India is not facing an unemploymental crisis. It simply cannot. There is a profession that comes easily to every Indian. To every ABC-knowing individual. They don’t require any inquisitive knowledge for it. No comprehensive understanding of conflict studies. The profession so effortlessly at disposal for Indians is to become an expert on Kashmir. The more number of experts on Kashmir issue, the better it is for India to sustain its hold over the valley. Such manpower, cultivated with fervorous intent and little hard work, comes handy in serving their purposes in Kashmir.
The public approval of such “conscience keepers” is so consequential that the occupation of “roughly 7 million people of 7% area of J&K” is normalised and deemed perfectly legal. They dole out state-manufactured narratives which are readily acceptable to the Indian public. The same public that catapulted a divisive manipulator to the country’s premier chair. The closest these experts come is to describe Kashmir as the worst human tragedy of modern times. However what they don’t mention is that this tragedy is entirely man-made. Or say, Made by India.
All these experts carve out their careers out of the conflict in Kashmir. Over the sufferings of people in the valley, these experts validate their “nationalist” credentials and lose their moral conscience in the process of proving the love for their land. The right wingers were already known for their transparent bigotry towards the Kashmir issue. However the recent JNU fiasco has also exposed the hypocritical position that Indian Left occupies vis-a-vis Kashmir. So, no matter what the ideology, India’s military grip over Kashmir is what unites them all.
Why do such people thrive in the mainstream platform of India, be it media, academic institutions or research groups. Perhaps because the “collective conscience” of this nation, Ambedkar would be unhappy with the term “nation” and rightly so, is so easy to tamper and manipulate. A few episodes of exploitative, crazy nationalism. A few burning hashtags of the covert war against Pakistan. A few slogans of protecting India from anti-national elements. And there you are. Consent manufactured. Job done. Afzal Guru fell to this vicious turn of events where police created “admissible” evidence and men in media telecasted him as a threat to Indian democracy “whose life had to be made extinct”.
There is Shekhar Gupta who terms the 1990s as a “rough” phase. The full-fledged armed rebellion against the Indian state is seen by him as a minor hiccup in what has been the coercive integration of Kashmir with India. First Shekhar revealed the fearful nature of reporting stories from Kashmir but even then he downplayed the sentiments that Kashmiris harbour towards India. So, first he becomes a highlight and then a turncoat. This process is swift and at one’s own will for these self-styled experts. Recently he lectured Kanhaiya Kumar for getting it wrong because the latter said Indian army has raped women in Kashmir. This even when Human Rights Watch has reported the use of rape as weapon of war in Kashmir. What ethics ! But alas, ethics and morality have no place in war.
Barkha Dutt has always been one who plays the sympathetic card while maintaining her credibility as a patriotic Indian. Her “brave” and “fearless” war reporting during the Indo-Pak war in 1999 garnered many praises and won her several awards. What troubles her about Kashmir is the “horror of militancy” and “mistakes” by India. The killings mentioned in her book “The Unquiet Lands” are only those done by militants. There is no mention of massacres perpetrated by Indian Army. Rapes do not find a place in her book. The murder of Tufail Mattoo was “accidental” and those of 120 youth in 2010 were “victims of excessive force”. That is such a brazen concealment of crimes. That is precisely the job Indian state has entrusted her ilk with.
The latest to add to the list is Chetan Bhagat, India’s bestselling author. His history lesson inadvertently sees the dubious accession of Kashmir with India as a kind of barter exchange. Addressing Kashmiri youth to shrug off resistance and yearn for a permanent integration with India, Chetan unsuccessfully tries to portray India as some utopian paradise to live in. The un-sustainability of independent Kashmir that he mentions can well be gauged by the recent RTI report which revealed that over the last 15 years, NHPC earned Rs 194 billion from hydroelectric projects in J&K alone. That is about 40% of the total power revenue. Now can we sustain on our own ? This is just one arena which India has had a monopoly over and ironically sells, our own electricity, to us at whopping rates thereby emptying the state exchequer. Last time there was a malfunctioning in Northern Grid at Uri, more than a couple of Northern states of India plunged into darkness. With such drainage of resources, Dadabhai Nairoji must have swallowed his own theory, had he been alive and had he not been an “expert”.
