On 16th of July, 2018 some of the news portals in Kashmir Valley published a letter from Abdul Manan Wani, member of the resistance group – Hizbul Mujahideen. Mr. Manan was a research scholar from one of the prestigious universities in India and was in news some months back when news channels flashed ‘scholar turned militant’ in the headlines. Within no time the letter was taken down from the virtual space from by the State authorities and the police were quick to start legal action against the web-portals who had published this letter.
In past, the press-statements, the details of their respective programmes and criticism of the actions of the Indian State by the resistance groups – both political and armed was published in newspapers and web portals without being taken down, though I am sure there would have been surveillance on those who shared that stuff. But one wonders what was there in the letter of Mr. Manan that led to its enforced disappearance from the virtual world. Such an action taken by the State authorities was because of the writer’s affiliation to the ‘banned’ group or was it due to the content of the letter.
The soft copy of this letter was shared with me by one of my student who had copied it from the web portal before it was taken down. The reason for him to share with me was that we had discussed Frantz Fanon’s essay ‘Concerning Violence’ in the classroom and he raised some questions while drawing parallels to the essay and Mr. Manan’s letter. While going through this letter, I realised that he has raised some of the important questions relevant for the contemporary politics of South Asia in general and Kashmir in particular.
According to Mannan, Resistance has multiple faces and it can be launched from different platforms.
The narrative that Indian State has manufactured about the resistance movement is based on lies, says Mr. Mannan. According to him the same narrative which uses the terms like fanatics, fundamentalists, and terrorist for the resistance groups in Kashmir is fed to the larger public through its tentacles which include textbooks, paper and electronic media. He quotes the NCERT textbook definition of a ‘terrorist’ as one who targets civilians indiscriminately to get their demands fulfilled to point out how the actions of the armed resistance groups do not fall into that category. For some his use of class XII NCERT book to make his argument will be a ‘funny’ but one needs to understand that it is through these books that political socialisation happens in India to create a discourse of Indian Nationalism and Mr.Mannan through this letter is trying to challenge that discourse.
One of the reasons why larger sections of Indian society are not ready to engage with the question of Kashmir and its disputed nature is that the narrative that is fed to them. The liberal Indians who merely act as silent spectators against the undemocratic practices have now started introspection. Their own devil has started eating them up in the form of killing and lynching of minorities and curbing of intellectual spaces in the universities. Mr.Mannan draws the parallel where he says that Indian State has been doing the same undemocratic and oppressive tactics in the tribal areas (Red Corridor) where in the name of naxals poor tribals are being killed and the region of North-East where movements of self-determination are being suppressed. In Kashmir too the State violence in the form of Operation All-Out might limit the armed struggle for some time, but according Mr.Mannan it will emerge again as the Indian State will be able to kill the individuals but they can’t change the history.
Mr. Mannan also tries to break the myth that the resistance is confined only to few districts of South Kashmir and led by few ‘brainwashed’ youth. He writes that new identities and divisions are being created to bifurcate society and create myths. According to him, resistance is not just a rural or urban phenomenon but it has erupted across the space in Kashmir in different forms. It was an argument from New Delhi which was echoed by (recently-axed) Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti that only five percent population support the movement of Azaadi; the myth that was broken when polling percentage was only 2 percent for the by-polls.
Further, in the letter he says, it is argued that we are fighting a lost battle by comparing Indian military comprising of millions of troops equipped with high technology with rebels who are less in number without any modern weaponry. But this struggle according to him is not just battle of armed rebels, it is people’s struggle. While giving the examples of Vietnam and Afghanistan he is of the opinion that it is not always that huge armies win. Though cold war politics, economic interests and the involvement of other external powers can be held responsible for those results but the support of larger sections of society both in Vietnam and Afghanistan was the fulcrum to continue the struggle for a long period. Mr. Mannan also points out the involvement of large sections of society by giving the examples of the huge turn-outs at the funeral of rebels and the protests of non-combatant civilians at the encounter sites to help rebels to escape. As he writes,
One important myth that he believes has been created by Indian media that rebels pick up the gun to die as they have been promised Jannah. This is what even some of the Kashmiri intellectuals have been writing in local dailies but Mr.Mannan very boldly writes that they have joined the movement to win, not to die. According to him, sacrifice is not the guarantee for Jannah, that is within the purview of the Almighty. According to him the cause and struggle for freedom is more important than the personalities and the value of persons (leadership) is as long as they represent the aspiration of the people. In this regard he asks what makes the grave of one of the tallest leaders (in past) of Kashmir, the most guarded grave in the sub-continent ?
Mr. Mannan writes that resistance is resistance, it can neither be violent nor peaceful. At one level he brings out an important philosophical question about violence which even Fanon in his essay Concerning Violence has dealt with. The process of Indian rule in Kashmir is based on violence and hence one of the forms of resistance and self-defence is violent. As he points out that it is easy for people to criticise the decision of youth to pick up a gun without understanding the context in Kashmir which is being occupied by 12 million Indian troops. Mr. Mannan is talking about the structural violence that is omnipresent in Kashmir due to military occupation and he quotes Tariq Ali who says
The important question to all of us which Mr. Mannan also raises is who should decide the course of action in the resistance? Should oppressed follow the dictates of the oppressor in their resistance or do resistance groups need a certificate from the adversary about the nature of their resistance? Mr. Mannan is asking Kashmiri people to be aware of the binaries that are the constructions of the State for its own interests. The binary like violent vs peaceful struggle, political vs religious struggle, urban protests vs rural militance, north Kashmir vs south Kashmir is part of the Statist vocabulary to create unnecessary debates. The notion of ‘Good Kashmiri Muslim’ and ‘Bad Kashmiri Muslim’ is also part of this binary where the people who have helped to concretise the ‘occupation’ here are in the good books of Indian State and once the same people start questioning the State, they turn into bad ones. Mr. Mannan in this letter points out as how from Sheikh Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti Indian State has used them as cannon fodder for its own interests and then throw them like the tissue papers. He up front explains the inspiration and ideology which the struggle of which he is a part, draws from Islam and how rule on Islamic principles have proved better, according to him. But he also points out, respecting the thoughts and ideology of others where he says that main task of the struggle is to end ‘occupation’ and provide a peaceful environment where every thought and ideology will be discussed and debated.
One wonders why the video messages and letters from leaders and members of Al-Qaeda Kashmir Chapter and sloganeering in support of ISIS is not problematic for the State authorities and they let those thing be circulated in the social media and web portals but the letter of Mr. Mannan is being seen as dangerous. Unlike self-proclaimed leaders of new groups and the flag bearers of ‘non-existing’ ISIS of Kashmir, he is not talking about the fixed political formations after the end of ‘occupation’ rather he talks about deliberation and debate. Through this letter Mr. Mannan has made an attempt to have a conversation at three levels – with the Indian State, with the people of India and more importantly with the people of Kashmir. As this was an open letter, it would have led to the dialogue and conversation on some of the pressing issues in Kashmir now-a-days and Mr. Mannan might have been ready also for questions, as well as criticism from the Kashmiri people.
K.W.Hassan is a lecturer in one of the Universities of Kashmir where he teaches Political Theory and Peace and Conflict Studies.