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The Ambiguous Identity of a Kashmir

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Published in the Kashmir Times on September 7, 2010

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The Ambiguous Identity of a Kashmir

  1. 1. Welcome to Kashmir Times 07/09/10 8:29 PM Welcome to Kashmir Times Online Edition | Opinion COLUMN The ambiguous identity of a Kashmiri Dr. Nyla Ali Khan The ambiguous identity of a Kashmiri is one that some of us have had to live with for a while now. Indian nationalists are quick to claim their intractable hold on Kashmirirs; Pakistani nationalists are just as quick to claim to speak for Kashmiris. Kashmir, despite having a real internal history and a place in the world, is suppressed by its positioning in the Indo-Pak conflict. Mainstream Kashmiri politicians culpably reiterate that “Kashmir is an integral part of India,” in the process negating the people’s voices and real existence. Separatists are just as quick to scrap that assertion with their vociferous calls for hartal, in the process sidelining the educational and psychological needs of the younger generation. New Delhi in its signature style is straddling the fence by underlining the need for “dialogue” and “quiet diplomacy” but not taking any substantive measures to “talk” to Kashmiris. The profundity of memories and mourning of Kashmiris cannot be relegated to the background in official accounts of history. The aggressive statements, delusions of grandeur, melodramatic performances, and witty quips of Kashmiri mainstream politicians as well as separatist leaders have a short-lived glory and do nothing to alleviate the pain of anxious parents, destitute widows, bereaved mothers, vulnerable orphans, educated people unable to make a decent living. Minority voices of Kashmiris that express dissension cannot be silenced for ever. Indian and Pakistani nationalisms have sought to mould collective subjectivities by the evocation of pan-national religious affinities resulting in the stifling of minority voices that express divergent political, social, and cultural opinions. The unitary concept of nationalism that the nation-states of India and Pakistan subscribe to challenges the basic principle that the nation was founded on, namely, democracy. In the enthusiasm to nurture this nationalist project, the political autonomy endowed on J & K by the constitutional provisions of India should not be eroded. In October 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India reinforced the stipulation that New Delhi’s jurisdiction in the state would remain limited to the categories of defence, foreign affairs, and communications, as underlined in the Instrument of Accession. This stipulation was provisional and its final status would be decided upon the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Subsequent to India acquiring the status of a republic in 1950, this constitutional provision enabled the incorporation of Article 370 into the Indian Constitution, which ratified the autonomous status of J & K within the Indian Union. Article 370 stipulates that New Delhi can legislate on the subjects of defense, foreign affairs, and communications only in just and equitable consultation with the government of the state of J & K, and can intervene on other subjects only with the consent of the J & K State Assembly. In contravention of the autonomy of J & K, two highly federalist statutes of the Indian Constitution, Articles 356 and 357, were enacted in J & K in 1964. These draconian articles enabled the central government to autocratically dismiss democratically elected state governments if it perceived a dismantling of the law and order machinery. A constitutional order implementing these statutes was decreed by New Delhi. In the 1990s and the 2000s the military has carte blanche under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act of 1978 and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities [Prevention] Act of 1987. “Official” accounts of the insurgency in Kashmir and state sponsored repression discount narratives that do not contribute to the deepening breach caused by the communalisation of the Kashmir issue and the zeal of Indian and Pakistani nationalism, according to which “Kashmir is unquestionably an integral part of India,” or any people’s movement in Kashmir is led by “anti-national militants,” or “Pakistan is sincere in its attempts to resolve the Kashmir conundrum” leaves out the politics of the people as was done in official accounts of the Partition of India (Guha 1). Where are the genuine traumas and tribulations of the people in these accounts? Do we hear of the misery of a father who feels emasculated because he cannot fend for his family? Do we sense the anxiety of parents who are painfully aware that the productive years of their child are going by