality is a dense figment. But this is not new; he had already chosen his side but this time he clarifies it unlike previously when he ridiculously wrote that he is an Indian officer, until Kashmiri Azaadi comes. So have others who sympathize with militants to “buy rations” or became friends with army to get “access to cheap goods in CSD canteens”. This is the flawed bureaucratic understanding of political environs, sometimes deliberate. Rations and canteens become markers of political affiliations. This is such a ludicrously hilarious way of disparaging what people have chosen to and suffered for.

Any kind of counter-violence which mistakenly hits off target takes nanoseconds for a section of people to condemn, essentially following what their liberal peers in India do. When a tussle between an armed cop and unarmed crowd, where the chances of casualties are always highest on the latter’s side, results in an unexpected death of the former, each one of us becomes a “savage”, as per another columnist. Few armed cops have been putting to death our people on streets for so long now but their headmaster still possesses a higher moral compass. A contrary result and our humanity are gone.

An Indian state, that thrives on power, devoid of logic and full of stupidity spilling across its population, gives no damn about the ideas emerging out of Kashmir on newspapers and blogs. A violent state apparatus is only concerned about any sort of counter-violence. On the intellectual level, where most of the celebrity columnists want us to fight this battle, India shall be happy to tackle us. Engaging with a stupid Brahmanical nation harbors nothing but stupidity.

What have conferences and seminars yielded us? What have dialogues given us? It has given us nothing but a permanent political understanding that India is happy to maintain a status quo over this dispute as long as it does not have to fight militancy or control protesting crowds. Moreover, who does publish such “resistance writing”? Not the spaces that these columnists grace. Why? Because it’s a naked truth when spoken that they can’t afford. The latter poses more threat to the military-media complex.

When one of these columnists builds a problematic title like “You bleed, I write”, the writer essentially refers to her and co-columnists’ distance from those who protest and are killed, maimed on the streets. “You bleed” trickily supplies an implication that oppressed automatically bleed to death and where the oppressor is completely pardoned. The columnist, in a very illusive manner, constructs that the civilians in Kashmir aren’t being killed by the Indian troops but get killed by the writers’ provocation who write against the occupation of Indian state in Kashmir.

These columnists resemble the dangerous narrative of liberal Indians like Barkha Dutt, a propagandist journalist who said there was no need to “romanticize” Burhan. They suggest us disowning our people and make them scapegoats. Their ultimate deduction is accepting the same status quo which people in Kashmir have largely challenged besides resisting. These columnists wield their costly pens inside extra comfortable environs, frame their weekly columns out of conversations with young people and consider themselves intellectuals whose work involves infinite tirade of attacks against their own people, despising their own movement and a Gandhian adoption of non-violent means.

Intellectuals don’t sit inside their chambers. Intellectuals pelt stones the way Edward Said did. Intellectuals fight wars the way Eqbal Ahmed did. Intellectuals nurse the wounded in wars the way Frantz Fanon did. When the writer talks of “romanticism”, does ‘the writer’ leave one’s comfort zone for once to enquire about what drives these youth to “bleed”, especially in the plains of southern Kashmir? Is that an un-intellectual thing to do?

This is stripping India naked on the streets of Kashmir and calling their bluff. This is unveiling the liberal masks that some of our own have willingly adorned. This is writing the word “occupation” because Indian rule over Kashmir is one. This is speaking truth to power. Instead of providing any solutions the write-ups which some of these columnists write are highly self-incriminated showing off gloominess and hopelessness and leaving us in irreconcilable difference and that’s not our politics.

What can be more apologetic than being asked to denounce (un)armed counter-violence as a reaction to armed violence done by Indian state?

 

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.

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