Surveying the Kashmiri Mind
Inam ul Rehman
“Intelligence” wrote Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade in their book, which examined future security needs and strategies of United States, “Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance”, “is comprised of five categories of knowledge and understanding: a society’s leadership; culture and values; the strategic, political, economic, and physical environment; military capabilities and orders of battle; and comprehensive battlefield information.” This book was written in 1996 and seven years later US invaded Iraq using ‘Shock and Awe’ method.
On February 11, ‘Institute of Research on Indian and International Studies’ released a report ‘Media impact on the Kashmiri youth’—a study done over a period of one and half year in Kashmir. The report based on ‘survey’ is first of its kind where the supposed preference of Kashmiri youth on media has been put on the record. The survey also puts on paper what the youth of Kashmir listens, reads and watches. The viewership data, readership of newspapers and listening habits have all been placed on the record. But this doesn’t make it special. What makes it worth consideration is the curbs in the grab of recommendations on the media and how to change the social milieu of Kashmiri youth.
The new recommendations have been put forward by the Indian academia, many of whom have written books claiming academic impartially while writing them. However, in case of Kashmir they have behaved as democratic dictators. Among the eight persons who have put forward these recommendations 5 are academia, while one is well known Indian journalist who specializes in pasting police FIRs on newspapers. The journalist has written sustained long pieces framing a particular community, most of whom were later acquainted by the Indian courts and compensated.
For changing or engineering or manufacturing (whatever lexicon one uses) Kashmiri mind these academia keenly listened to the youth with whom they had many deliberations since the summer of 2010 up to the winter of 2011. Starting with the internet, the IRIIS observes that pro freedom material or news going viral through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other websites should be countered as they feel that it effectively moulds more pro resistance youth. The IRIIS report claims that the presence of the pro Indian discussion forums will not be effective in changing Kashmiri mindset because the youth don’t participate in such groups. “What’s missing,” they tell the administrators, “in these discussions as indeed in the columns of local newspapers is writing based on hard empirical date and well-researched and well-grounded analysis that makes the youth rethink their positions or interrogate their given assumptions and fixed notions about Kashmir.” Since the start of 2008 mass protests against the Indian State, the tech savvy Kashmiri people have used the web forum to disseminate their voices across the connected world. The State responded by debarring the use of SMS and mobile services of pre paid phones in Kashmir. This made people more adamant and reaction came in the form of blogs, websites, pages on Kashmir, commenting on Kashmir related stories in international papers. Reporting for the ‘Time’ Magazine Jyoti Thottam wrote: “These young men are engaged in a 21st century form of protest. They form a rebellion collectively organized through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube” (Kashmir’s New Warriors’ Aug. 30, 2010).
“This study recommends the proposition of creating a web-based knowledge bank on Kashmir,” reads the report of Ms Navnita, “in order to provide easy access to primary resources and data on Kashmir that highlights the multifaceted character of this conflict including strengths of India’s democratic principles, its focus on development priorities and governance practices.” This is in direct response that the viral information Kashmiris are providing to the web based world. “This should ideally become,” the report goes on further, “the single most important research tool for those seeking a first-hand understanding of the Kashmir issue.” It encourages bureaucrats, political figures and NGOs to be active on ‘social’ websites. By doing this they feel that the perception of youth can be changed.
In the name of media survey, the report is actually on how to control the mindset of youth and arrest their antagonism toward India. The report also mentions how to fill the Kashmir youth’s mouth with the ‘political vocabulary’ other than Azaadi. On a media tour to India’s capital, a journalist student, who claims his loyalty openly toward India, got dismayed when he along with 15 other journalism student of Kashmir University met Indian journalist Mr Sandeep Bamzai in his office. After hearing them and their thoughts, Mr Sandeep, wrote next day, “This new generation wants improvement in the physical infrastructure of the Valley, they want jobs and education.” (Daily Mail, 12th February 2012). The journalism student, who openly confesses his love for India, was enraged that on the same day he wrote in protest against it and negated that they talked about, infrastructure and jobs. Writing in response to Mr Bamzai’s write up the journalism student in his blogs says: “Being a part of the group of students who visited Mr. Sandeep Bamzai, I never expected our voices will be moulded for “Bijli, Sadaak and Paani” like petty things. We did talk about different issues surfacing Kashmir issue, our message was loud and clear, “Bijli, sadaak and paani” issues are beyond our comprehension. We want our basic right, the right to live with dignity” (Kashmir: A casualty of Misinterpretation http://wwwkashurjournalist.blogspot.in). He goes on further and writes that when Mr Bamzai asked their opinion about the solution: “Most said Azadi, one said Pakistan and one said autonomy. So tell Mr Bamzai where from this so called “Bijli, Sadaak and Paani” demand came from our lips,” writes he in his blog the link of which was posted under the write up of Mr Bamzai. This is the kind of political vocabulary that these academia advise newsmen, intellectuals, pro Indian politicians and NGOs to force into the lips of youth.
