So, it has been almost more than a month since protests have erupted at many top colleges and universities over various issues in many metropolitan cities all around the country. These protests carrying within them both in isolation and collectively the hues emanating from the issues of fee hike, Citizenship amendment act, NRC, etc have completed a full circle and have landed back to the issue of Kashmir. In the recent protests, many people have been seen carrying the banners of “Free Kashmir” and the slogans of “Azaadi”. On being confronted the propounders and endorsers of such banners and slogans have tried to justify these by saying that these are simply for the cause of restoring the internet in Kashmir and free it of the internet blockade it has been under since the abrogation of the separate constitution of J&K through dilution of Article 370 and annulment of 35A.
The reason at the face value of it looks noble and also rational. But to anyone who understands the political and social propaganda-driven histrionics of the erstwhile state and the internal and external precursors of such banners and slogans, the explanation given by those forwarding them seems at the least a deliberate oversimplification. To many who are privy to greater information as to how such things have actually worked in Kashmir in the last 30 years, it may very well be seen as a well-orchestrated part of a larger conspiracy.
I, for now lean towards the idea of viewing it somewhere in the middle. To start with why I feel so is because all such banners and slogans follow the same fallacy of seeing the whole of J&K as just Kashmir. And if it is not so the question arises then why just talk of internet ban on Kashmir and not on the other non-Kashmiri parts of the J&K which are also under it. Some might deduce that it is because non-Kashmiri parts of J&K are Muslim minority regions and whatever Muslim population that lives in these regions are either neutral or doesn’t support the Islamo-fundamentalist version of Azaadi which finds at least a vocal support in the Kashmir division. Thus, talking of them could be seen as aligning with the majority in the same way as talking about the plight of religious minorities of Kashmir division. Another thought which amuses me is wondering, if those, forwarding such banners and slogans are shown a map of J&K without any toponyms, would they be able to even loosely identify what part constitutes Kashmir for that matter?
Leaving that aside and coming to our democratic bible the Constitution of India. In many of these protests, a customary reading of the preamble to the constitution has been done as it carries the sacred idealistic values that this country as a nation is ought to toil for. But the framers of the constitution or even that of “Objective Resolution” which can be considered as proto-preamble understood that mere ideals and absolute idealism are not going to make things work, It has to be balanced with an on-ground practical, solution-oriented approach. Thus, with the list of all the fundamental rights that are enlisted under the Article 19 (1) of Part III of the constitution, there also exists a caveat to these freedoms under sections (2) and (3) of the same Article which read:
“(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect
the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State
from making any law, in so far as such law imposes
reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right
conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of 4[the
sovereignty and integrity of India,] the security of the
State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order,
decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court,
defamation or incitement to an offence.”
“(3) Nothing in sub-clause (b) of the said clause shall
affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it
imposes, or prevent the State from making any law
imposing, in the interests of 4[the sovereignty and integrity
of India or] public order, reasonable restrictions on the
exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.”
In purview of this knowledge, the actions of the government post abrogation of Article 370, which anyone who understands how internet is misused and also abused by both internal and external forces sitting across the border to disturb the public order and to create a cycle of brainwashing, recruitment and violence through various social media and instant messaging apps, can’t be considered as an exaggeration. Though I don’t consider any action of the government as sacrosanct and above criticism but I do expect the criticism to be objective and fact-based and wrapping it up with a slogan which has a long dark history of communal and hegemonic oppression behind it does look like an exaggeration.
Moreover, somehow those supporting these Free Kashmir slogans keep on criticizing the right-wing with taunts like “whatsapp university” etc., totally preclude the possibility of similar type of social media-driven propaganda in case of Kashmir.
Now coming to the dark background of these slogans. At the very outset freedom for Kashmir is not a secular demand which many of those vouching for it would want the world to believe. It is fuelled by an Islamo-fascist ideology that wants to free itself from the clutches of secular India either to merge with our Islamic neighbour i.e. Pakistan or to establish a rule of law strictly based on the Islamic tenets of Sharia. Anyone explaining it otherwise is just being intellectually dishonest or lives in dissonant illusions. As it happens even the vilest cuss words when translated in English sound decent and noble enough, the same is with the term “Free Kashmir”. It may sound as some noble revolutionary idea, but it isn’t and that remains a historical fact.
Re-fashioning it and giving it a new meaning would only add to the propagandist arsenal of selling something which is religiously totalitarian to its very core as something innocent and noble. The banner makers in this sense have done a very lousy homework maybe just for grabbing eyes. I don’t know if they have any idea how many have been oppressed and how whole generations have been used as a fodder to keep the pot that is Kashmir boiling in the name of “Azaadi”. And what a disservice it might prove for them.
Kashmir will be free when this circle of radical brainwashing, violence, gun-culture will end. It will be free when instead of getting recruited in a terrorist organization the youngsters would look to get recruited in the top colleges, companies around the globe. When tourists would crowd the valley. And last but not the least the non-Kashmiri people and part will get their due recognition and share in the welfare and prosperity instead of total disregard and ignore. And I still am contemplating on how the “Free Kashmir” banners and shouting of “Azaadi” slogans will facilitate that.