Parasitical Solidarity?

Mohammad Tahir

Mohammad Tahir

Many Kashmiris, to be specific Muslim Kashmiris, studying in different educational institutions in India are assaulted and harassed every now and then. Such assaults have been frequent — and often organised by the Indian nationalists. The NIT crisis — partly manufactured by the nationalist Indian media — just became a pretext for them to carry out what has always been an organised violence against Muslim Kashmiris staying in Indian cities. The Hindustan Times carried a report (12 April, 2016), documenting at least 30 such attacks on Kashmiris since the last three years. So, in the wake of increased violence against Muslim Kashmiris across India, a “letter of solidarity” was published in media, signed by 29 Kashmiri Pandits, most of them established professionals.

While it is commendable and important that such a moderating letter appeared at a time when vicious anti-Kashmiri Muslim discourse saturates almost all online spaces, but what one must not ignore is the fact that some of the signatories of this “solidarity letter” have been responsible, directly or indirectly, in perpetuating the anti-Kashmiri Muslim discourse, — whose repercussions manifest in violent attacks on Muslim Kashmiris across India. Take the previous letter written in the wake of the JNU episode and signed by 14 signatories of the latest “solidarity letter”. A close analysis of the JNU-related letter indicates that these 14 signatories hold very strong views about the Kashmiri Azadi Movement and Muslim Kashmiris. First, they frame the popular Azadi movement in negative terms by labeling it “communal”, portraying the Kashmiri society as an “Islamised atmosphere” which suppresses others. Then, using vague and unspecific descriptions for the 1990’s killings and displacement of Kashmiri Pandits, they try to implicate the whole Kashmiri society for what happened to Kashmiri Pandits.

After having achieved the effect of portraying Kashmiri Muslims in certain negative terms, they then frame the Kashmiri academics — and by extension this implicates, subtly, all Kashmiri students — in terms of intellectual supporters of “Kalashnikov-advocating separatists.”

Now, when you frame (read demonise) both the Kashmiri Muslim society and its academics (and students) in such a negative way, then the natural outcome is very likely to be violence against them by the Indian nationalists, whose perceptions about Muslim Kashmiris are shaped by such negative descriptions and framings. Though the signatories of the letter position themselves as liberals, who believe in free speech, but in the letter they advocate “weeding out and prosecuting those [“faceless, cowardly Kashmiris”] who indulged in provocative sloganeering.”

This is a mirror image of the Hindutva fascist’s language, not a liberal speaking. Moreover, they also undermined their own liberal position by stating that “If some people in Kashmir see the debates about freedom of expression and the ongoing celebration of JNU’s culture of dissent as an opportunity to ask the “foundational questions” about Kashmir’s disputed political status, we think that is being opportunistic.”

But, what is being obscured here is the fact that the whole JNU episode unfolded on the question of Kashmir in the first place, and as such, discussing Kashmir’s disputed status and other related questions is not “being opportunistic” but a natural response and outcome.

So, what kind of solidarity the letter represents? Is it what Sally Scholz (2008) calls as civic solidarity, which asks state to minimise vulnerabilities of individuals and protect them?  Certainly, it cannot be political solidarity, because for that these signatories need to support Muslim Kashmiri’s struggle against the occupation, but the JNU letter shows to the contrary. Then, is it pseudo-solidarity or what Scholz terms as parasitical solidarity, which is meant “to appear as a form of solidarity only for rhetorical purposes.”


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