- By : Murtaza Shibli
Mohodai Sena Pati Ji: Namashkar
Ever since you assumed the top position within the Indian army, Kashmiris have been following your statements with quite an interest. This is because they are unique despite now being too many – from outright threats to elderly counsels, and prophecies to the ones that clearly show that you are as clueless as the rest of us despite being in the thick of the things. On the few odd occasions, your statements have provoked me to write as I took exception to some of those pronouncements. Not that I have anything personal against you or that I am inherently disposed to detest the men in uniform, but because your words challenged me both as a Kashmiri and a human being. Regardless of my criticism and disagreements, I have developed certain awe for you because of your willingness to offer unvarnished and brutally honest opinions. No matter how uncouth or unsuitable some of these declarations may sound, you say what you believe in and with full force of your conviction. For that you rise above your contemporaries in India, and perhaps in the region.
I find it extremely fascinating that you are captivated by the Kashmiri yearning for azadi and the charismatic lore of its slogans; the concept seems to have overpowered your imagination more than the slogan shouting kids on our streets. This should afford you enough clues about the power of dreams even when the people have to deal with nightmares on a diurnal basis. Coming back to the favourite topic of azadi, I seem content with your observations that Kashmiris cannot fight your army. To be fair to my kindred, this does not need any complex set of algorithms or rocket science calculations to bring it to the fore. This is so very obvious that even the boys err the Ph.D. scholars and academics that leave the classrooms and choose to fight your expansive wherewithal might know about it. But the power of dreams, as the history might teach those of us willing to learn, is often more potent that the visions that wanton power can invoke and actualise on the ground. Before you start revving up your lethally armed drones to conduct a surgical strike on a small-time pen-pusher like me, let me quickly add a disclaimer: I am not too fond of acquiescing to the identities thrust upon by the politically motivated arrangements of cartography.
Like every other Kashmiri, I feel frustrated for having to live in an open prison that affords us nothing but despair, death and destruction. As a Kashmiri, I have a dream that we should be allowed to live in dignity and respect, in an atmosphere where no one, not even the Army Chief of the third biggest military force, can cast aspersions on our allegiances or yearnings, or can feel empowered to issue threats with an aim to discourage us from engaging in the politics of dissent. The political nature of the problem that you have also alluded to in your statements means that the situation needs to be handled with care. However, when you feel empowered to continually issue threats against civilians, it is hard to believe there is any appetite left for engaging in a political dialogue or perusing a non-violent solution. Also, when you start feeling good about the conduct of your forces and goad Kashmiris for being ungrateful for having been spared afflictions such as Bashar Al Assad has visited upon his countrymen, you are alarmingly legitimising your misconduct. Aside from whether you meant this for simply comparing the two situations or to offer us a pointed glimpse of what lies ahead, I feel consternated that you have started to use the war conduct of the thuggish Syrian military as some sort of a benchmark to measure your own performance.
I understand your frustration for having to deal with the Kashmiris. Honestly, I am exhausted being one, as it offers little room for any meaningful engagement with our adversaries or competitors to chart out a future with any possible positive outcome. If I had a choice I would love to be incarnated as a Brahman with a creative freedom to interpret the past and the future while living a cushy life at present! Through your statements, you have elevated a minor stone-thrower to the status of a vicious enemy who needs to be dealt with “sternly”. You also justify glaringly illegal and immoral actions on the ground including the use of civilians as human shields. Then you also wonder as to why Kashmiris are all that angry? While I feel genuinely sorry for your inability to discern the obvious, I would suggest you to hold your fire till the time you are confident and knowledgeable enough to understand their rage. It is not demanding at all to nurse an expectation that having served in Kashmir prior to your elevation would have afforded you some valuable opportunities to understand the ground situation. But you may be forgiven for perhaps being too busy in ‘peacemaking’ – generating news stories with the help of pliable hacks on the ground – under the rubric of the Sadhbava (goodwill) programmes. At the same time, I must show some sympathy for it must be really terrible operating in an atmosphere that evokes nothing but dread. When you seek guarantees for safety of your men and material, you are acknowledging the fear of dealing with a public who are no more willing to be cowered down.
General Sahib: If more than half a million personnel with a partisan legal and institutional framework cannot bring you a sense of security even when the militant resistance is all but symbolic, things are terribly wrong. You should start seriously questioning your political leadership who are pushing you to fight not an ‘enemy’ on a par with your professional training or outlook, but a bunch of angry and untrained stone-throwers. It is bad enough to push politics on their behalf, but worse to politicise yourself and your service to suppress what is actually a political rights’ movement.
In the end I would like to share some good news. The Legislative Assembly of Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan, has issued a customary condemnation for your recent comments that also provoked me to write this letter. I can assure you that at least half of the lawmakers at the Assembly don’t even know the difference between the two sides of the divided state. None of them can pronounce your name, and almost all of them think you are actually a place on the outskirts of the federal capital Islamabad. Worse, I have seen some of them really getting cheesed off as to why Pakistan was not allowing its citizens to visit Srinagar to “expose the Indian atrocities”.
This should afford you some solace in the fact that ignorance rules on both sides!
C : Counter Currents
(Murtaza Shibli is a writer and consultant on Muslim issues in Europe and South Asia. He is also the editor of ‘7/7: Muslim Perspectives’, a book that explores the British Muslim reaction to the London bombings. Twitter: @murtaza_shibli )