by Shafat Maqbool and Faheem Abdul Muneeb
Who remembers the fallen Kelvins in the frozen Vale of ‘paradox’, when the first read of the day is sensational? The Indian Express (IE) piece, a paradox in the Valley January 3, 2019, by two young intellectuals of Kashmir – Dr Shah Faesal and Dr Mehboob Makhdoomi, with known polarity in thoughts coming together, offered warmth in the chilling winter.
The authors, Shah Faesal and Mehboob Makhdoomi are keenly read by the people in Kashmir, with Faesal seeking ‘anchorage with India’, and Makhdomi arguing as “nothing at all can impact the sanctity of the Security Council resolution”. Their divergent and poles-apart views finding a common ground seem to be a case of “Paradoxical intellectualism”. Intellectualism bereft of consistency and full of internal contradictions offers little than more.
Just a couple of years back, while ‘the Vale of paradox’, was simmering in the uprising, the first author, wrote a detailed opinion piece arguing that “Kashmiris have no choice but to go back to the drawing board and see what went wrong”. He has argued that “India is an emerging superpower and it is there to stay”, and hence there is “no need to hope against the might of the state.” He wanted people of Kashmir, ‘aka Azadi Walas’ to abandon the “false hope and macabre heroism” and work towards a “dignified exit” from the conflict. He called upon Kashmiris to forget their aspirations and anchor in the “culturally diverse and politically disparate India.”
Out of blue, in A paradox in the Valley, he agrees to contradict his own wisdom and asks India to “step back and recognise the problem”, and initiate an unconditional dialogue with Hurriyat and others. He also agrees to believe that after a hundred thousand deaths, Kashmiris are not going back and it is not even prudent to ask them to retreat. He observes that surrender will be vehemently resisted. He undertakes “right to self-determination” as the “most important” element in Kashmir politics that must be given space. These views may possibly qualify sedition under Indian political setting, but of course, this is a radical shift in the views of an eminent bureaucrat, who once propounded the “intellectual basis of integration” theory with India.
Faesal has changed his views in the due course of time, as suggests his interview to Rediff on December 18, 2018, saying that he has “personally been extremely hurt by the way Muslims are being treated in India today and as a Kashmiri, his own thinking about India has changed drastically in the last couple of years.” He has acknowledged in his Facebook post that Harvard has changed his views on Kashmir and opened him his own ignorance about the valley. Apparently, his “integration theory” has fallen apart, and that false hope is no more false. Today, he believes that “deep state” is running the politics of Kashmir and an environment of suffocation and siege is the order of the day.
It seems that he has realised that Saffronization is so deep-rooted in India that “secularists” too are saffron coated and that secularist alternative is merely an utopia, given the systematic marginalization of Muslims in post-independent India.
Back home, it seems that he has realised the strength of peoples’ resistance against Doval Doctrine, Operation Calm Down, and Operation All Out, and therefore he has turned to advocate for a democratic space for the right to self-determination, and an unconditional engagement with anti-India streams of politics. He appears to have resolved, what he once called, the conflicting signals, given by Kashmiris to the world by singling out the term, ‘self-determination’ of his Indian Express piece, dated December 28, 2016.
Two years down the line, the major intellectual appeal that indirectly addressed Shah Faesal, though without naming him, came from the person, described as a ‘scholar rebel’ in their Indian Express piece. The AMU scholar Mannan Wani had challenged the intellectual basis of his integration theory. Wani had challenged the “Dignified Exit” narrative by calling for a “Dignified Life”, in his Voice from the Hills.Wani had reciprocated to the ‘false hope’ of Shah Faesal in this piece.
Scholar turned Commander Wani was the only weapon wielder to address the intellectual elite through his articles. It is highly regrettable that people did not respond to his views when he was alive. This debate between a ‘Commander’ and the ‘Commanded’ could have possibly opened new means of engagement and conflict resolution. Wani was killed even before he could get a response from the state or the ‘then’ statists. Lately, his piece finds to have affected the view of his addressee. This will go down as an ugly chapter of Kashmir history that Wani’s pen was not responded by opinion makers in Kashmir or outside, till that was silenced.
The thoughts may possibly have added influence of Boston – the hub of premier universities in the United States – a State which believes in realpolitik – that there are no permanent friends and foes in politics, and that stand on political disputes should be independent of geopolitical equations of the time. The views of US academicians cum strategists with a special interest in Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations too may have influenced the evolutionary thought process.
