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Of Nations and Freedom

Devotion to religion and country are perhaps two basic motivations that can persuade humans to do anything, for which some are even prepared to kill or die. These are universal ideologies, but in war zones they play a distinct role. The intensification in the killings in Kashmir, whether civilians, freedom fighters and local security persons is once again terrorising inhabitants, bringing back memories of the 1990’s. Murdered Kashmiri soldiers are mourned and glorified by India, militants killed are glorified and mourned by Kashmiris, civilian deaths are condemned and other victims are unnoticed, with only their families left to mourn.

Nationalism in Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises different valleys united as one State, vary in the each region. Hacked with the hegemony of three dominant nationalisms – Pakistani, Indian, and Kashmiri – the division in the state is mainly due to its competing beliefs. This is the dirty game of nationalism. If deconstructed it will lead us to the source of all these killings, whether civilian or security forces. Militants kill local policemen because they go against their concept of nationalism and army men kill militants to propound their own nationalism and in this counter-play of nationalism it is Kashmiris who die either way. Nationalism glorifies death by hailing it as martyrdom or demeans death by calling it terrorism. Our state has the choice to accept any of the three nationalisms, whether Indian, Pakistani or Kashmiri; and this is the centre of our division, which can only be conquered by the power of humanitarianism.

In our State it is the valley of Kashmir that is struggling for freedom against India, and it is this valley that suffers most; collectively every region of the state is affected, but not to the extent that Kashmir is impacted. With growing intolerance the consequences of occupation sheds its veils. Every new generation, upon learning the stories of repression, turn into angry, bold dissenters. Now the tide has turned to students. After an attack by forces on college students last month in South Kashmir, male and female college students abandoned their classes to protest, clashing with local police and Indian security services. These frequent protests and militant attacks led to the cancellation of elections in South Kashmir.

The videos and images showing the cruelty of occupation travelled directly to the world. These were mostly exposed by Pakistan to propound their own nationalism, via social media directed by the Government in an attempt to check the deteriorating law and order situation in Kashmir. In total 22 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were brought down. But they couldn’t block it totally, most Kashmiris are using VPNs (virtual private networks) to defy and mock the social media gag; although the government was successful in blocking some VPNs too. In addition, the transmission of 34 TV channels by cable networks, including Pakistani and Saudi television stations, was stopped in Kashmir valley by authorities. A collective punishment, as United Nations call it: the scope of these restrictions has a significantly disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir, undermining the government’s stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence.  

The highhandedness didn’t end there. There was a news item about a Kashmiri patient who was ill-treated in Chandigarh (India) by a doctor saying

“you pelt stones on our security personnel in Kashmir and then come here (India) for treatment.”

Indians label Kashmiris as stone-pelters, terrorists etc.  Indians call Kashmir the crown of the country but some of the leaders are openly ridiculing Kashmiris. In view of the use of a human shield by the Indian Army in Kashmir during recent Lok Sabha elections in the Valley, in which the turnout was only 7.13%, the BJP general secretary Ram Madhav confirmed that India is at war with Kashmir by saying

"All is fair in love and war” 

Whereas our Chief Minister thinks: Only PM Modi can solve problems in Kashmir (who belong to the same party that is BJP).

Over a lakh Kashmiris are reported to have died for this struggle of freedom, and it is still counting; every house in Kashmir has a heart-breaking story to tell. But where is this struggle leading? This is brutal nationalism which lets them kill our own people, it will only lead to hatred! And don’t expect the deceased families to support Kashmir’s struggle. Everyone should have a right to choose – therein lies real freedom.  Imposing anything on others is just a mimicry of occupation. There are other challenges of life also, besides freedom. Growing unemployment, which leads the youth to join the security forces and killing, is no solution. Either way Kashmiris are sufferers. Day by day the upsurge in the worries is overwhelming Kashmir: frequent clashes on university campuses is disrupting students’ education; growing Islamisation is affecting Kashmir’s freedom struggle, all of this is against the status quo and hampers a dignified solution to the Kashmir issue.

This struggle of nationalisms – Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri – must end if we are to have any hope of living a peaceful and purposeful life, beyond the spheres of violence. To avoid a particular nationalism we could have free access to both the countries as suggested by General Pervez Musharraf in his Four Point Formula, but watching the current crisis of our nation, even this solution counts only as a distant dream. 

Muddasir Ramzan was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He studied English Literature and is a budding writer. His writings have been published in various national and international journals in India, Pakistan and the UK and he regularly writes blogs for the Muslim Institute. He can be contacted at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com.