An ordinary person’s guide to the Empire

It is said that the Devil resides in the detail. It is said that one should strive to know the Other better than the self. It is also said that no oppressive order is a monolith. That being said, here is what is left unsaid:

“India,” so goes the Statist propaganda, “is a land of immense diversity.” It doesn’t take the revolutionary genius of a Maqbool Bhat or the poetic proclivities of an Aga Shahid Ali to realise that the ways the different components of this humungous juggernaut work in, and on, an occupied country like Kashmir are also very diverse, complex and largely mutually exclusive. An understanding of this complexity is very revealing and immensely helpful in making aazadi more intelligent, besides being just too much fun.

What follows here is a rough sketch of this diversity.

The self-determinist

Kashmir pH: 11.

Says: Choice is a basic unalienable human right, at an individual level as well as at the level of social organisations. Every individual, group, society and nation has a right to make their own choices and determine their own future. Dignity, the central theme of human existence, flows out of freedom of choice.

Also says: For India to deny Kashmir the right to self-determination, it needs to prove that it has the same existential ties with Kashmir as Kashmiris themselves. It cannot. The argument that a bigger country can claim stakes in a smaller adjoining country, the gist of the Indian narrative on Kashmir, begs questions like: So is it ok if China claims similar stakes in the future of India?

Can be recognised by: The raw courage and dedication to honesty which they show in classroom discussions, dining and living room chit-chat, the conversations while travelling by trains, or long-route buses or aeroplanes, both inside the Indian Empire and outside it.  They usually heat up the classroom debates, make awkward the mood of the dining room and the living room and spoil a party by asking uncomfortable questions and by stating unforgiving facts.

Can also be recognised by: Charges, and threats, of sedition, being levelled against them.

Generally being labelled as anal-retentive, pseudo-secular, anti-democratic, Marxist, Islamist pain in the ass types in the media and social circles of the Empire.

Azadi hai abadi

Kashmir pH: 10.

Says: After what India has done to Kashmir, azadi is the only way. India can hold Kashmir only on the strength on its jackboot and the confusing powers of its hegemony. Kashmir never was and, more importantly, never will be an integral part of India. India should leave Kashmir to its own fate and use the monies it spends on holding it on improving the quality of life and democracy in India.

Also says: If and when Kashmiris are allowed to exercise their right of self-determination and they somehow choose India, there is either something wrong with the process or else Kashmiris have become a perverse community who do not deserve the right to self-determination, for how can a sane society choose to become part of an Empire which has been systematically destroying it for so long.

Can be recognised by: The self-righteousness with which they assert the incomplete decolonisation in the sub-continent and their stress on the future of both India and Kashmir being safe only in case Kashmir gets aazadi. Their solidarity with Kashmiris for being a broken terrorised community which has not given up on its hope and its honour.

Can also be recognised by: In their enthusiasm for resistance and hatred for occupation, sometimes treading a fine line between solidarity and patronising.

Being labelled separatist anti-nationals who ought to be shot by a firing squad, en masse by — you guessed it — the media and social circles of the Empire.

Some of them occasionally being detained and deported while on a visit to Kashmir for private trekking expeditions.

The poor, the Dalit, the adivasi and generally the downtrodden

Kashmir pH: 7.

Says: ‘Suna hai Kashmir jannat hai?’ (We get to hear that Kashmir is a paradise) ‘Yeh Kashmir Pakistan mein hai kya?’ (Is Kashmir in Pakistan?) ‘Kya, sarkar aap ko bhi marte hai? Yeh sarkar aise he hoti hai.’(So you also bear the brunt of the business end of the government. Well, that is how the government tends to be.)

Also says: ‘Bhai yeh babulog ka karikram, unka vikas aur unki rajneeti hamare samjh se toh parrey hai. Hoga kuch Pakistan Bharat Kashmir, hota rahe, yahaan toh susri do waqt ki roti ke laaley paday howay hain.’ (The rulers’ programme, their development and their politics is beyond our comprehension. This Pakistan India Kashmir crap is no big deal for us. We have more immediate issues of bread and survival to cope with.)

