Author: Saadut
•5:37 PM

For the fleeting visitor, Kashmir may seem like a beautiful touristy canvas, a perfect picture postcard in its scintillating meadows, shikara studded lake waters and the rows of tulips in a politically rechristened garden. But what such visitors don’t get to see (or willfully ignore) are the huge expanses of a military occupation in these meadows, of the unmarked mass graves hidden behind such occupation garrisons, the tormented psyche of common Kashmiris, loss of childhood for generations, thousands of custodial disappearances and of the treachery of an occupying state. Even while Mr. Suhel Seth claims ‘I am no Kashmir expert’, he does an total volte face in the same article ‘How to make Kashmiris Indians’ (DNA 24th May 2014) by weaving tales about the Kashmir problem and presenting his myths as ‘expert analysis’. I am not here to challenge the wisdom and intellect of Mr. Seth, but there surely is a lot of imagination in his mind when it comes to Kashmir, all hollow imagination that.

Even at its peak of insurgency in Kashmir, tourists were not targeted by the militants. If you then speak of the Al-Faran case, where foreign tourists were abducted (July 1995) and then killed, much about this tragedy has been exposed in ‘The Meadow’ (by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark). Going by the conventional wisdom of Kashmiris then, it should be the Indian forces and its renegade agents that you should have been afraid of here, not the militants. That said, it is hard to visualize what reason would militants have in attacking you, your ‘politically tradable value’ in the Kashmir conflict game being nil. Hence your ‘so what's a militant or two trying to kill you?’ could be seen no more than a self gloat.

You are very right when you say ‘The people of Kashmir are easily the most hospitable as also perhaps the most disillusioned’ except for your ‘perhaps’ doubts your own analysis. We are disillusioned with India, but we are not disillusioned to the level of giving up this struggle for our rights. ‘(since) I am no Kashmir expert I don't know (or care) about the politics of rogues like the Hurriyat’. When you do not claim to have any expertise on Kashmir nor do you ‘know (or care)’ anything about the Hurriyat, then how can you even pronounce them as rouges? Your statement sounds laden with presumptuous prejudice. Just because Hurriyat (and like groups) call for resolving Kashmir on the lines international resolutions promised and accepted by India, does it make such political formations rouge? Or just because these parties challenge the status quo of Kashmir, and you see their calling for a resolution in line with the aspirations of common Kashmiris different from your ‘let’s force Indianisation of Kashmiris’ view, you would like to label them ‘rouge’? While common Kashmiris may differ with the internal politics of the Hurriyat (s), but won’t differ with the call for resolution these parties keep asking for.  If you were a student of history, would have known how Late Sheikh Abdulla sold the dream of plebiscite to Kashmiris for decades, even while he was in power, sometimes via ‘Mahaz-e-Raishumari’ (Plebiscite Front) while other times via NC, and how the present call for resolution of Kashmir pre-dates even the claimed accession between the Dogra King and the Union of India. So who is a ‘rouge’ here; the occupier who promised a resolution as per wishes of common people yet dithers on that promise and loots the resources of this land or the occupied and oppressed commoners who keep on reminding you of that promise? Should not take much of intellect to identify the ‘rouge’ and ‘robber’ here, does it? Paradoxically the heading of your article only justifies the Hurriyat stand, when you prescribe for ‘How to make Kashmiris Indians’ clearly affirming that ‘Kashmiris are not Indians (yet)’, for one can only want to convert somebody when he is not in that desired ‘form’ yet.

Every time you visit Srinagar, you visit DPS Srinagar run by the Dhar foundation, a school which is hardly a decade old and offers you a very small and conveniently controlled window into the young minds of Kashmir. You have not dared to talk to students in the heart of Srinagar, or from older schools that have lived thru the turmoil and persecution of decades. Try driving down to old schools in downtown Srinagar or other valley towns, speaking to a wider audience and get to hear un-doctored or untutored pulse of Kashmir. 

