Democracy is for People, Pellet Guns for a Colony

  • Muhammad Faysal
  • Publish Date: Jan 30 2017 7:51PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 30 2017 7:53PM
Democracy is for People, Pellet Guns for a Colony

                                                       Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/ KI

Hence the difference between the state’s tackling of Kashmir uprising and the Jallikatu protests

 

Last summer Kashmir had risen for its fourth major uprising since 2008. The state responded to peaceful rallies and assemblies with a predictable indiscriminate force in the form of bullets and pellets. The very first day over 24 people were massacred, and it didn’t stop until the winter set in. 

While the world was witnessing the atrocities real-time over the internet, Indian media sent its parachute journalists into the valley. Some astute practitioners of public relations in the garb of journalists to rescue the collapsing statist narrative. The reporting was dismissive of the local narrative and aspirations of self-determination. People were subjected to relentless dehumanisation.  Any messages of the Kashmiri journalists, analysts and bloggers in calling out the Indian atrocities were seen as ‘delusional’. Often the critique of such statements by the Indian journalists sitting in TV studios was to count their years of experience reporting in Kashmir. Those who lived through what the people call an occupation were accused of making up their experiences.

Often the Indian journalists have a neo colonial savior complex to take on bigotry of other politicians in the studio and internet. In this complex what happens is that the person who belongs to neo-colonial system, defends them from dehumanisation while refusing to acknowledge their privileged prejudice. It is this complex that had created scores of self proclaimed experts who declare themselves as well wishers of the Kashmiris. Unknowingly they engage in misrepresentation of the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Forgetting that Kashmiris can speak for themselves and very eloquently. 

They  question why the Indian state refuses to use pellets and live bullets in the earlier Jat agitation in India. This is not a question that is to be consistently repeated into rhetoric. But it is a validation of privilege in a neo-colonial state with its treatment of its colonies. 

The same question of disparity in weapons used for protests, were asked by certain eminent journalists who instead of acknowledging their privilege asked the self-explanatory answer to the Indian public. This happened when the bull-taming tradition called ‘Jallikatu’ created a new uproar over the cultural identity of the Tamils. The juxtaposition of protests for protection of cultural identity with that of a promised self determination is fundamentally flawed.

The Indian anchors especially Zakka Jacob, the anchor of TV 18 prime time news show, has dived into the protests, defending their right to assembly in Chennai.  In fact he has taken a step ahead to interpret the local narrative into English for a larger audience. During the Kashmir uprising, the anchor as if had taken a pledge to defeat the local narrative. From the invisible girlfriend of Burhan Wani, to the protests being engineered by Pakistan, to drugs and five percent people narrative, it was a cat-mouse chase to get the biggest TRP albeit at the cost of dehumanization of Kashmiris.

While the people of Kashmir were calling in unison for Azadi, the experts in India had devalued it to unemployment, bad governance and radical Islam. A word that is universal for freedom.  But it doesn’t suit the apologist narrative so it has to be broken down until it becomes nothing what the protests are about.

Unarmed Kashmir activists have been characterized as ‘terrorists’ ‘terrorist-sympathisers’ ‘traitors’ ‘Pakistanis’ by journalists, officials, parliamentarians and the law-enforcement agencies. Add to that, the protesters who respond with rocks (a centuries old resistance tactic) after being subjected to indiscriminate force are called ‘jihadists’ ‘terrorists’ etc. These terms are thrown around liberally, to justify the crimes of the state against the people. That also leads to a misinformation among the Indian public, who are blinded by the logic of nationalism being protecting by killing and maiming of protesters.

Back this week,  eminent journalists like Shekhar Gupta and Harinder Baweja raised the debate over usage of weapons in protests in Tamil Nadu. The comparison was made with Kashmir, again a fundamentally flawed argumentation. While Tamils are demanding the protection of their cultural identity, or Jats demanding a caste quota, people of Kashmir for seven decades have been demanding a right to self determination.

The focus of these journalist statements was the notorious pellet guns that have created a dead eye epidemic as New York Times put it. Despite the global campaign by rights groups and civil societies in India, the pellet guns are still in use. The government has made no move to ban the already illegal weapon. While  Jammu and Kashmir High Court has deemed it illegal for animals, the use against human beings continues.

The difference between the use of force in India and in Kashmir, is the fact that India sees Kashmir as a part of its territory. A neocolonial obsession with a territory whose majority population is hostile to it. To contain the hostility, the use of military force is necessary. If India recalls its military  from Kashmir, its institutions, which are  subservient to its military complex, would dismantle in no time. .

Thus any reaction to the status quo is met with a brute force. Not just with guns and bullets but by establishing a narrative that justifies the crimes against the local populace. It is also strengthened by inhumane laws that provide it legal immunity. The legislators are helpless because they neither have the will or the power to take on the military complex.

This has resulted in criminalisation of protests. The democracy that thrives on right to assembly and right to protest fails here. Any protest since the last decade has been met with brute force. Be it the pro independence protests or protests by employees or even by legislators. The response is the same – brute force.

There is no accountability over the use of such brute force. The only word that is used to douse the fire is a probe. There has been no punishment for any crimes committed by Indian forces in Kashmir over the last two decades especially since the mass street uprisings erupted since 2008. The forces stationed in the valley know that any action that causes death or maims any person will not result in any punishment. Hence the cycle of violence continues.

Finally, the fact is that there’re two different responses to protests because it’s the nature of the state to function differently. Democracy for its people and military force for its colony. It’s time for the people of India to not ask the whys but to acknowledge it.

Muhammad Faysal  is a blogger and a storyteller. He is the co-founder of the Lost Kashmiri History Project and the digital content editor of withkashmir.com. You can follow him at @_Faysal