CultureBooks Book Excerpt: Blood, Censored – When Kashmiris Become The ‘Enemy’

Book Excerpt: Blood, Censored – When Kashmiris Become The ‘Enemy’

Blood, Censored – When Kashmiris Become the 'Enemy', authored by Dinesh Mohan, Harsh Mander, Navsharan Singh, Pamela Philipose, and Tapan Bose captures the essence of the conflict-ridden Kashmir.

Blood, Censored – When Kashmiris Become the ‘Enemy’, authored by Dinesh Mohan, Harsh Mander, Navsharan Singh, Pamela Philipose, and Tapan Bose captures the essence of the conflict-ridden Kashmir. The authors reflect on their own journey to Kashmir and record the government sanctioned atrocities committed on people.

The book not only raises awareness about the realities of the Kashmiri civilians but also demands justice to what they are being systematically put through. The book acts as a testimony to the suffering of the beautiful valley.

What do the ordinary people do when they become ‘enemy people’ in the eyes of the state, when the line between countryman and enemy, civilian and insurgent, blurs away, when violence is routinised and made normal and, citizens, including children, are brutally targeted by a legally unencumbered state? When the hostility against certain people is not limited to the state, but also extends to society, citizens and public institutions, what do the ordinary people do? In situations, when there is evidence of individuals being disappeared, tortured, killed in custody and raped, and explained away either as ‘aberrations’ or condoned in the interest of a ‘greater cause’, what do the Kashmiri people do?

This is a troubling question outside the familiar zone of rule of law determined solutions. Talking about rule of law and freedoms is reassuring when we know we can bring to the discussions ways in which we can protect what needs protection, i.e., all citizens’ rights and dignity. Accepting that we live in a country where the rights of certain people are routinely violated is hard for many to admit, but perhaps what is harder to swallow is that not only are rights pulverised, it is the custodian of the law of the land which stands accused for these violations. When we hear about lines being crossed and rights violated at a large scale, we are anguished but also filled with the expectation that the wrong will be righted. But when it doesn’t happen, and impunity systematically erodes the constitutional provisions and values, denial of redress works as a double betrayal of the sense of justice: a violation has occurred and what is more, it has not been rectified, worse still, it is justified. In this situation what do the Kashmiri people do? This is a question staring us in our faces.

The valley of Kashmir has long been in turmoil, but it probably never smouldered with such combustible public rage as it does today. In the 1990s, the uprising in the Kashmir valley was fuelled by militants supported, trained and armed by the Pakistani establishment. But after an entire generation of Kashmiris have grown up only under the shadow of the gun, the revolt has transformed increasingly into a mass movement. The government itself admits that the number of militants in Kashmir are only a few hundred. But young people in Kashmir have lost their fear of the soldier and the gun. They are spilling in thousands onto the streets, and there is no part of the valley that is untouched by their rage.

In the winter of 2016, the writers of this book visited the Kashmir valley—lacerated, wrathful, aflame—for solidarity and fact-finding. It was a journey of shame and outrage, and a sadness that does not let us be. This is why we write this book.

We encountered numerous young people blinded by pellets, and others with bullet injuries in their skulls and legs. Some of those felled and blinded may have been among the thousands who pelted stones on the soldiers and policepersons who tried to block their processions. They too should not have been laid down by their country’s soldiers. But many were too young to have even understood what was happening. Their families were utterly devastated with the suffering of many who were still children. The wanton blinding by security forces of children has wounded the souls of the Kashmiri people in ways that little else has in their long turbulent past. The question that people asked us over and over again was this: ‘You say we are equal citizens of India. Yes, some of our boys pelted stones. But we know of far more violent mobs in other parts of India this last year—the Jat and Patidar agitations, the Cauvery dispute and many others. To disperse those mobs, have security forces ever used pellet guns? In all those unrests, lathis, tear-gas and water-cannons were found to be sufficient by India’s security establishment. But why is it that only for Kashmiri youth throwing stones, you use pellet guns?’

The gun has long been deployed by the Indian state to try to cow down and silence the defiant and rebellious Kashmiri. But with it there has also been dialogue and the political process. The policy of the Indian government led by Narendra Modi towards the people of Kashmir has hardened into one of unmitigated militarism—subjugation, submission and only then dialogue. The government had made it clear that it is prepared to continue to blind, disable or even kill its youth if they try to fight the army with stones, or they have the misfortune of being part of an angry crowd, or just an onlooker. The army chief General Bipin Rawat repeatedly threatens ‘tough action’ against even those who abjure the gun, declaring that those who pelt stones will be treated as overground supporters of militants and they will have to face the full brunt of the formidable military power of the Indian state. The signs are unmistakable that the government is almost in a state of undeclared war against its own people.

Also read: What It’s Like To Talk About Gender And Feminism In Kashmir

Excerpted with permission from Blood, Censored – When Kashmiris Become the ‘Enemy’, Yoda Press. You can buy this book at 20% off at the FII-Yoda Press Winter Book Sale on 21st and 22nd December 2018 in New Delhi. For more details, check out the sale page.

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