By Manik Sharma Feb. 21, 2019
In recent days, reports have emerged of Kashmiri students and citizens being targeted around the country, further alienating a people. The Kashmir problem cannot be resolved by disqualifying its people as participants in the process.
In the days following the terrorist attacks in Pulwama, the grief and anger that should have united the nation have sadly become fodder for mobs. People, rather than hear a fellow citizen with a different opinion, have instead decided to huddle amongst themselves, and cultivate animosity against each other. Rather than aid the formation of a lossless solution to the Kashmir problem – a solution without further loss of life or diplomatic face – anger has given way to a kind of hostility that can only dent the fabric of India; a dent for which terrorist organisations will happily claim the authorship.
Let’s understand a basic fact: A billion people cannot agree on the same thing. If they could, we wouldn’t have to elect governments and debate policies. By alienating people – in some cases unlawfully – whose view of a situation might differ from ours, we run the risk of perpetuating the endless love-hate relationship we have with Kashmir.
In recent days, reports have emerged of Kashmiri students and Muslim citizens being targeted around the country. Students have had to flee, take shelter in rescue dorms or return to the valley altogether. Porters, the backbone of my hometown Shimla, have also had to flee in fear. Reprimanding an entire community for the actions of a select few, poses the risk of alienating and isolating those who have already been marginalised – and the Kashmir problem cannot be resolved by disqualifying its people as participants.
It would then play into the hands of those who have Kashmiri youth convinced that there is greater salvation in death than life as an integral part of this country. The Pulwama suicide attack, only the second of its nature in the entire torrid history of the insurgency, is evidence of not just this delusion but the extent to which it has taken hold in the Valley. To frighten Kashmiris into returning or quitting their personal attempts to reconcile with the rest of India, would be to further harden that sentiment.
If anything, those who demand calm, are demanding for the troops to remain safe just as much as any of us would want to.
On par with targeting Kashmiris, has been the calculated attack on people calling for patience or peace. A stunning report published by Scroll, shows the insides of a social media group that is marking certain people of the country as its enemy and setting up grave consequences for them. This vehement targeting of “anti-nationals” is based on flimsy logic. Asking for peace has somehow been interpreted as a gripe at the armed forces. If anything, those who demand calm, are demanding for the troops to remain safe just as much as any of us would want to. There are then videos, and countless social media posts “exposing” scandalous coverage by the media and partisan reporting, all of which, as the authors of the posts suggest, is in the interest of withholding us from pressing the big red war button, or worse embodying cowardice on some level. Not only are such conspiracy theories counter-productive at the moment, they blatantly call for violence and chaos, which can only complicate matters. Not to mention how it would further strengthen the conviction among some sections of Kashmiris that they cannot call this country their home. Can Kashmir belong to India, without its people?
Over the last couple of days, there have been calls for boycotting everything from Kashmiri people to Kashmiri goods and services. Rather than target Pakistan, address its army’s funding of jihadi outfits operating across the border, and its government’s near impotence in addressing these issues, we are insulating those who already feel cornered. By othering them we confirm everything that has been fed into their ears from the other side – a notion they do not belong to India because India doesn’t want them either.
Add to that the fact that we are looking for our own personal retributions, trying to collaborate with people who agree to our template of response. We won’t cede to reality or proper channels who are equipped to handle this (you know, our government), the complexity of this problem, so we must resort to groupthink, hounding out those who disagree, or think differently. So much so that the CRPF, which deserves our concern and support at the moment, is having to run a helpline for anyone who is accosted or threatened by mobs.
On par with targeting Kashmiris, has been the calculated attack on people calling for patience or peace.
Let us gather, but not out of petulance or violent intent, but so we can understand this problem better, and demand better for our military.
It would be self-defeating if even a fraction of our armed forces would have to be deployed on our streets and in our neighbourhoods because people here cannot get along, or refuse to accept that they can disagree on something. Whatever our politics, to force our military to monitor us as if we were quarrelling kids, would be to offer them an additional headache, which they hardly need at this time. Instead of ganging up and targeting those around us who don’t share the same ideology, it is time, right now, to offer patience and solidarity. Let our military do the strategising, for they know best. The least we can do is not point a finger at each other, and bring conflict even into the parts of this land that aren’t riven by a bloody, decades-long border dispute.