Can be recognised by: Scavenging for food under glossy larger-than-life billboards of Rajput women in ethnic wear dancing by a desert fire at night. The bottomline: Incredible !ndia

Trying to get proper remuneration (exceeding the single digit in rupees, Indian) for the tendu leaves they have collected over months.

Living with the knowledge of raped mothers, sisters and wives.

Can also be recognised by: Kashmiris returning the compliment of ignorance and indifference by jeering them with ‘Bhookha nanga Hindustan’ (Hungry naked India).

Quite often being the foot-soldier of the occupation.

The Human Right

Kashmir pH: 6.

Says: The Human Rights record in Kashmir is less than desirable. All parties concerned must work in tandem to set it straight. All allegations of Human Rights violations should be properly enquired and if found true, should be unequivocally condemned and the perpetrators brought to book. Kashmiris should be allowed to live a life of dignity.

Also says: Having said that, Kashmiris must realise that their future lies with an emerging superpower like India. The sooner they realise this, the better (for them).

Can be recognised by: Dead giveaway templates like ‘Separatist tendencies in Kashmir are strengthened by bla bla bla government policies…’ (Assumption: they are weak otherwise) ‘Victims of violence…’ (As if violence per se, and not the State, were responsible) and privately, ‘You know, the situation in some other parts of the country is even worse…’

Can also be recognised by: Women’s rights are mutually exclusive with Gujjar rights which are mutually exclusive with Pahari rights which are mutually exclusive with Dogra rights which are mutually exclusive with Buddhist rights which are mutually exclusive with Shia rights which are mutually exclusive with Kashmiri Sunni Muslim rights.

‘Umm…well…but self-determination is not a human right, no?

Aam aadmi [The middle raised to power 100 class, the impossible average, the fictitious reasonable man on the street]

Kashmir pH: 5.

Doesn’t have the time and inclination to make quotable statements so can be best described by: Spends 76 hours a year in combing hair and another 30 hours in brushing teeth but forgets the most important thing when they recklessly declare that Kashmiris have no human or democratic right as long as they want to be ‘separatists’: Those who deny others a right cannot claim it for themselves.

When talking also says: This Pak-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir isn’t half as exciting as the IPL.

India is a superpower and Kashmiris must really be foolish to not want to be part of India Shining Inc.

Kashmiri girls are so h**t.

Muslim fundamentalist separatism will get Kashmir nowhere.

Can be recognised by: The projection of self onto the State, so that it can find satisfaction in the purported success story of the Empire (World’s largest democracy, nuclear superpower, IT leader, cultural capitalist, emerging corporate giant haven) even if its own existence is mediocre and failing.

Can also be recognised by: Taglines like: “Kashmiris should be thankful for the amount of money Incredible !ndia spends on them” and “If you do not want to be part of India, migrate to Pakistan”.

The Mussalman (Moneyed)

<For Mussalman (poor) see: The poor, the Dalit, the adivasi and the generally downtrodden above>

Kashmir pH: 4.5.

Says: India is a secular country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and I’m more secular than the King.

“To be a Muslim in India feels like being a superstar.” (Shahrukh Khan a couple of months after the Gujarat genocide) Who does not want to be a superstar?

There are two types of Muslims; the good Muslims are those who have money, all the others are either actual terrorists or terrorists-in-making.

Also says: Kashmiri separatists want to create another partition only to put the lives of Indian Muslims in jeopardy.

A different culture, language, history and society; so what? India is a melting pot where everyone ought to lose identity. Well, almost, and only because saffron is a very strong spice.

Can be recognised by: Flaunting sherwani, Ghalib’s poetry and Urdu prose as the “true and authentic” Islam.

Recoiling everytime Kashmir and azadi are mentioned in the same sentence.

Can also be recognised by: The bag of goodies they get for the disdain they show for Kashmiris and their fellow Muslim brothers across South-Asia, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Consequently, “Look at us, we survived the odds to be living proof of the non-existence of those odds.”

Pee Dee Pee and other pied-pipers of peace

Kashmir pH: 4.