The group of academia wants to clone the ideas of pro Azaadi group and fill the vocabulary of the youth with their choicest words. Demilitarisation, removal of AFSPA, Human Rights Violation, Truth and Reconciliation, Conflict Resolution, are some of the common vocabulary that the New Delhi has successfully implanted in Kashmir. These demands/slogans are steep fall from the demands of complete secession. “For an Idea to become dominant,” notes Indian academia in the report, “at a certain point of time requires that the idea remains in the public imagination constantly and, is simultaneously transmitted through several channels.” Realizing that every theory takes time she writes further: “Subtle, strategic, consistent engagement with the present discourse will make an incremental difference over a period of time. What is need therefore is a multi pronged approach involving stakeholders using diverse mediums for communicating and interacting with the youth.”
That is a direct hint that every medium including, web, educational institutes, offices, Masjids, bread shoppers will be used to disseminate disinformation and at the same time for espionage as well. “A security official, who had undergone a month’s counter-terrorism training in Israel, told me,” wrote Manu Joseph in New York Times, “that the hotel (Vivanta by Taj) had its own intelligence gathering system, which includes using a network of local residents for information about anything unusual in their neighborhood. (Letter from India: Face of Hope Reflects Calm in Kashmir, Feb 29, 2012). Already the space of Kashmiri junk food makers, tea makers, has been occupied with design by Indian labourers who get less than Rs 50 wage per day in India. Here in Kashmir they earn a hefty sum. India has exported a huge chunk of its beggars to Kashmir. Because as a colonist it considers her beggars and rejected lot superior to Kashmiris. “To observe the life of the colonizer,” wrote Albert Memmi in his book ‘The colonizer and the colonized’, “is to discover rapidly that the daily humiliation of the colonized, his objective subjugation, are not merely economic. Even the poorest colonizer thought himself to be—and actually was—superior to the colonized.” Besides doing business one never knows what kind of espionage they do for troopers. According to the new census report of India Kashmir has a population of 12 million. This 12 million includes 7 hundred thousand Indian troops, about half a million Biharis including beggars. The State portrayed in the new census that there has been decrease in female population due to infanticide. Nowhere in Muslim world has it been reported or authenticated that there is female infanticide. However in Kashmir pro State supporters, writers and some journalist in their eagerness wrote large sermonic pieces where they demonised Kashmiris. They forgot in the process that there is a provision in Indian censuses where people are counted in the area where they are currently staying. Second historically the female population has mostly remained below male and then there also comes decadal fillip in play where the ratio sometimes swings in one or the others favour.
Controlling through Education
In fact Ms Navnita doesn’t shy away while writing, “It’s particularly important for the teachers and mentors to contextualize such debates (Azaadi) in the Rights discourse, broaden their horizon by understanding Kashmir with reference to developments in other parts of India and most importantly enhancing their critical faculties to enable them to independently think about such issues.” Every idea, slogan and talk connected with Azaadi, she wants to clone them in her model so that it becomes Babel where one does not understand the language of the other. The report even gives the State nod to go ahead in curbing whatever autonomy educational institutions have in Valley. That is one of the reasons that of late University teachers are being tutored to use the word ‘our country’ not India.
During the three year term of Prof Riyaz Punjab as the Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University, he made it mandatory to play Indian National anthem in the presence of Chief Minister, Governor and other high profile pro Indian ministers. During his term (2008-11) Prof Punjabi successfully co-opted many Jamaat-i-Islami cadres into out of turn top positions. Prof Punjabi inoculated Jamat cadres with the appetite of personal success. It helped him to manipulate them. He made it certain that while rest of the Kashmir is protesting University students are discouraged by those whose party supports the agitation against the State. The proctor and heads of various departments threatened scholars that they will be disqualified as research scholars if they persisted with protests against the killing of people. Prof Punjabi also started a trend to decorate Allama Iqbal Library of the University on the occasion of birthday of any Muslim saint. It is generally believed that the trend started in connivance with the Governor House in 2008. Prof Punjabi, although a mediocre academician, was mostly dotting on the front pages of ‘rabid anti Indian newspaper’. It was also in the tenure of Prof Punjabi that University gates were fortified the same way the Indian troops fortified their barracks when fidayeen attacked them. At every entry point in the university you are welcomed by the gunmen. Yet almost all newspapers ignore this. The newspapers of Valley also ignored the fact that Institute of Kashmir Studies, which is NGO, has been given space at the expense of University department. All the employees working there draw salaries from University. Many foreign scholars doing research there get scholarship from University chest. Even Indian President, Pratibha Singh Patel, came to inaugurate this NGO. Yet Prof Punjabi projected it as a University department.
