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The Irony of the Largest Democracy – AFSPA?

The violent carnage in the Kashmir valley has long been the unrelenting target of a brand of macho-patriotism being exercised by the Indian nationals for decades, an unending series of morbid episodes unfolding to reveal our daily dose of bloodshed and death. It is clear that the national government is unprepared to give up on the much debated AFSPA just yet, wistfully deluded by the notion that only an act so vicious can be effective in safeguarding the valley and stamp out any resistant force that threatens them.

Hence they pass off the local protests as nothing but irrational hostility, without paying the slightest heed to the unjustified use of the AFSPA by a power-drunk section of the military. The arguments provided by them are simple – that the insurgencies are nothing but a contrived conspiracy being reeled out by our Muslim neighbors and, thus, military intervention is only imperative to keep their protests subdued.

AFSPA : Kashmir brutality
AP Photo : Dar Yasin

 

It would however be unjust to completely disregard the measure of truth that these arguments carry. But for the Centre to acknowledge the military violence and subsequent local insurgencies in the valley would mean coming to terms with their own flaws in decision making. It would mean giving up the country’s image as a global pluralist democracy, a risk that the political elite choose not to take in the fear of losing their obvious ticket to faux-Western liberalism. Hence the obvious solution is not to own up to mistakes, but to instead underplay the people’s sufferings entirely and suppressing them. And by underplaying the brutal truth, we have glorified the apparent necessity of the AFSPA, and instilled in the Kashmiris a deep-rooted sense of estrangement and disaffection.

The irony here is rather stark. On one hand, we as a nation are eager to keep our image of a secular and multi-ethnic democracy unsullied. And in an attempt to do so, we alienate a part of our population and impose an act that turns rightful citizens to nothing more than subjects chained with no rights or protection. While we protest against the brutalities meted out to the natives of Balochistan by our “much-hated” neighbours, we forget the condition of our very own countrymen.

AFSPA : Misused power

Two nations, who’ve been at war, and are engaged in an unofficial cold war since the independence, brand each other as the orchestrators of the violence. Pakistanis stand in solidarity with Kashmir, and Indians stand in solidarity with Balochistan; but not a single ‘nationalist’ acknowledges the barbaric usage of the state machinery.

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An ideal democracy has no place for an act so vicious and violating. We speak so gloriously of Kashmir being as much a part of India as any of the other states are, and yet we have failed as a democracy the very moment we snatched their rights and muffled their voices. It is nothing but our farcical idea of nationalism in play when we glorify the “selfless courage” of our power-drunk soldiers who, under the protection of the AFSPA, have been mercilessly killing innocents both in the North East and in Kashmir since decades.

AFSPA
Kashmiri Muslim protesters taunt Indian policemen as they clash in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, July 11, 2016.(AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

In a desperate attempt to justify our democratic failure, this nation has been glorifying “nationalism” while branding the atrocities as proper justice. After all, denial is the utmost form of self-defense.

If we choose to treat Kashmir as an integral part of the nation in keeping up with its pluralist image, we cannot suppress the situation as something insignificant and irrational. As a nation that once had to push against similar circumstances to be free, we cannot pretend that a liberalized army is the simple solution to this. This situation, first and foremost, demands recognition.

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It is high time we acknowledge the plight of the people we call our own, repeal the AFSPA and give them back their basic constitutional rights. We must stop the unchecked violation of human rights by the army against their own people. And most importantly, the nation needs to listen. Instead of blatantly labeling them as terrorists under Pakistani influence, we must critically examine their perspective and empathize with their cause.

The only way to placate is not by force, but by putting our arms down and trying to listen.

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