Anando Bhakto

In the 1990s the most common window through which Kashmir and its politics was looked at by people in India was perhaps Bollywood, courtesy the Sunny Deol starrer patriotic flicks intervalled by the popular chest-thumping monologue: “Doodh mangoge to kheer denge, Kashmir mangoge to cheer denge” (If you ask for milk, we will give you milkmaid. If you ask for Kashmir, we will tear you apart).

The purpose, whether it was on behalf of cinema or news reports or television footages related to the war in Kashmir, was evident. Kashmir was purportedly sold off to the common man across India as an otherwise happy and peaceful place, it’s overwhelming majority of people willingly in partnership with the republic of India.

The purpose was also to establish that whatever disturbances that surfaced from the early 1980s in the valley and which metamorphosed into a full-scale armed struggle against India in 1990 was manufactured in and imported from Pakistan, and whosever associated with this armed resistance had neither sanction nor approval from the majority of Kashmir’s people.

Two decades down the line not much has changed. And that exhibited itself as reactions to the stories I did in Srinagar. One such story was about the families of slained children, or ‘martyrs’ as they are known here, who succumbed to police atrocities as the youth of Kashmir launched a stone-pelting resistance movements in the three consecutive summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The story, which traced how the loss of human lives impacted the parents of teenaged ‘martyrs’, was based on honest documentation of facts and meticulous case studies. The details and specifics of the killings, the delayed FIRs, and in some cases strong observations of the courts against the police, provided little room to suspect the stories unless one was driven by prejudice.

It surprised that common Indians are still driven by the 1990s Bollywood manufactured prejudice against Kashmir and refuse to look at facts even when they are out on a platter before them. The most common reactions on social networking sites were as follows: (a) “There has to be a sense of association on part of Kashmiris with the Indian nation. Atrocities happen in other places too, but there is not a loss of ‘national’ identity amongst the victims”, (b) “The Kashmiri Muslims drove out the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. Why should there be mourning for their sufferings. As you sow, so you reap”, (c) “Kashmir is India. And, it is non-negotiable”, (iv) “Are you at all an Indian?

How can you be so irresponsible while reporting about your own nation?” No, doubt, the disinformation campaign and also, what I call the lack-of-information campaign has paid dividends to New Delhi abundantly. To elaborate on the ‘lack-of-evidence’ phrase, it reveals itself to me as the total control in writing history or opening it up to people.

Perhaps which is why Indians do not know that India, taking advantage of tribal raid in Uri-Baramulla districts in 1947, according to Marxist historian Perry Anderson, forced Maharaja Hari Singh to sign a declaration of accession in exchange for military support. The document of accession is stated to be brought to Delhi by Krishna Menon from Srinagar on 26 October 1947, when in fact he was still in Delhi. For past 66 years India has failed to produce the document on which Indian state bases its entire claim on Kashmir.

Anderson says it is now over 60 years that India seized the larger part of Kashmir, without the title from colonial power, through a forged document of accession from Maharaja Hari Singh, with an accent of its leading politician, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, and with a promise of a plebiscite to confirm the will of its people.

After securing the region, Pt Nehru, the prime minister of India, made short work of all three by deposing the Maharaja, ditching promise of a referendum and by arresting Sheikh Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir and then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1953 on charges of sedition.

People of India do not know that whether it is the political activism or the militancy of the 1990s or the recent stone-pelting campaigns, all have a valid context defending and defining the political quest which they seek to represent. As for the disinformation campaign, it has become easy task for India to shift blame on Pakistan for her own non-transparent proceedings in Kashmir since 1947.

People of India, courtesy this disinformation campaign, are ignorant that Pakistan has been eager for and willing to a UN mandated plebiscite in Kashmir in the post-1947 era, and it had before the tribal raid in Kashmir, had signed a stand-still agreement with Maharaja Hari Sing over Kashmir, unlike India which refused to sign it – clearly because she had other plans in Kashmir.

I am certainly bemused by charges of ‘not national enough’, which have come as reaction to my stories, but what bemuses me more is how the common man in India does not realise that when he identifies a critical story against the armed forces as ‘anti-national’, he is limiting the very idea of the India nation to a bunch of soldiers carrying lethal weapons.

Can a nation ever be represented by her armed forces alone? A nation is represented by its people, its culture, and in India’s case, its religious diversity that has sustained centuries of onslaught. A nation can never be about herds of uniformed, armed men firing at children and women. It can never be about their arrogance or their excesses done with impunity.

It is time the common man in the Indian mainland realise that when one does a story on armed forces’ excesses, it in no way amounts to defaming one’s nation. It is also time he looked at Kashmir through sources other than Bollywood, hearsay, and mainstream press, which in Kashmir’s case, is neither more responsible nor more authentic than hearsay.

Anando Bhakto, a New Delhi based journalist reporting on democracy and governance issues, is an alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He has authored four all-India cover stories, and interviewed important political dignitaries on matters of policy concern. In 2013, he did MA in Journalism from Cardiff University. 


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