Says: Ya India, reham! Kashmir needs relief. Granted that Kashmiris are responsible for a murder of a hundred thousands of their kind because they started an armed insurgency believing in the silly ideas of freedom and democracy; but if India does not apply a healing touch now, Kashmiris will “go back” to separatism.

The only azadi Kashmir needs is peace for the proletariat and golf courses for the elite.

Also says: Economic empowerment through privatization will help Kashmir and Kashmiris in fulfilling their potential.

Autonomy, 370+, internal autonomy, pre-1952 position, greater autonomy, self-rule…go on renaming a paper-flower till it smells like a real rose.

Can be recognised by: The vocabulary: protest= disturbances, no protest=peace; vote=Incredible !ndia, no vote=rejection of weak candidates.

PDE (Public display of emotion) whereby the aggrieved family (son killed by security forces, daughter raped by the same agencies, father disappeared) is brought to a point where they have to console the visiting dignitary.

Can also be recognised by: Quipping: Peace is justice.

Quoting tourism-related figures.

Believing: National Conference is the real evil, Hurriyat exists but only in parts and the people, well, the people are a shadow.

The government of India

Kashmir pH: 3.

Says: Kashmir is an integral, unalienable part of India and there is no doubt or dispute about that.

Also says: We have said time and again that all outstanding bilateral disputes between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir, must be resolved.

We are willing to have a dialogue with all sections of opinion in Kashmir in order to resolve the Kashmir issue.

“Kashmiris will decide whether they want to be part of the Indian Union or any other arrangement which they deem fit.” (Jawaharlal Nehru)

Can be recognised by: In his masterpiece the Arthashastra, Chanakya mention six methods to deal with an enemy:

1.     Vigraha:To make war.

2.     Samdhi: To make peace.

3.     Yana: To attack.

4.     Asana: To entrench.

5.     Samsraya: To seek the protection of a bigger power.

6.     Dvaidhibhava: To ally with a common enemy.

Chanakya never said a word against not using more than one (or all of them) together.

Can also be recognised by: Occupational footprint in Kashmir.

Two types of bureaucrats:

1.     Those who say Kashmiris are stupid rank bast**ds who ought to be exterminated.

2.     Those who say Kashmiris are stupid rank bast**ds who ought to be given a chance before being exterminated.


The military complex

Kashmir pH: 2.

Says: Cross-border terrorism and insurgency is all but over (at other times this becomes: Cross-border terrorism and insurgency is all over) Now the challenge is to neutralize hostile elements and transform the will and attitudes of the people.

Also says: AFSPA is a holy book with sacred sections. Any suggestion of amendments and abrogation would be deemed a blasphemy against the military complex of the Empire. Who dare do that, hun?

Can be recognised by: Uniform and uniformity. Order through disorder. Size 12 shoes. Direct deals with foreign armament companies.

Can also be recognised by: Operation Sadbhavna. Spooks and rumours galore. Doctrine of Sub-conventional Operations and all that rock’n’roll.

Officers’ recreation centres overlooking the Dal, at Pahalgam, Gulmarg and other places, to recover from the stress of the dirty business of oppressing and liquidating equally filthy natives.

Large mansions in posh areas of big Indian cities and cantonments furnished with plush Kashmiri carpets and walnut furniture.


The Hindu nationalist

Kashmir pH: 1.

Says: Bharat mein rehna hai to Ram naam kehna hai.

Also says: Kashmiris cannot be allowed the exercise of right to self-determination because Pakistan is a failed state. Kashmiris cannot be accorded equal Human Rights because Pakistan is a failed state. Kashmiris cannot be allowed to live because Pakistan is a failed state. And so on and so forth.

Can be recognised by: Tilak, saffron (only attire, because most can’t afford the spice) and a will to power indistinguishable from a will to kill.

Essentializing the territory of J&K to Vaishno Devi and Baba Amarnath.

Can also be recognised by: Screeching calls to remove Article 370, allow them to buy land in J&K and watch it become a Hindu-majority region faster than you can say: Pakistan is a failed state.

Statutory warning: This list is neither inclusive nor conclusive.


(The views exprerssed by the author do not represernt any institution. The writer works with BMW in Munich, Germany and uses a pseudonym)