Author: Saadut
•8:56 PM

Days after taking over the reigns of power in North Korea, Kim Jong-un was shown on North Korean TV visiting industry, schools and border soldiers. As with earlier footages where his father Kim Jong-il would be shown to visit state institutions, visits of the new ruler bore exactly the same ‘state controlled human reactions’ in these places. The well practiced smiles of the visit participants, the indoctrinated head nodding responses, the trained applauses all bore a hallmark of continuity of tailor made mindsets. The stiff lipped generals who accompanied the North Korean leader on such visits were groomed for that well calculated and practiced pace behind him, overseeing expressionless faces in forced silences. 

There were glimpses of this North Korean model of ‘controlled human reactions’ when Rahul Gandhi recently visited the Kashmir University. Hand picked participants and debriefed mindsets that were caged in convenient questionnaires like ‘our questions’ not ‘my questions’, ‘our India’ not ‘our Kashmir’. When minds and thoughts are discreetly filtered, the only thing that passes such dictatorial censure is political convenience of the visitor. Why make Rahul feel uneasy for real questions, after all has Delhi not been escaping the reality here for decades. When Rahul said “I am a Kashmiri’ nobody was to ask him “so do you remember the repeated promises made by your Kashmiri grandpa and do you really feel the pain of politically deprived Kashmiris?” The censors adopted by the authorities in itself were acceptance of the fact that dissent on the ground is overwhelming and Rahul & team was not here to hear voices from ground but were here just for a PR show. The Korean stiff lipped generals were replaced here by face dropped, mask wearing state choir, the expressionless applause was forced upon ‘selective’ participants, and the photo ops were perfect newspaper cut. Of course Rahuls ‘build bridges’ comment was taken in a lighter vein in Kashmir, where distances are so huge that the state resorts to every censorship and event filtering to escape ground realities, where no bridges could bridge this gap. The ‘build bridges’ effort had in fact a striking resemblances to the hyped but failed rocket launch efforts of North Korea, a failure that soon became an internet jest


But then such failed Indian political rocket launches have been consistent in Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru’s promise from the launch pad of Lal chowk in 1947 of a plebiscite for Kashmir must be one starting point for such failures. Nehru’s ‘let Kashmiri’s decide their destiny’ promises were resonated in the United Nations and also the Indian parliament in later years, ironically however in practice he ensured erasure of whatever of internal autonomies Kashmir had held. Over the decades there was a consistency in such failures, from  P V Narsima Rao‘s ‘Sky is the limit’ rocket, Vajpayees ‘Insaniyat kea dire mai’ launch to Manmohan Singh’s ‘Zero tolerance for human rights violations’ missile, all of them were designed to fail on launch only. Their local counterparts not to be undone used to carry their own version of mobile rockets; the ‘Autnomy I’ which was sought to be test fired from 1953 to 1977, ‘Autonomy II’ a modified version of ‘Autonomy I’ used after 1977 and the ultra mobile ‘Autonomy III’ used by Sheikh’s progeny conveniently and displayed as per political periodicity. Unfortunately for the ‘Autonomy’ series promoters, their autonomous cry’o'genic rockets had been already diffused by New Delhi over decades.

In a state where everything is controlled by force, from economic (diversions) and state (non) amenities to political thoughts, mass production and forced dissemination of pre fabricated mindsets becomes a booming state enterprise. It is only with such a mass engineering of ‘social and political thought’ that the commoners can be herded to ‘state enforcement’. For an iron fist state to continue in power, it is mandated that measures of censorship are put in place, information flow in controlled and the state has an overwhelming eye on the activities of population. Information dissemination is so tightly controlled that state controlled broadcasters are busy serving only flattering reports about the state and the ‘imaginary good’ the power politicians are busy doing for the people. None of the trampled political aspirations or the social hardships due to an iron fisted state and anarchical political setup are ever reported. Such information censorship control by the state ensured that local news channels were banned in Kashmir (while they function in Jammu) and sms services stand banned for many years now. Whatever of the Indian media is beamed in Kashmir is self regulated by their own jingoistic ‘notionalism’. 

In Kashmir a small percentage of the population may have internet access but all of these connections remain under constant state surveillance and censorship. And if monitoring was not enough, the state here is known to clamp on such services as and when they wish. 

Of course there are other practices followed like crushing of political dissent by jack book force, distortion of history for political convenience and denial of justice for conflict victims which Rahul chose to pretend blind to.  And as with iron fisted states here too the will of the state is enforced by fear and might. But then fear has never been known to have won the minds and hearts of people.

Instead of building imaginary bridges in the air, Rahul would do well by trying to dismantle the walls that India has enforced around Kashmiri’s. The walls of seclusion, mistrust and denial of political, human and economic rights; and such state enforced walls need to be done away with for any rapprochement to take place. When the efforts of the state lay in ever widening of distances, no bridges would help bridge the gap. Like earlier imaginary launches by Indian leaders limited to hollow claims that fizzed out soon, this bridge too seems to be suspended in an imaginative wilderness. Does Rahul have the courage to do away with hand picked audiences in censored talk and be among commoners to hear and feel Kashmir? Kashmir does not have the Dalit huts of Amethi where Rahul could spend his night but villages like Kunanposhpora where Rahul can learn a life. Will he dare see lives of Kashmiri conflict tormented women up close in these villages? Rahul should realize that laying claim to his Kashmiri origins should also mean inheriting the political legacy of and fulfill the promises made by his “Kashmiri grandpa’ to Kashmiris. Is he brave enough to take that mantle and call spade a spade?

9th October, 2012

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