Government of India unilaterally revoked Article-370
Government of India unilaterally revoked Article-370 of the constitution that grants special status and autonomy to Kashmir, a war-torn disputed Himalayan region in North-Western sub-continent. With local political leadership under arrest, crippling curfew and communication blackout, for many political analysts situation in Kashmir has exposed the fragility of Indian democracy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose entry was once banned in U.K and USA for alleged role in Muslim massacre in Gujarat.
However, as a keen observer may have already noticed, Kashmir has also exposed hollowness of celebrity humanitarianism: Anupam Kher called it beginning of the ‘solution’ to Kashmir problem, a phrase used by Nazis to solve ‘Jewish problem’; Burkha Dutt masked developments in an internationally accepted disputed region as India’s internal matter; and Priyanka Chopra preached war-mongering in the guise of patriotism. One wonders how these otherwise fervent advocates of progressive ideals and humanitarian causes can ignore the plight of Kashmiris. The answer is simple: they don’t consider them equal in humanity.
Dehumanization is central to the subjugation of any group of people. Holocaust was not possible without portraying Jews as the devil; slavery was not possible without labelling Blacks as subhuman, and colonialism was not possible without assuming white man’s burden to bring civilization to ‘savages’.
The most nefarious aspect of dehumanization is that for most people it becomes default setting and essential part of reality. Injustice becomes so ubiquitous that even men of great vision fail to see it. That is why founding fathers of USA could unequivocally declare “All men are created equal” while slavery was enshrined in law and J.S Mills could write his essay “On Liberty” while classifying Indians trying to defend their liberty against British rule as barbarians. With an interesting twist in history, yesterday’s oppressed have become today’s oppressors as a government of India is bent upon suppressing Kashmir’s freedom struggle with an iron fist and denies them fundamental right to be masters of their own destiny.
But that is what dehumanization does. How does it happen?
George Orwell wrote;
in his preface to “Animal Farm” that in democratic society propaganda and ideological hegemony can achieve outcomes similar to those aspired by tyrannical regimes. The trick is to create an image of a targeted group that resonates with the desired goal, and then propagate it so voraciously that it becomes part of the public psyche. From then onwards, the group loses its intrinsic identity and that image becomes a reference point to define and interpret their each and every action.
The Indian government and mainstream media
The Indian government and mainstream media have for long portrayed Kashmir’s freedom struggle as a terrorist movement that will divide holy motherland. This narrative is so entrenched in the Indian psyche that spontaneous reaction, even by so-called liberal intelligentsia, to any demand for fundamental rights or resistance to Indian occupation is labelling Kashmiris as traitors and terrorists. For Indians, at least for the overwhelming ruling majority, Kashmir is a problem of land rather than people that justify their attitude, in their own eyes, to treat Kashmiris as objects rather than subjects. Like an ‘obedient’ wife, they are treated well as long as remain passive but whipped at any hint of exercising agency. The reaction of Anupam Kher, Burkha Dutt and Priyanka Chopra show that they consider Kashmiris as lesser human beings and mission ‘manufacturing consent’ has accomplished.
But the real stakeholders are people of Kashmir and despite all its efforts India has failed to crush their desire for freedom. The real question is what path they should choose after the latest betrayal of India?
On Dec 3, 1964, Malcolm X addressed Oxford Union Society to defend the motion that “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” He argued that if any human being is deprived of his liberty, he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to reclaim his liberty. Today, Kashmiris have every reason to employ every method available to defend their right to choose as promised in ‘alleged’ instrument of accession, guaranteed by UNSC resolutions and agreed in an array of bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan.
Some Kashmiris will choose the path of non-violence like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr King. There is nothing wrong with it. But some of them will choose the path of Nelson Mandela, Ho Chi Minh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Che Guevara. Please don’t call them terrorists. They are freedom fighters.