Power of a Label

  • Ajaz Ahmad
  • Publish Date: Jun 11 2017 3:52PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 11 2017 3:52PM
Power of a Label

                                                   Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/KI

‘Islamic terror’ and the movement for Azadi

The toothless crone is a fixture in folk lore and fairy tales, an archetypal representation of the evil witch. In ancient times – and it is not that the practice is altogether obsolete even today – you could easily brand a helpless, age-ravaged, ugly and lonely woman as a witch and get her lynched or burnt by panic-enraged mobs. These worked up crowds, comprising of ordinary people who might have been kind and gentle in their normal life, would have no qualms  about subjecting a poor old woman to a violent death and would even feel smug and self-righteous rather than remorseful about it.

The very state of ‘toothlessness’ of the toothless crone  which should have told the tale of her helplessness and harmlessness became entrenched in popular imagination and consequently even literature as a picture of evil! This goes to demonstrate the power of a label. Indeed the easiest way to subject  someone or something to complete damnation is to brand that someone or something as a threat. Fuelled by the instinct of self-preservation fear can be a powerful motivating factor and men who have wielded power or aspired to do so have always known this. Fear is thus a valuable resource for those who want to hold sway over other people.

Hatred, the illegitimate offspring of fear sired by ruthless political manipulation, provides the ammunition to achieve this end. After the collapse of the communist bloc there was a vacuum in terms of the mythical ‘Enemy’ which is a diabolical creation of powerful rulers, being a valuable adjunct in their strategy to ensure complete control over the masses over whom they rule. It took these powerful rulers very little time to fill this vacuum with a new and even more sinister enemy, the so-called ‘Islamic terror’. Genuine struggles kept in a state of permanent ferment and fanatic mutants spawned by these genuine struggles provided ready-made material for creating a new mythical monster. 

The mindless mayhem wreaked by these outfits turned into an investment for powerful nations who want to control the world and its resources. They reaped rich dividends out of this investment

as it enabled them to perpetrate atrocities, injustices and plunder of far greater magnitude than the pitiful desperados ever could. And all this came at little or no cost and in fact instead of taking away from these powerful nations it invested them with even more virtue and self-righteousness. It was as if in a bizarre mutation of the Doctrine  of Salvation, the subversive outfits had decided to take the sins of these powerful nations upon themselves, relieving them from the burden of  guilt and accountability! It has been the misfortune of the  beautiful region of Kashmir to be a loose string left untied and in fact tangled-up by the departing British.  Kashmir is internationally recognised as a disputed region and numerous resolutions of the UN are a testimony to this fact. That the issue has been rozen and then conveniently forgotten cannot belie the fact that it continues to be a festering sore. Denying this issue has resulted in a denial of the genuine rights and aspirations of the unfortunate inhabitants of this region.  The Kashmiri people continue to be the victims of a colossal injustice that has kept them politically deprived and affected all aspects of their life including keeping them economically backward. All devices of oppression, ranging from political manipulation in the guise of a sham democracy to brute military force have been used to keep the Kashmiri people subjugated.  It is the fate of a victim to struggle against the yoke of the oppressor and Kashmir has been doing that since seven decades. The struggle however has not even been able to gain the recognition due  to it not to talk of support. The feeble media presence it manages is easily drowned out by the considerably more powerful media resources of the oppressor. Consequently the struggle has not been able to move beyond a self-destructive sulk manifesting as shutdowns and hartals. 

Notwithstanding its brief truck with armed rebellion and continuing sporadic incidents of same, Kashmir’s ineffectual struggle for its political aspirations has been a largely peaceful one. The reprisals

however have been brutal and are becoming increasingly so. It is not stopping at that either. Having tried every trick in the book to quell the struggle of the Kashmiri people New Delhi has now chosen a yet more deadly weapon in an attempt to deal a fatal blow to it. It is taking the readymade template of ‘Islamic terror’ and morphing it with Kashmir’s struggle for a just political settlement. Considering the hypersensitivity that the world has with regard to ‘Islamic terror’ this seems to be an attempt at choking the struggle even further. It will also give New Delhi a freer hand to deal with a recalcitrant struggle which rather than dying down  seems to be increasing in direct proportion to the oppressive measures against it. 

In the days ahead ‘toothless crone’ might very well become a metaphor for Kashmir’s struggle, a metaphor  for its helplessness as well as its being condemned in spite of being a victim rather than a  perpetrator.