A masked stone-pelter attacking police, Srinagar, May 31, 2019 (Photo: AP)
WHILE REPORTING on Kashmir we are often confronted with the word ‘sensitivity’. The way this word is sometimes invoked, it feels as if a gauntlet is being thrown down at us. Gladiators who think they represent Kashmir’s best interests are always challenging others to show their level of sensitivity.
This word has always baffled me in Kashmir’s context. What does to be sensitive on Kashmir really mean? The gladiator’s definition of sensitivity is predetermined. If you stray from that template by a whisker, you immediately become a cog in the wheel of the ‘fascist Hindutva forces’, or ‘agency-enabled’ (indicating that you have been co-opted by one or all intelligence agencies working in Kashmir).
But what constitutes sensitivity for these gauntlet throwers? Essentially, a few things. Prominent among them is that you turn your display picture on Facebook into a red dot. Sensitivity according to them means that in New York you rage against Trump’s wall, but invariably support an invisible wall in Kashmir. Sensitivity for them means that you blindly accept any narrative spun by a few of their journalist friends in Kashmir.
Look at the issue of pellet-gun injuries, for example. In the last few years, scores of Kashmiris have been injured after the police fired pellets at violent mobs. But according to the ‘sensitive’ argument, it seems that in all cases only innocent people are hit. In this narrative, those who were hit were just passing by a violent mob, always to buy bread, or milk. In these stories, the violent mobs never consist of people the likes of whom lynched police officer Ayub Pandith in downtown Srinagar in 2017 while chanting “Musa, Musa, Zakir Musa”, with some biting his corpse like rabid dogs. Now, sometimes, innocent people, including children, have been hit. But if one were to believe stories put forth by the gladiators, it is statistically safer to be a stone-pelter in Kashmir than an innocent passer-by. Because a stone-pelter never gets hit.
And what does it say about the training of the J&K Police whose men cannot even aim a single shot at murderous mobs?
The real sensitivity in Kashmir would be to ask certain questions that are deemed politically incorrect. When the photograph of a young man hit with pellets is splashed across the Western press, it creates a certain optics. But what would the critics of pellet-guns prefer? That the young men be instead shot with real bullets? Or that, alternatively, the police and paramilitary forces keep silently absorbing vicious attacks on them that can take their lives?
In Kashmir, in the last 30 years, thousands of mothers have wailed over the bodies of their young sons while ‘Shaheedo Mubarak’ (Congratulations, martyrs) was being chanted in the background. Isn’t real sensitivity on Kashmir to ask questions about how a handful of people have made millions over the corpses of poor Kashmiris while selling them the idea that a burial in the so-called martyr’s graveyard for acts of violence or terrorism is a noble idea?
Who are the people who a few days ago attacked a vehicle carrying doctors, resulting in serious injuries to at least two lady doctors? In a separate incident, another vehicle was targeted, carrying non-medical staffers who were assaulted and the arms of some broken. One woman among them had the job to clean rice which would be then cooked for patients in the hospital.
The problem with this narrative is that, no matter how hard they try, the red DPs cannot hide the green of it. If you’ve observed carefully, what is being shown as resistance on TV is a carefully crafted optics for woke Western journalists. The placards of ‘freedom’ and ‘occupation’ are meant to hide the Islamo-fascist tapestry of Kashmir’s separatist movement.
This tapestry remains hidden from Western journalists because most of them are dependent on local fixers, usually young Kashmiri journalists, who are already following a certain template of separatism. So, the foreign agency photographer will go and shoot his pictures only in a certain way. Barbed wire comes first, everything else is in the background.
What is being shown as resistance on TV is a carefully crafted optics for western journalists. It hides the Islamo-Fascist tapestry of Kashmir’s separatist movement
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In their zeal for this faux sensitivity, the gladiators are commending a Kashmiri journalist for winning a journalism award for his courage—a journalist who is under arrest, along with nine others, for harbouring terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen and conspiring to snatch weapons from the security forces for use in terrorist activities.
Stories abound about the inability of Kashmiri journalists to work. Why are they not able to work? Sending a story is problematic. But travelling around? Aren’t enough journalists from outside Kashmir travelling independently all over Kashmir? (And finding internet and sending stories?) Nobody is asking these questions.
There is a case to be made for the continuous communication blockade in Kashmir. A few acts of overzealousness like whisking away a doctor from Srinagar who was just complaining that some of his patients were not getting proper treatment should be called out too. If there is violence, and people are fighting pitched battles (like they are in the Soura area), it must be reported. But to suddenly give this impression that, before August 5th, Kashmir was like a Parisian bistro is utterly wrong and insensitive.
The truth is that it is the Islamist extremists who reduced Kashmir to a ghetto by first cleansing it of its Hindu minority. They are the ones who bombed cinema halls, coffee houses, bars and humiliated young men and women seeking a quiet moment in cyber cafes.
The counter-insurgency grid, as American political scientist Christine C Fair has reminded people on Twitter several times in the last fortnight, is because Pakistan unleashed terrorism on Kashmir’s soil, prompting India to act. That grid has been there for the last 30 years.
In these years, Kashmir has gone through hell. The cordon-off operations of the 1990s, the fidayeen attacks of the early 2000s, the cycle of violence in 2008, 2010 and then in 2016—Kashmir has witnessed all this and much more. For peace to return now, the gladiator’s parameters of sensitivity have to go.
Among others, Rahul Gandhi must keep that in mind before he rushes off again in a display of ‘sensitivity’ to Kashmir. He is an opposition leader; he must go. But he must also know that one of the founders of his party in Jammu and Kashmir, Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, who died in 2016, was denied a burial in Kashmir and had to be buried outside his homeland.
In the last several years, the radical separatist leader of Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has said many times that those who stand for India in Kashmir will not get a little ground for burial. How politics in Kashmir shapes up in the next few months will decide whether Geelani’s diktat will hold true in future as well. As of now, the right sensitivity would be to ask why someone like Qureshi could not find a final resting place in Kashmir.