Saturday, July 11, 2009

Can any Kashmiri ever be an Indian?

Following article was published in Greater Kashmir in response to Farah Pandit's article in the same paper wherein she stated she is proud Indian


By saying that “she is proud to be an Indian”, Farah Pandith either thinks that India is not to be blamed for what has happened or is happening in Kashmir or she treats Kashmiris as inconsequential and their sufferings futile, Abid Khan responds to Farah Pandith’s article “Of thee I sing.” 


WHEN one makes one’s views public they no longer remain personal. On a page of newspaper, they are directed at a certain reader, who assimilates them, processes them consciously and subconsciously, and then responds to them if the need be. Ms Farah Pandith in her recent article published in Greater Kashmir has unilaterally praised America’s tradition of secularism, tolerance, its cultural heritage and history. With this one should have no problem, as people have a fundamental right to love their nations, though she shouldn’t forget that it is the same country that made people like James Baldwin run away from it in search of a refuge where they can rest or even collapse comfortably, where people don’t refuse to see them because they are blacks, where they are not Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Men.
 To a Kashmiri this is hardly of any concern what Ms Farah thinks of America or whether she loves it or hates it, what would make a Kashmiri sulk and scowl is when she claims that she is proud to be an Indian. This is because she claims to have come from Kashmir, a land whose inhabitant can not ignore its continuous bleeding since last 20 years, a land kept under a chronic and suffocating oppression, a land of bunkers, of massacres. It is not hard to guess for how long Ms Farah has stayed in Kashmir her whole life, she has had “repeated trips” to Srinagar to meet her grandfather and she also knows Kashmir through Google Earth, thanks to Sergey Brin and Larry Page for giving us this tool.
 What one gets from Ms Farah’s account is that she is proud to be a Kashmiri and an Indian. As a Kashmiri who grew up under oppression and violence I feel a moral responsibility to confront her on this. This statement left me with in an acute and writhing restlessness, a kind of urge to cry out- you can not say this. When Edward Said wrote Orientalism, he used Gramsci’s concept of hegemony and effective critique. The best and the most effective critique, wrote Gramsci, begins when the writer understands himself as a product of historical process, a process that leaves its traces without necessarily leaving an inventory of them. Orientalism was thus Said’s own account, his own inventory of “infinite traces” that decades of dispossession and exile inflicted on him. For most of his life Said lived in the United States but his psychological proximity with Palestine’s occupation and suffering of its people was as intense and immense as that of its inhabitants. It was the sense of this pain that made Said to take up the challenge of disproving Israel’s claim that Palestinians don’t exist and also disproving Europe’s representation of the East. Even though Said lived in America but he always thought of himself as a product of Israel’s gory occupation of Palestine. I don’t know what Ms Farah thinks of herself with respect to the spans of history, but her conjugation of the idea of India and idea of Kashmir is simply not fair. It becomes imperative for me here to ask Ms Farah few questions: Has she ever seen a Kashmiri father shouldering the dead corps of his only son killed by the Indian military forces? Has she ever tried to feel the pain of family whose daughters were raped and murdered by India military forces? Has she seen in the eyes of a mother who is still searching for his son who never came back after he was taken by army ten years ago? All these questions reflect a very small portion of that monstrous oppression which has affected Kashmiris over decades now.
 Ms Farah, as an intellectual, has a moral responsibility to ask herself these questions and then rethink her statement. Kashmir for her seems to be an imagination, a tiny spot on Google Earth. Her mother was a doctor in Delhi 40 years ago and later lived her life in United States, reflects a bourgeoisie life style that never came close to what Kashmiris went through in last two decades. However, the oppression weighs so heavy on Kashmiris that, for a sane person, it is not difficult to imagine its magnitude. When you hear a Kashmiri saying that he or she is proud to be an Indian you can not hold back from questioning his/her integrity and politics. Ms Farah has quoted one of the architects of American constitution- Thomas Jefferson, who along with other great men that included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Samuel Adams, made the Americans understand the value of freedom , value of having one’s own country . These men made American people believe that they can live with out British- their colonizer. For these men saw the oppression and therefore knew the value of freedom. Ms Farah has to come and see the deserted streets of Srinagar; she has to feel the shadow of those bunkers, barbed wire on the roads, she has to ask a Kashmiri what is freedom, she has to talk to a mother whose son is disappeared, she has to see Kashmir from Kashmir. She sees to be oblivious of the tragedies of Kashmir, rapes of Kunan Poshpora, rapes and molestation of so many Kashmiri women by Indian troops, massacres of Gawakadal. Sopore, Bijbehara and the recent and ongoing Indian repression in Kashmir, reflected in the ghastly killing of Kashmiris by Indian forces in the cases of Bomai, Varmul, Downtown, Shopian, Maisuma etc.
 It is painful when someone denies your suffering and when the person is one of your own, it is tragic. Ms Farah has said that she is proud to be an Indian; the immediate interpretations of this are- either she thinks that India is not to be blamed for what has happened and what is happening in Kashmir or she thinks of Kashmiri’s as inconsequential and their suffering does not mean anything to her. It is only under these situations that a Kashmiri will say that he or she is proud to be an Indian.
 It would have been more realistic on Ms Farah’s part had she explained what makes her to be proud of India. Is it the men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru or is it India’s civilization, Vedas and Upanishads, or is it the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, Bulldozing of Babri Masjid, is it the blind oppression in North East, or is it Kashmir.
 Ms Farah says that she has studied history. Knowing this, I fail to understand how she can misinterpret the history of subcontinent, especially the history of Kashmir. I use the word “misinterpret” again to point to her statement that she is proud to be an Indian (as a Kashmiri). How can she be so determinist in her thought towards India while being a Kashmiri?
 I should mention Huizinga here, he writes: “The historian must always maintain towards his subject an indeterminist approach, he must constantly put himself at a point in past at which the known factors still seem to permit different outcomes, only by continually recognizing that possibilities are unlimited can the historian do justice to the fullness of life.”

(Abid Khan is doing his Masters in Political Science in Delhi)

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