Kashmir: Overshadowed Plebiscite


It’s pitch dark outside as I write this as though life has decided this day to be last one. Army patrols on deserted lane outside my house are silhouettes laced with arms. Dogs are howling at a distance across street in repeated rhythms adding wilderness to imprisoned night. A faint light at a distance meets my eye as I peep through curtain crevices.  We are under curfew again. Indefinite one is the call this time. A brave heart has fainted every heart of my land by adieu to land he loved more than his budding youth. There is a strange calm outside, something of mixed feelings, something defining uneasiness, something of defiant voices muzzled and something about conspiracy of cheap blood. This is seventh night since Burhan’s death, a young boy who kissed death in mad love of his beloved – Kashmir.

This is first time I’m feeling for a militant and there are many questions I’ve to answer myself. Did I shed my neutral stance? Am I no longer defiant of my cosmopolitan approach? Have I left theory of ‘humanity beyond boundaries’? There are lots and lots more to answer. But before I answer myself about my changed self, I’m sure about one thing I got to know all this while that world everywhere is ruled by plutocrats. All stories are about Oligarchy at end – which has fed elitism at every point and under its sham of ‘public good’ and ‘nationalism’ has throttled meek voice of poor so much so that they have forgotten they had a voice.  Bourgeois- Proletariat theory sounded that clichéd to me but I can’t agree more with Marx. As I write this we are under e-curfew too, which means I can write what I want to but can’t think of getting heard anywhere. Or maybe they will seize pens, paper and keyboards soon, you never know. They can curfew memories too; they’re powerful gods of our torn land. We’ve licensed them to do whatever they want with us by signing a social contract in absentia or it’s Machiavellian Prince looming large here. In both cases they win and we lose.

But this is not true about every Kashmiri – from everyone at helm to administrators who have chosen mainstream to handful of elites, freedom of expression is that intact; Articles’ 14 and 19 of Indian Constitution all meaningful in their case. They have networks and resources to talk to world. I really wish Articles’ 14 and 19 had an exception clause clearly stipulating: ‘Application of Articles’ 14 and 19 restricted to privileged few only.’ We the unprivileged should have been shown the door at the very adoption of constitution. Why this legitimate expectation we have been keeping from years?  But then they can counter me easily by quoting few Supreme Court judgements and saying that you don’t know the law. Do you not know that there are number of Supreme Court cases that create exception to ‘equality clause’ and allow ‘reasonable classification’, whereby some persons can be grouped together and treated as a class in themselves and given all the benefits? So why do you think government officials and bureaucrats don’t come under classification doctrine of Dalmia case, ( Ramkrishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, AIR 1958 SC 538)  after all they’re that important and need internet facilities in times of turmoil? They will question my veracity as a student of law.  Yes, they should because I really was studying and taking seriously a law applied only at times of their convenience. Supreme Court judgements are applied only when they favour them than us. Why otherwise Supreme Court judgement on AFSPA would not even be talked about & ‘classification doctrine’ under Article 14 that conveniently argued and applied?

It’s pertinent to mention here that there was raid on all media houses in Kashmir in past days, whereby a media gag was ordered by government and newspaper establishments were not allowed to publish newspapers for three days altogether.  We’ve heard of this before. In Indra Gandhi’s tenure all this happened. It was new that time, practised on minds that had met freedom after centuries of occupation by foreign rulers. India agitated that time with as much vehemence as it showed when it wanted British out of its land. Irony is that those who protested against it that time are practising it now in Kashmir. Such things are routine with them, they practise it every now and then here without any strong reactions from our side. It’s because they know the tricks. We’re yet to have our Maneka Gandhis. They’ve captured our minds along with our land though they failed to win our hearts and feelings.

Newspapers hit the stands a day before and they’re only connection to outside world in this virtual prison. Queues wait in morning at my place for that only hope to arrive – newspapers.  I doubt we’re living in 2016 as times seem resembling 1920s with the only exception that Kashmir was heaven that time, waters of Dal and Nigeen that pure and minds that naive and free.  Everyone around now cries for justice. I wish I could motivate them to leave it here, or leave it to His court. I wish I could make them understand how institutions work in a plutocracy especially in an occupied territory. Who will they fight against? Machinations of ill-gotten system? They will lose themselves in hope of justice. I wish I could tell them that justice fled from our land in 1931 and never came back. Tragedy with us is that our politicians, bureaucrats, judges, choose to speak truth only when they’re out of office, enjoying their green tea on armchairs with sarkari pension cushioning them. They axe system only when they turn ex. (System should give their not-so-loyal ex-servants some work post retirement else they engage themselves in dull passion of playing with unpalatable words.)  Who cares here with passing days, and bosses at helm only wait for cooling of passions. As I said before, law gets applied only when it’s convenient to them. We will lose it or with time cries for justice will go cold and I dislike myself for knowing it all yet helpless to do anything about it. This is not the first case. They have done it before. We have had our Kunan Pushporas, our Asiyas and Neelofars, our Afzal Guroos. We were silenced then, we’ll be silenced now. As said aptly:

Ussi ka Shehar wahi mud’dai, wahi munsiff

Humein yaqeen tha hamara qasoor niklega

(His city, he the plaintiff and he the judge, we were sure about our conviction.)

Now I know that wars in world are not about democracies but they are all about mad competition between oligarchs – who will win over whom? Who is going to be a superior oligarch by selling theories of democracy and growing economies to poor souls? After all money doesn’t grow on trees, they tell us, and that we should choose either our environment and health concern or development. Marx was not bitten by a dog.  Faith, religion are just the agendas of trade with these power thirsty oligarchs. If you’re living under occupation then I tell you this mad race of oppression from oligarchs is even worse. They loot every resource of your land and then boast of sending you hundred crore packages. Sometimes one could do nothing but wonder about occupations in world, for what nation states want to extend their boundaries? To equal superpower leeches and tell them that look we too are there? Nationalism is only the smokescreen and democracy a sham behind which oligarchy runs wild. Nationalism is a curtain on eyes of poor beyond which oligarchs trade their faith through Hindutvas and Jihads for their comforts and power. It’s lust for materialism presented as growth rate, GDP, economy. Now what sells like hot cake is Bush doctrine: ‘Be with us or with our adversaries’. I wish there was a middle ground possible but in my place there isn’t any. Here neutral stance is no stance at all. Person is either living dead or a coward if he chooses middle path. To make it simple, this week changed me completely. I chose my side, I chose the ultimate. I chose Burhan. I tried to be apathetic but lost it this time. Something deep inside of me churned and I couldn’t retain my identity of a zombie.

My stance may not be valuable but I can’t refrain adding a little to sea of mad voices chanting ‘azaadi’. I need that too – AZAADI.  We have heard enough from Gandhis. We would have loved to remain Gandhis were we not aware of Hitler’s role in making Indian Independence easy for Gandhi. We have had our Rajgurus, Bhagat Singhs and Sukhdevs. We need more though. We’re in dire need of Che Gauveras & Pablo Nerudas. United Nations should take a final call on ‘promised plebiscite’ else we lose ourselves to violence. As someone has aptly said: ‘Khaak hojayenage hum tumko khabar hone tak’ (After we turn to dust). If it doesn’t reach United Nations or they choose not to hear it, I dare say then that Kashmir needs its own Hitler.

Isma Zainab Arsheen, Law graduate and masters in International Relations,
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
Contact email: [email protected]



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