On 23 Feb, 2012, a 35 member Thailand delegation visited Kashmir University. They were (de)briefed about the Kashmir by two Political Science teachers. There was no other teacher from any other faculty invited to brief them. During three hours of their interaction the two professors of Political Science made sure that they confuse the delegation about Kashmir. Listening keenly the Thai delegation asked them two questions: If Kashmir is conflict between India and Pakistan why don’t academia conduct surveys to find how many people are with India and Pakistan; other asked why has been university turned into army barrack and in this condition how is academic impartiality possible. Both the questions were circumvented. Thailand is an important country because a number of important talks on Kashmir have been and are being held in Bangkok. In the evening the PRO of University circulated the news that Vice Chancellor “informed them about various MOUs that University has signed with various institutions of learning across the globe.” A blatant lie. There is another lie in the statement: No learning institution across the globe has signed any MoU with Kashmir University. As usual the statement was never cross checked by the newspapers and was splashed prominently in the city pages. The expansion in education institutions also comes on the behest of Indian State. Souresh Roy and Amitabh Mattoo while writing on how to control the Kashmiri youth wrote that more education institutes should be opened. Because the State dictated education syllabi is the cheapest form of controlling the minds of any population. “The youth of the state can indeed become the state’s greatest strength, its soft power… The challenge now is to use this energy of the young Kashmiris to build peace.” (‘Considering Conditions in Kashmir’ http://hir.harvard.edu/india-in-transition/summer-of-discontent?page=0,2).
The group of academia has given tools to the State on how to confuse the mindset of Kashmiris. One of the tools is what they term as “pluralizing the discourse on Kashmir”. For the past 65 years Indians have tried to raise many imposter leaders in Kashmir who can confuse the ordinary masses about the choices. As per the 1947 partition plan, Kashmir has a chose of joining India or Pakistan. India, occupied the hub of Kashmir and since then refuses to go out. When the mass armed uprising started against India, the latter used the card of Independence to weave a large chunk of Kashmiri population away from the demand of merger with Pakistan. When the uprising was ruthless and brutally suppressed resulting in the killing of ninety thousand causalities, Indians brought up the land supposedly gifted by Pakistan to China. Then they raked up Gilgat and Baltistan. Added it with that Ladakh and Jammu don’t want to remain with Kashmir. Ladakh region constitutes only 2% population of the State and contrary to popular myth spread by Indian media and their actors it is not Buddhist majority region. Muslims enjoy number superiority in the region and Kargil district which is populated by most Muslims who profess the faith of Shia Muslims are increasingly adopting Kashmiri language and culture. On my two study visits to Kargil and Leh in 2007and 2009 I found that despite high concentration of Indian troops there, people don’t take, eat or share their food with the troops even when provided free or while working for them. There they now speak Kashmiri and try to identify with Kashmir. Despite economic blockade in 2008 Kashmiris refused to see Pandits and Dogras differently. In spite of attempts by Sangh Parivar to manhandle Kashmiri leadership the pro resistant groups have refused to issue provocative statements against minorities in Kashmir. Kashmir has negated ethnic divisions. Pandits are given special job package at the expense of Kashmiri Muslims. Yet there have been no protests and no one has raised any eyebrow with this discriminatory policy.
Taking the sample of one particular newspaper, whom the ex governor the Valley, Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha, called ‘rabid anti India newspaper’ (refer to the book ‘Warriors After War’ where Mr. Sinha repeats the same thing on P 130) which is now increasingly becoming pro establishment, the IRIIS while delineating its report says that the said newspaper reported the ‘development of India’ only 7 percent. Now the same newspaper is putting more Indian stuff on the front page and even on sports page. There is a famous saying in Kashmir that on Idd and Pakistan cricket Kashmiris across the board have no conflict. However, even the sports page gives now more coverage to Indian cricket team. The Indian academia team further tells how to engineer the youth by planting write ups and stories about the “historical solidarity between National Conference and the support it got from the Indian National Congress and land reforms.” Now for the past one year this has been going on in the local newspapers. Pre 1947 leaders who shared cordial relationship with New Delhi have been brought back into public discourse. Even the ratters have started to write again in the garb of new identity that is increasingly calling itself pro Kashmiri (After pro Pak, pro Independent and pro India). The ‘land to tiller’ reforms which was necessity at that time to arrest the attention of the people from demanding merging with Pakistan, the report says, must be talked.