You speak of a hotel run by Taj and wonder why they have not set up a hotel management school in Srinagar. Perhaps unknown to you, there is a hotel management school in Srinagar, which churns out professionals in huge numbers. Pity is you will never wonder of what became of such professionals, when big hotels like ‘The Grand Lalit’ Srinagar (where you must have stayed many times) have made an unwritten policy of sorts to not employ locals. Ironically such properties are known to have been handed over to these Indian corporations for peanuts in Kashmir, while keeping away locals from any opportunities there. Reminds you of British India racism? And to correct you again (Oh how I hate to interrupt you in imagining!), tourism is not the backbone of Kashmir (contrary to what you claim). The projection of tourism as some ‘backbone of Kashmir economy’ is a deliberate attempt by the Indian state and its ancillary systems (read the media) to present a manufactured image of Kashmir, an image which is not only used as a psycho ops but is also instrumental in deviating attention from the mainstay economy of Kashmir, aimed at breaking any of our self sufficiency. Fact is tourism only contributes 7.93 % of the GSDP (gross domestic product) of Kashmir while providing livelihood to only about 2% of its population. The most important sector in Kashmir has been agriculture, supporting 70% of the population directly or indirectly while absorbing 49% of the total work force here. This ‘tourism is the mainstay’ psycho ops is not only aimed to make believe the local Kashmiri that if tourists don’t come to Kashmir, the local economy is going to come crashing down, it is also used by the Indian state to directly link increased tourist numbers in ‘projecting normalcy’ here. Strangely you will never hear the Indian state or its representatives in Kashmir speak of bolstering the mainstay of local economy, agriculture and horticulture sectors, reasons being evident. 

I do agree when you say ‘Nor does Kashmir need any hand-me-downs. What it needs is the basic understanding that the Kashmiri must find jobs and lead a life of dignity in Kashmir’. Kashmir has never asked for alms or hands-me-down, it has always demanded for justice. Be it economic, by way of rights over its own waters and the cessation of subjugation by NHPC like entities, often called the ‘East India Company’ in Kashmir, or political by way of allowing Kashmiris to decide their own future. It needs its rights on own power projects stolen by NHPC, its rights on vast expanses of meadows and orchards taken into occupation by the Indian military machine. When you speak of creating industry in Kashmir, you conveniently ignore the fact that many industrial estates here continue to be occupied by Indian forces, rendering many entrepreneurs and skilled workers jobless. Perhaps you also need to ask ‘your corporations’ as to why, while major portion for their profits come from Kashmir, they have put their corporate offices, C&F and distribution centers or their manufacturing units in Jammu? Why are major job opportunities shifted out of Kashmir, while they earn majorly out of Kashmir? Perhaps this too has been engineered to ‘valve control’ the supplies and services into Kashmir, as was evident during the Amarnath agitation, when Kashmir was starved for essential supplies including baby food and medication by controlling offices and gangs in Jammu. 

Your contention that ‘separatists are money machines and not ideologues’ is in total contrast to popular wisdom here. Wiki leaks reported ex US Ambassador to India Mulford stating “Corruption cuts across party lines and most Kashmiri’s take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiri’s take money from both India and Pakistan.”  This claim does not absolve India, nor does it point to Pakistan as the exclusive sponsor of murky politics in Kashmir. Later Gen V.K Singh had also claimed ‘army paid ministers in Jammu and Kashmir to “keep people together” . In spite of this ‘pay to earn loyalties’ for more than six decades India has failed to win any hearts in Kashmir.

You are right in saying that ‘the Indian state has abdicated its responsibility in many ways’ which is why Kashmiris have never identified with the Indian state, and you realize the disconnect ‘(not being) surprised when people asked me when I was going back to India’. But paradoxically you refuse to accept the genesis of this disconnect, which will never be bridged by your refusing Kashmiris their rights or by ignoring the basic reasons of this disdain and disassociation. An India which refuses to feel the pain of our kids trampled by its brutal occupation, our 'half windows' in eternal wait for their loved ones being victims of custodial disapperances, cannot and should not expect Kashmiris to identify with their state. Pathetically Mr. Seth also chose to be silent of about this, his silence becoming an alibi to such crimes. You cannot manufacture a discourse on Kashmir which is far from realities, expecting what you force as a solution shall be acceptable to us. The solution to our problems shall come only with our inclusiveness, by India returning to us our political and economic rights, by restoring all that you stole from us, by ensuring justice to all victims of this conflict. Our solution shall come when India treats us as equal partners in the resolution of Kashmir, not just a territory it only holds by military might.

Till then we shall continue to remind India of her promises and keep pointing to the colossal crimes it keeps committing against us


17:32 : 24th May, 2014

P.S Next time you come to Kashmir, try living with the locals as a local for some time and give up your touristy airs.  You will learn many facts of Kashmir.

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