Burhan Wani's Kashmir is no land for patriots

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It's the measles of mankind.

 |  4-minute read |   12-07-2016
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It’s catchy, isn’t it? Many an Einstein has crawled out of the woodwork and offered his or her two cents’ worth (watch the rupee rate folks) since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in J&K last week. So, why not let the one with a 160+ IQ get a word in on nationalism.

The Kashmir unrest, always a stone’s throw from bubbling over, is once again in focus. It has drowned out the drum beats from Tanzania and even the flood havoc in Assam and Madhya Pradesh.

690burhaaani_071216012655.jpg The Islamic radicals and Hindu supremacists are neither patriots nor nationalists.

Now we have the “brickbrats” out on the streets in the Valley, chucking pebbles in troubled waters where Pakistan has already dipped its fishing line.

Then there are the BJP-bewitched keyboard warriors who, thankfully, have no influence over anyone of consequence, but are trying to flash their virtual valour by calling for Kashmir to be nuked, or egging on the security forces to gun down anyone who comes out in Wani’s support.

I don’t think Einstein ever said, “Kashmir is a complex issue.” But everyone else has. The BJP, which is in power at the Centre and in J&K, has a unique opportunity to solve it. So far, it has shown little promise and plenty of ungainliness.

Most governments in the recent past, except perhaps Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s, have been the same way with enough vested interests— from the security forces, police, bureaucracy and politics — rooting for the current situation to continue.

But, while the ruling BJP is yet to produce a far-sighted and competent Kashmir policy, it has allowed its leaders and members from affiliated groups to raucously raise a Hindu nationalist battle cry that the Kashmiri nationalists have bristled against. This has strengthened the symbiotic relationship between the radicals on both sides.

The party’s promises to resettle the Pandits too are starting to ring hollow. Members of the community, living in different parts of the country, say until political uncertainty and violence exist in the Valley, the chances of their return are faint.

Analysts say Kashmir needs to be brought into the mainstream of India’s daily life, supported by a democratic consensus that cuts across political divisions and a big development push. Allowing peaceful protests and expression of dissent would also help curb spasmodic violence.

Kashmiri nationalists canvass for a separate ethnic identity called “Kashmiriyat” that consolidates Kashmiris of all faiths and ethnic groups. However, this pro-independence fervour has been muddied considerably by jihadi forces backed by Pakistan and many of the original proponents now merely cling to political Islam.

While nationalism, which George Orwell described as “power hunger tempered by self-deception”, is hardly a virtue as it feeds on hate and insecurity, most of its so-called practitioners from the Sangh Parivar and their internet imitators are merely Hindu supremacists offended not only by India’s multiculturalism, but even liberal values as such.

Burhan Wani was no hero. But a remarkable fact is that there is a great deal of continuity between India’s colonial and post-colonial policies in dealing with the recalcitrant regions of Kashmir and the Northeast.

The Supreme Court last week said soldiers can’t use “excessive or retaliatory force” even in troubled places and agreed to an investigation into more than 1,500 alleged illegal killings by security forces in Manipur, in the strongest judicial rebuke yet of the army’s special shoot-to-kill powers, which trace their origins to a British-era ordinance used to suppress the 1942 Quit India movement.

Maybe the residents of these regions are not nationalistic enough to appreciate the efficacy of human rights violation in the process of nation- building and in preserving our vibrant democracy.

But would the social media pundits who soldier on behind AFSPA then urge the government to extend the law to other parts so as to create a spirit of union throughout our great country?

The challenges faced by our security forces in the violence-racked regions are very real, but there’s no doubt that the Act has managed to polarise the very societies it was supposed to help knit back into India.

The same imperious tendencies are also popular among the avowed nationalists — of all hues — with a noticeable disdain for the intelligentsia and liberals who back diversity and free thought.

Many of the “intellectuals” and secular charlatans with perceived, or actual, political leanings have done their own cause no favour by exposing themselves to be completely divorced from the needs of the masses and subservient to a particular dispensation.

However, it is possible to be deeply loyal to the country, have immense concern for the well-being of its people, while opposing nationalism. All patriots are not nationalists, and vice versa.

The Islamic radicals and Hindu supremacists are, perhaps, neither. Kashmir, and the rest of India, can do without them.


Pathikrit Sen Gupta Pathikrit Sen Gupta @pathikrit2sen

Sr Asst Editor @mail_today, @IndiaToday | Writer | Actor | Voice Artiste | Sofa Spud. At 6'3'', a bit of a stretch.

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