The Indian State has long history of using academia and members of civil society for its own vested interest. It is suspected that the killing of Maoist leader Azad was orchestrated by using the Swami Agnivesh’s letter for talks (“THE THIRD LETTER: The Maoist and the undelivered missive. Azad’s death is no man’s peace”, Tehelka, July 17, 2010).
Youth moving toward Islam
The IRIIS report says that 61 percent of youth listen to religious sermons on their audio/ MP3 players. Keeping that thing in mind the State is aggressively propagating its own form of Islam in Kashmir which they label as Kashmiriyat. On March 3, 2012, one such function was held in the University auditorium where a top official of the University was the chief guest. The idea is to create fissures among the youth so that they fight together in the name of sectarianism. So far the youth have shown tremendous maturity in resisting such temptations. That is why Islamist youth have inhibition toward the traditionalists. Because they feel these traditionalists in the name of synecretic ways encourage divisions in the society. They vehemently oppose the exercise of going to shrines and hospices. While for a State these are not only important in terms of revenue but controlling the minds of people. Every place in Kashmir has at least one shrine. These dilapidated shrines are now being renovated and festivals are being organised at such places. The JKWAQF Board looking into these shrines never every discloses how much daily amount of money devotees pour in. There is no accountability where this money goes. Devotees thronging to these shrines never get wash rooms for ablution in good conditions. Yet going to shrines is now being aggressively projected as the bedrock of Kashmiri society. That is why of late in State owned Television going to shrines and hospices is being glamorized. The State as such sides with traditionalists because of obvious reasons.
Every since the hundred thousand Hindus of Kashmir left Valley the State has tried many time to create sectarian rift. No Indian news channel, newspaper or news-magazine will print or beam Kashmir without bringing in the Hindu element. Officially it has been confirmed that 219 Hindus got killed during the past 22 years of armed resistance against India. And all those Hindus who voluntarily left or were forced to migrate no one occupied their property. In the Indian State of Gujarat, during the March 2002 pogrom against Muslims around 2000 of them were killed. Women were gang rapped, property was destroyed and thousands of Muslims were displaced from their homeland. After 10 years Muslims are still not able to come back. Their properties have been occupied without being given a single penny. A Muslim cannot sell his property to non Muslim. Those who came back were settled in secluded places which the State turned into slums. Yet hardly any newsmen in India talk of them. All they talk of Gujarat is that post pogrom the state has become most developed and least corrupt. So the blame of non development and corruption lays squarely on Muslims which the state gleaned after 2002 persecution.
On Jan 20, 2012 a tedious piece got splashed on the entire City Page of ‘Greater Kashmir’ newspaper on reported conversion of Muslim youth toward Christianity. In a very bad piece of reporting the reporter flaying every journalism rules not all character assassinated the father of the church but his daughter and family as well. Strangely it never trespassed the reporters mind that why would any religion make its followers drug addicts and sex maniacs. There was no defamation case against the reporter. The State sponsored civil society didn’t register any protest against such insidious reportage. The State wants to give impression to the outside world that Kashmiris are beastly people who must be controlled. Left open they will devour anyone who is not in sync with them. Any outsider who had had gone through that stupid piece of reporting will only pity on the people who allowed it to be published in first place.
Now they are putting words in the heads of turncoat journalists and self styled civil society (mostly retired government officials or writers and poets looking for awards and perks from the State), that secession is not internationally accepted. You cannot be Muslim and secessionist at the same time, these Indian academia retort. A Muslim majority State is branded communal when it fights for its legal independence as promised by Indian’s first Prime Minister and as recorded in the files of UNO. From the past three decades Kashmiris have been hearing that their struggle is ‘communal’ while the ‘World’ is ‘secular’. However, this garb of secularity from the ‘World’ was ripped off with bans on veils and minarets. Partition of Sudan on the basis of religion with active support from the ‘Secular first world’ has made it clear that there are now emerging two poles—Muslim versus Non Muslims. Earlier playing the card of communalism and secularism had its desired affect when Westerners also tended to view it in that prism but now with increasingly ‘Pax Muslimana’ gaining currency Kashmir is suddenly becoming a part of leverage for “World Community”.