All such experts have in them some common traits. Hatred towards Pakistan for instance. Their expertise on Kashmir is incomplete without some bashing of the neighbor state. Time and again the sustainability and self-reliance of an independent Kashmir has been questioned because they think nuclear powers around Kashmir will abuse the new state when free. It goes on to show the kind of British colonial mentality still enmeshed in them and their insatiable lust for power. What they do is link every attack in the valley, and in India, to Pakistan. Even if the armed movement in Kashmir is backed by Pakistan, the profreedom sentiments have always been indigenous. These sentiments have been there even before the birth of modern States of India and Pakistan took place.
Another notable similarity is the incalculable shamelessness that this troupe possess. They try to play the role of a buffer. They try to fool Kashmiris by projecting their image as those understanding sufferings of the people while keeping intact the image of zealous Indians who are for the integral part rhetoric on Kashmir. However their bluff has been called every time when Kashmiris refuse to believe, and negate, the amount of vitriol directed towards them. Barkhaa Dutt’s biased coverage of army-as-saviours during floods in 2014 was demystified by local media when actually it were Kashmiris who dropped eatable items at army bunkers even when trapped Kashmiris featured nowhere in the lists of those to be evacuated through rescue operations.
There are other things that they all agree on. The role of Indian army is the most notable inclusion. Vilifying the army while ignoring their large scale wrongdoings is their forte. That is how Barkha Dutt’s open letter to Chetan Bhagat starts, then takes off to sympathise with the Kashmiri oppressed population. Barkha says that “army is doing a massively difficult and thankless job fighting a battle not of its choosing or making”. The acknowledgement of this being a battle itself entails the fact that India is engaged in an immoral war with Kashmiris. One in which the battles are between bullets and stones. Or between lakhs of armed forces and around a hundred armed militants. The battle is visibly tilted towards India due to sheer number and military prowess. Battles aren’t just 25 years old. They are there right from 1947, mind you.
Most of the experts happen to be journalists at some point of their careers. And while reporting from Kashmir they are no different than their army for they possess the same impunity in reporting that their “security forces” have while eliminating Kashmiris. The point here is if Kashmiri journalists have been beaten by armed forces while discharging their professional duties, it has never happened that any of the Indian journalists has been harassed anyhow. Instead they were the only persons on ground, recently in Handwara, where local journalists had to be hospitalised after forces thrashed them. Thus, the term “parachute journalism” — they drop in the valley for a story and go back. A good story is all that matters to them.
With the evolution of their expertise, certain terms make a constant appearance in their analysis. “Collateral damage” is one of them. A term that sugarcoats the crimes committed by Indian army in Kashmir. Pertinently more than 94,000 Kashmiris have lost their lives till date. 10,000 have been disappeared. And thousands of women raped. All have been downsized in the name of “collateral damage” and “casualties while fighting an Islamist fundamental rebellion”. Press freedom in India ranks at 133, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders, obviously because of the biased narratives that Indian media can build and concocted storied to cover up human rights violations, for the Indian state, at the drop of a hat.
The different shades of experts on Kashmir continue to emerge as the occupier keeps on intertwining an intricate network of occupational instrumentation. The current spree of analysis and advice in the garb of “open letters” comes in the wake of murder of five Kashmiris in North Kashmir. And also the disbursement of a battalion of some 3600 paramilitary troopers to Kashmir. 3600 weaponed men go carry “open letters” of integration with India as the “best bet” for Kashmiris. Cunning expertise there.
Chetan concluded his letter by writing “if India fails, Kashmir will fail too”. An erroneous understanding, that is. Britain failed ( read weakened, in terms of power ) after World War 2. What followed ? Yes, right, if you guessed the same — India became free.
Let India fail. India’s failure is Kashmir’s freedom.