M. A. Sofi
The spectacular failure of the strategy of setting such a great score by the tools of subjugation that are, for the most part, scarcely noticeable as such has never been hammered home with such punch and finality as in the spectacle involving the ignoble loss of face of the U.S in Afghanistan. These include such tools as of intimidation, immiseration and victimisation followed by a blatant violation of the human rights and brutalisation of the population through the excessive use of weapons of violence and destruction. Closer home, for all one knows, an invincible faith in the use of force involving those who are ruling the roost, to tame and subordinate a recalcitrant population into submission through a similar resort to the use of excessive force has not achieved much. If anything, what indeed it has achieved is to further alienate and strengthen the will and resolve of the people of Kashmir to continue to stand up to their tormentors rather than eat the humble pie and to resign themselves to their fate. Which is why the State is mulling other devious strategies to crush the sentiment in Kashmir in pursuit of which the latest weapon of disempowerment of Kashmiris is already beginning to be visible in the shape of the ‘Aparthied’ that, history cautions us, is fated to meet the same end as those nations in the past that had employed the stratagem of discriminating against their people on considerations of colour, caste, creed or religion.
Let us quickly hark back to the developments preceding and following the Great Betrayal of August 5th, 2019 in Kashmir when a whole lot of my otherwise well-meaning friends, colleagues and well-wishers from mainland India were frantically and constantly trying to reach out in order to commiserate, empathise and reassure me, saying that “all was going to be well in Kashmir very soon; don’t you worry, the abrogation of Article 370 is going to usher in a new dawn of joy, happiness, progress, prosperity and dignity to Kashmiris”. Not as a sceptic but as one who I must declare, has his feet firmly on the ground in Kashmir and who is secure in the thought of knowing this place more than those who had masterminded the Aug.5th misadventure, I had serious reservations about the reassurances of my kind friends. Which is why, the current scenario as it obtains more than two years after that massive perfidy was committed in Kashmir on Aug.5th doesn’t inspire hope or portend good tidings to the people of Kashmir. This together with other factors provide reason enough for those like this author to remain deeply sceptical – even pessimistic – about the intentions behind that misadventure which, as is common knowledge, derive more from a mindset intoxicated by feelings of bile and vindictiveness than from a genuine desire to get things right that would have entailed getting to the root of the problem and resolving it after due diligence in accordance with the law of the land in concert with the international covenant governing the resolution of conflicts.
Back to the main theme of this essay, the point is that the futility and the monumental failure of the use of force and violence being committed in Kashmir have led to the Indian political establishment to think of new ways of reining in the sheer fury of the sentiment in Kashmir against those who seem to privilege occupying the land over winning the hearts of Kashmiris. No wonder, the people here are now witnessing and experiencing something akin to what had led to the white racists in S. Africa eat the dust and shut shop after the people there had risen in revolt to challenge and dislodge them from power. Closer home, if the endless state- sponsored violence has been used by the State to suppress the sentiment, and to use that to prevent a revolt against it being precipitated in Kashmir while resorting to the most draconian measures to achieve that, this latest case of the Aparthied shall achieve exactly the opposite!
The reference is to a recent but extremely unsavoury development involving local Kashmiris being denied entry including to the only 5-star hotel in Srinagar – the Grand Lalit Palace, the erstwhile Grand Oberoi Palace of Kashmir.
The other day, a newly married couple in my family accompanied by some family members had gone out for dinner to the same Grand Lalit Palace. As they had entered the restaurant lounge to relax, unwind, spend some good time and treat themselves to dinner there, the manager at the reception desk goes to the table and tells them rather tersely, and even rudely:
“NO KASHMIRIS ARE ALLOWED INSIDE THE RESTAURANT!!!”
For those like me and millions of Kashmiris, that was a bolt from the blue and disgusting to the core, redolent as it was of a regressive, retrograde, primitive tribal culture of yore where courtesy and civilised behaviour had no place in the then scheme of things. Having thus set a cat among the pigeons, what followed thereafter was even more disgusting. The normal reaction of a guest who was subjected to such indignity and humiliation at the hotel would have been for him to step backwards and head elsewhere to unwind and indulge himself there. But the party in question chose to do otherwise: to question the wisdom behind issuance of the patently outrageous directive and to plead that the rule was flawed and plainly outlandish and that the management had no business no issue such insane diktats which were in flagrant violation of the provisions of the “sacred constitution”. However, as was to be expected, the management was unimpressed. This led to the elder member of the group look for his contacts in the Administrat-ion to draw their attention to this ghastly spectacle. The result was that soon thereafter a senior official of the hotel management appeared on the scene to assuage the guests, who were served the belated dinner though, something that should have been the case right in the beginning without the avoidable fuss.
Now what does all that add up to? As should be clear, it doesn’t look like that such outlandish diktats are always issued in black and white, even as they seem to be part of a well- designed but deeply devious ploy of subjecting the people of Kashmir to insult, indignity and injustice by adopting such measures as part of an unspoken, unwritten convention. That’s even worse given that a formal legislation of these diabolical measures would have attracted both national and international outcry. An idea of irony and the utter stupidity of this outrageous rebuff to the guests at the reception desk may be had from the realisation that the guests who were on the receiving end of that undeserved treatment at the hotel have been permanent, genuine residents of Kashmir who have been living here for thousands of years and who didn’t have to worm their way into Kashmir by stealth as a ‘borrowed state domicile’, as has been the case with hundreds of thousands of non-Kashmiris who have been insidiously pushed into Kashmir to claim the state domicile here for reasons that reek of ulterior motives, utter malice and malevolence of those in power. The irony is made starker by the fact that those who had the cheek to resort to this insanity inside the hotel are neither the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir nor have the rightful ownership of the land which has been merely leased out to the hotel, and only for a specific period of time.
The main takeaway of the above discussion is that these and such other forms of crimes against humanity have been going on here for a long, very long time. It’s no brainer to conclude that it’s these and similar acts of repression that have the potential to unleash an upheaval in Kashmir of the kind that was witnessed in South Africa and that could be far more elemental in its sweep and fury than that has been going on here since 1989 against the enemies of democracy and human dignity. One wonders why is it that the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity and human dignity don’t learn lessons from history and forget that it’s precisely such incidents that had accelerated the downfall of some of the most powerful empires around the world in the past. Have they forgotten that during the pre-independence era, the Indian travellers were not allowed to travel alongside the British travellers who would not allow (the coloured) Indians to travel in the same compartment? Ditto in South Africa, where Gandhiji was forcibly thrown out of the rail cabin by the white supremacists for the ‘sin of not obeying the laws that segregated each carriage according to the race’! No wonder, it was not long after such contretemps were conceived and employed that the Britishers had to exit India and soon thereafter to be witness to the horror of the sun setting on the Great British Empire, exactly as it was going to be the fate of the Aparthied under the able stewardship of the towering Nelson Mandela in 1990, barely a hundred years after the rail episode in South Africa.
On the same analogy, it’s inconceivable how the forthcoming developments in Kashmir may begin to pan out differently than in the India of 1947 or in South Africa of 1990? All that it takes to further ignite passions and to replicate such upheavals in Kashmir is a continuation of a policy of relentless repression and oppression that would throw up someone like a Nelson Mandela in his avatar as a mass leader in Kashmir. Courtesy the Indian ways of settling disputes both within the country and without, including a resort to such disgusting and extremely distasteful tactics as were encountered the other day in the Grand Lalit, it won’t be long before such great characters as Ghandhi and Mandela hit the stands to restore peace, justice, dignity and honour to the bruised and brutalized valley of Kashmir.