Skip to main content

Kashmir's minor stone-thrower elevated to the status of a vicious enemy who needs to be dealt with “sternly”

Counterview Desk
Open letter by Murtaza Shibli, a well-known writer and consultant on Muslim issues in Europe and South Asia, editor of ‘7/7: Muslim Perspectives’, a book that explores the British Muslim reaction to the London bombings, to the Indian army chief:
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 PhD 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!

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.