Calling Pro Indian parties to unite
Interestingly the report calls upon pro Indian politicians, MLAs, civil society, sarpanchs to organise seminars, rallies, protest marches in connivance with each other just like PDP government did when it encouraged everyone from sweeper to teachers to come on the streets to show that Kashmir is not all about secession. Every now and then people of Kashmir are denied their basic amenities like water, electricity, roads and in the winters even the food on streets, kerosene in Public Distribution Centres vanishes. The State makes people to protest on everything in Kashmir which serves them the larger interest of branding Kashmiris as habitual protestors. “When you don’t have electricity you shout Azadi. This is not new,” the incumbent Chief Minister told the Indian news-magazine Outlook in 2010. “I remember, in my childhood, when electricity went during a popular TV serial, people represented to a UN office here. That is the dichotomy in our system.” (“I’m Here. I Haven’t Run Away. I’m Ready To Admit Mistakes” Outlook India July 17, 2010).
The report advises pro Indian actors to stay connected with each other and work toward integrating Kashmiri youth into the interests of India. “The biggest challenge facing the government and the political and civil society of Jammu & Kashmir is not only to change the perceptions of the youth but also to bring about their participation in the mainstream politics and, socio-economic development of the state,” writes she.
For those youth who follow the masses (read join mass protests or pelt stones on troopers) the report recommends of absorbing them into corporate sector. This is in continuance with the policy of recruiting Kashmiri youth into highly pressured jobs of low incomes. In the year 2011, the Indian State unabashedly paraded the youth of Kashmir who had been co-opted into 100 US dollar per month jobs in the auditorium of Kashmir University. It was made a grand event with various Indian Satellite news channels and newspapers thronging to the spot. The millions of rupees that the Indian State promised to Kashmiris were given to the Indian companies for training the youth of Kashmir. Paulo Freire has aptly summed up this situation: “They feel that the ignorance of the people is so complete that they are unfit for anything except to receive the teachings of the professionals.” The opening up of coffee shops, marts and other branded companies are coming up at the insistence of the Government of India. The Kashmiri youth employed there are given meager salary as per the colonial rules. The opening up of business house is to bring pressure on pro resistance leaders not to call strikes or protests against the State atrocities.
On page 28 titled “Transforming the social milieu of the youth”, the Delhi University Professor writes: “The Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports should promote sports among the Kashmiri youth by setting up sports academies, promoting Cricket Leagues that already exists along with Basketball and Rugby Leagues,” it orders the pro Indian government of Kashmir, “making the old indoor stadiums functional by providing new equipment and constructing more such stadiums.” Throughout the whole report it is clear that they want conflict stabilization and management. Interestingly Indian troops have been carrying on such activities for the past one decade under the name of “Op Sadabhavana”. Now they want plain clothe intelligence officers to do it.
Arrest anyone who does investigative story
One of the horrific suggestions they have put before the State administration in Kashmir is to arrest any “specific individuals are found to be resorting to hate-speech or hacking the government websites”. So it effectively means that if a journalist does investigative story which exposes murder by troops and next day people come on the street protesting against it, the journalist can be booked and locked up in the jail. Can these academia put up the same suggestions to Indian media? They would be gulped down, and rightly so. This report puts a large question on the independence of Indian academia.
Taking cue from this report the State owned DD Kashir and Radio Kashmir have started to beam news about the world. Regional news meant to highlight the day to day happenings of the locals is increasingly beaming news from the world. The newspapers of the Valley are also doing it. The front page of newspapers would early never give coverage to the happenings of India now they have started it. All this is to make the ‘inward’ looking Kashmiris to have ‘world perspective’. That perspective will of course be dictated by New Delhi. Having an inward look is a virtue which cures men from many diseases. It is this inward looking nature of youth in Valley that is causing strong tides. It is this inward looking nature of Kashmiris that makes them to question the traditional leadership, their modes of leading and earning. India does not want to have such inward looking generations who will question the leaders of resistance with whom the colonists powers have developed a certain understanding on Kashmir conflict.
These intellectuals or antillectuals go on further and advice government to form a regulatory mechanism for the media in Kashmir. While they advocate ‘free hand’ but in the same league threaten media to ‘compliance’ or face the government music. Kashmir media has already been put under intense scrutiny and pressure by the State. The State has planted number of its men in key positions as well so that the news is distilled. Now with this report whatever neutrality or independence academic and media institutes had, that will get evaporated.
(Inam ul Rehman is a journalist based in Kashmir.)
Originally posted on Kashmir Dispatch on 15 April 2012