This brings us to the shift in view of the co-author, Mr Makhdoomi, who in his December 06, 2014 piece, Elections & Self-determination, had argued that Indian intentions have been conveyed to Kashmiris that India does not agree to an arrangement where separatists with their agenda, can come into the electoral fray and be in the assembly, as should have been possible as per the UN. He added that India openly refuses UN resolutions and one cannot expect it to be in its compliance. On existing politics, he had a view as given in his piece published in Huffington Post, on June 19, 2016, that even Chief Ministers, right from 1947, although being Kashmiris, have not and will not be in a position to take Kashmir out of the quagmire in which it is entangled’. In his, Theory of Prototypes and Archetypes, dated February 15, 2015, Makhdoomi argued that the main job description of the local government in J&K is merely to exist, which is what legitimizes Delhi’s viewpoint on Kashmir. The state is run by the Home Ministry. The development, which should have been the main thrust, is just a façade. The little development work, which they do, could have been done even by the governor, had there been no elected government in place.
In A paradox in the Valley, contrary to his belief, he has agreed not to mention UN for resolution or even for internal democracy in Kashmir, instead he has developed a new ‘root of the political problem in Kashmir’, which purportedly is that those “who represent the sentiment do not participate in the electoral process” and “those who participate in the electoral process do not represent the sentiment.” The rationale behind the new root of the political problem in Kashmir has not been explained. He has strangely agreed to call for change and called for empowerment of the elected representatives to speak out about the basic Kashmir issue. Previously, he had called them as merely administrators quoting the UN context. He earlier pleaded for the boycott of the elections where there is no differentiation of development and K-narrative. He considered voting for these elections as a taboo. In A paradox in the Valley, he argues that the “politics of day-to-day governance and the politics of larger aspirations can’t remain separate for long” as this dichotomy is harming Kashmir. Strange enough!
The intellectual submission of Makhdoomi surfaces more when he agrees to avoid talking about UN at all. Contrary, to his view that the genesis of Kashmir politics is important for any debate, and that UN resolutions call Kashmir as ‘dispute’ which can only be resolved through the instrument of right to self-determination, he has agreed to fall short of calling for the implementation of UN resolutions and sought merely permission for public debate on the right to self-determination. This way, he believes that the environment of suffocation and siege can end in Kashmir. Previously, he would always argue that RSD must be implemented, and not debated.
Both the learned scholars have agreed not to touch the militarisation perspective. They have called for “strengthening democracy” even without doing a proper academic analysis that democracy does not sprout under massive military presence, draconian laws, and under lack of access to justice. Democracy and militarisation are antagonistic and cannot co-exist. Expecting fairness and freedom of dissent in the heavily militarised zone and the legitimacy of the assembly elections is paradoxical. The authors have quoted the history of violence in the state and yet stayed quiet on the latest UNHCR report documenting human rights abuses. Strangely, no reference to the UN report and accountability of crimes has been made, and merely an enlargement of the democratic space in Kashmir has been sought.
The paradoxical intellectualism makes us believe that Kashmir needs the “right people” who can do the politics of “day-to-day governance” and “the politics of larger aspirations” together, and thereby advocating a political formulation with new ambitions. This in nutshell, appears to be the purpose of this write-up, as to assume that the “right leaders” at getting ready to take on the political vehicle. Since the Lok Sabha elections are around the corner and have been mentioned in the write-up, who knows that Kashmir may get the ‘right people’ in the leadership in a couple of months?
Away from the paradigm shifts in the thought process, the demand for democracy in Kashmir must be appreciated. The fact remains that this demand comes from all quarters of the Kashmiri political spectrum, and therefore is not new. All political streams have grudges against deep state and absence of freedom for dissent, and they have been asking for more.
A paradox in the Valley will only confuse the Indian public as to what the Kashmiris actually aspire for. When the Kashmir story is started with the crimson-decade that began in 2008, it overlooks the roots of the peoples’ struggle and the states’ response. The learned writers may have advanced or compromised their views to an extent, but their symbiosis is paradoxical. Kashmir is no paradox by its genesis, ignoring its genesis makes it a paradox. If Kashmiris are dying to be heard, India needs to be told the truth.
I conclude with the Facebook post of Dr Makhdoomi, 23 April 2018 saying, “When icons take decades to understand what we already know and have been saying. In the interim, they mislead almost one generation. Can any nation afford it? Don’t get swayed away in the future. Save time and avoid confusion”. Period!
(Authors are students. Shafat Maqbool is a Senior Research Fellow at Aligarh Muslim University. Faheem Abdul Muneeb has Masters in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia. Ideas expressed are personal.)