It is reported in some sections of media that 50,000 people attended Burhan Wani’s funeral. The agitation triggered by his death took a toll of more than 30 lives including some security personnel; hundreds were injured by pallets fired on the agitators.
The funeral attendance by so many people and widespread agitation was used (is used) to prove that Kashmiris’ demand for so called azadi is legitimate. That Burhan Wani was a freedom fighter and not a terrorist. And pallet injuries were thought to be the evidence of cruelty of Indian forces, of the state and the nation.
This was (and perhaps is) the narrative taken up by many Facebook users who wanted to prove their liberal humanitarian credentials. (Fortunately discourse in print media is more sober, which takes into account sufferings of the Kashmiris, mistakes on the part of the state as well as points out conditions under which this highly disturbing drama is being played out.) This narrative was supported by supposed to be wise opinion makers by twitting that Bhagat Singh was also called the poster boy of Indian revolutionaries by the British press; therefore, (a hint at unstated conclusion, that) Burhan Wani is like Bhagat Singh, a freedom fighter.
Anyone who opposes or even wants to understand the basic principles, assumptions, and logic behind this discourse is immediately dubbed as “Hindutva-vadi”, “anti-Kashmiris” or “anti-Muslim”.
Not to be outdone the Hindutva warriors immediately declare any one remotely mentioning sufferings of the Kashmiris, accesses by the forces and mistakes of the Indian state. A meaningful social debate is made impossible by the two mutually opposing hardliners.
In this article my focus is on the three contentions of the supporters of Kashmiri agitation for azadi. However, before I come to that would like to mention there have been mistakes from the Indian state, there have been incidents of accesses and Kashmiri people have suffered long years of tense atmosphere as well as constant threat of untoward incidents; both from the forces as well as from the terrorists. The state and Indian society in general should find a way out of this problem by eliminating the injustice done as well as connecting at the emotional level. Dubbing everyone who speaks in favor of Kashmir struggle as anti-national is not only stupid, it is harmful for the democratic process in the country.
However, the most popular contentions of some radical opinion makers and their Facebook supporters still remain unsupportable. And those who speak in favor of struggle are equally guilty to going overboard.
That brings me to the three contentions.
Does the agitation in Kashmir prove that their demand for ‘azadi’ (whatever that might mean) is justified?
India has a solid legal basis to consider Kashmir an integral part of the country. It was made part of India by the instrument of accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, who was a legal ruler of the territory at that time. Yes, there are some conditions like article 370 but they are being met. Plebiscite was not held because Pakistan refused to meet the conditions it accepted in the UN. India cannot be blamed for this.
The only basis that the supporters of Kashmiri agitation name is the agitation itself. “So many Kashmiris demand azadi therefore it is legitimate” goes the argument. Does any community living in a territory has the right to secede from a country at will? Can countries function like that?
I have dealt with this issue in detail in one of my earlier blogs here. In that blog I considered the issue of Kashmir being integral part of India from historical, legal, moral and pragmatic stand points. Interested people can see that article. In my view India is completely justified in considering Kashmir an integral part from these four perspectives. If that is the case the agitation is unjustified, and on top of that carefully fomented by Pakistan on religious basis. That provides no grounds for azadi whatsoever.
Burhan Wani as a freedom fighter?
If the demand for azadi itself is unjustified then Burhan Wani cannot be a freedom fighter. The most charitable opinion about him could be a somewhat misguided youth. If one looks at the interviews of his father, past and present, one can see the religious source of this poison very clearly.
He was commander of an Islamic terrorist organization. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen means “Party of Holy Warriors”. It wants J&K to become part of Pakistan. And it has always campaigned for Islamisation of Kashmir.
It’s emblem (I must check the authenticity of this emblem, but seems to be the correct one at the time) has Quran supported by AK 47s. I do not know Arabic but do not have any doubt that the book shown here is supposed to be the Quran. (Would be grateful if someone who knows Arabic lets me know the correct meaning of the quote shown in the book. If it is not Quran, I would be willing to change my views on this particular point.)
For the sake of argument even if one accepts the argument that he was seen as freedom fighter by Kashmiris therefore he is one; as freedom fighter of one nation is after all can be a terrorist of another. If it is not just a formal and semantic quibble, then those who call him a freedom fighter and support him should also approve of the kind of nation he wanted to build had he been successful. Do they support Islamaizatin of Kashmir? Do they support separation of Kashmir from India to become part of Pakistan? And if they do, do they recognize the re-play of two nation theory in Indian history within 70 years?
Calling Burhan Wani a freedom fighter comes with this package of assumptions and implications. If his supporters accept it, they are harming secularism and democracy in India deliberately; if they are unaware of the implications they are supporting bigotry in their mindlessness.
The pallet injuries
The pallet injuries are splashed on social media as if it is an example of deliberate cruelty of the Indian security forces. As if firing the pallets at innocent people is an ab initio, as if it is the first cause in this dance of death. They seem to make it that the armed forces just started shooting at public without any reason, without any preceding events. “Since people received pallet injuries so the forces are cruel, the state is unjust, and the nation is abominable” seems to be the refrain. But the crowd burnt police stations, vehicles, killed securely personnel. How to control a crowd of 1000 people advancing on a police station? One has seen videos of youth showing bravery in pelting stones on the forces. Could there be a planner behind these youth who knows that the Indian forces will behave with restraint, therefore, they can attack them with impunity? The pallet injuries have to be seen in the context.
Presence of armed forces in Kashmir is not the cause of agitation, it is violent agitation what forced the state to send armed forces there. This agitation and violence killed people, competed ethnic cleansing, and threatened the integrity of the nation. That is why there are armed forced in Kashmir. There is no place for detailed historical analysis of the problem here, but it was created by Zinnah-attitude (a not so religious leader using religion for political purposes) that Sheikh Abdullah often lapsed into, the fact that Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, and the Pakistani determination to separate Kashmir from India. The historical context of dismissal of popularly elected governments and rigging of elections in Kashmir is not that innocent and plain. At each stage some people were playing the separatist card with impunity.
Result of this support to Burhan Wani and agitation
This emboldens the terrorists. They get an assurance that if they are killed, a section of well-meaning Indian population will try to prove that they were not terrorists, but freedom fighters. Therefore, there is a possibility of armed forced avoiding hurting them. Since they themselves have no such restraint, they will kill civilians and armed forces personnel with more impunity.
If they are captured, proved guilty in the court; then there shall be arguments that they were innocent and the punishment awarded to them is unjust. And will be made heroes, ghar ghar se nikalenge.
More Kashmiri young men will join their ranks, and the foreign fighters will feel safer to come to add in this jihad.
The hardliners in Kashmir will gain greater prominence, will feel legitimated, and moderates will become weaker, will feel unsure of themselves.
The resolve of the India public to defend Kashmir will weaken. This will reflect in the state action.
Armed forces will get demoralized.
And all this due to a stand taken by accolade hunters on the basis of spurious information, misunderstood principles of justice and false propaganda.
To resolve the Kashmir issue with sensitivity to Kashmiri people we need clarity of mind, compassion in heart and determination of action. Extreme stand on either side will harm the nation as well the Kashmiri people. Let’s realize that nation is much larger than the Kashmir. Also the current fashion of deriding anyone who uses the term “nation” is nothing but imbecility.