the wayside while the rest of the world is making strides? Do we hear the wailing of a tender hearted mother whose son was waiting to plunge into life but has now been silenced by militarisation? Do we see the apathy of a young educated person who thought the world was his/ her oyster but now has nothing to look forward to? Are we aware of the frustration of politically savvy people whose opinions are made short shrift of by the powers that be? Do we understand the isolation of cultural and educational institutions? Do we see the erosion of the identity of people whose votes count but whose needs and opinions are overlooked? Do we see the legitimacy of peaceful protests and the illegitimacy of firing at unarmed protestors? The discourse of nationalism affects to make sense of the absurd loss of life that http://kashmirtimes.com/ Page 1 of 3
  2. 2. Welcome to Kashmir Times 07/09/10 8:29 PM occurs. Human knowledge, however, is always tentative and arbitrary. We can learn to cross the frontiers of culture, nationality, language, and citizenship in order to make humanist responses to the belligerence of military powers and the ensuing human rights violations. Indian nationalism deploys the idea of citizenship and fraternity that unifies the entire community in the pursuit of a common goal. In order to assert itself a nation-state needs to draw clearly etched borders so it can define itself in opposition to other nations. But the entrenched border between India and Pakistan erases a shared past. Bloody manoeuvers to destabilise the British Raj were employed by the Muslims as well as the Hindus of colonial India in a joint effort to oust the oppressor. The composite culture constructed by the two communities was an inherent part of pre-colonial India as well, but is expunged by Indian nationalists and Pakistani nationalists in their attempts to disseminate the unitary discourse of nationalism. This militant nationalism does not evolve into critical consciousness: an awareness that unless national consciousness transforms into social consciousness, so-called “liberation” would merely be a continuation of imperialism (Said 323). The need of the day is for Indian civil society as well as the civil society in J & K to come forward and foreground rational and logical solutions to the political, psychological, cultural, economic, and educational paralysis in J & K without toeing the line of ultra right-wing nationalism. Repressive statutes, brutal acts, a corrupt political and bureaucratic infrastructure, pigeonholing Kashmiris as “ignorant insurgents,” fomenting dissension within the ranks of the people can only undermine the human aspect of the Kashmir issue which no well-thinking, rational person, Indian or Pakistani nationalist should tolerate. *(Grand-daughter of Sheikh Abdullah, Nyla Ali Khan is Assistant Professor, Department of English in University of Nebraska, Kearney, USA). Bowling a doosra..! Robert Clements “Hello this is a call from the detectives of Scotland Yard! Are we talking to the three tainted Pakistani cricketers?” “Yes,” they whisper, “We are together in this interrogation room.” “Good, now you will be questioned thoroughly by administrative members of the cricket board of a neighbouring country!” “Why are we being questioned by them?” “Because they feel they know the right questions, for you to reveal all!” And the Pak players wait uneasily while the administrators of the neighbouring country, one of them being a minister enter. “What currency did you accept the bribe in?” asks the minister. “Pounds, dollars and euros!” “Would they be willing to pay in rupees?” “We could talk to them!” “How were you planning to take the money back?” “In plastic bags!” “Would there be a problem in using cloth bags?” “Why?” “Because plastic bags are banned in our country!” “We can find out for you.” “Do you have the phone numbers of all the bookies who are willing to fix each match?” “Yes!” “How much for the list?” “Will you pay here?” “Yes!” “Thank you!” “Would these bookies transfer the cash to our Swiss accounts if they had to?” “We could ask them!” “You were paid a fixed amount to bowl a no ball at a prescribed over right?” “Yes!” “Could we work out a rate where each ball of the match can be fixed?” “I am sure that can be worked out!” “Why did you do this deal in a hotel bedroom?” “Why not?” “Would they be willing to do it our way; sitting across a table and passing the money under the table, which is how everything is done in our country?” “We could talk to them!” “Thank you!” And the cricket administrators from the neighbouring country, one of whom is a minister leave the Pak players and go outside, “Have they revealed all?” ask the members of the Scotland Yard. “Yes, absolutely!” say the administrators from the neighbouring country one of http://kashmirtimes.com/ Page 2 of 3

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