November 15th, 2012
04:42 PM ET

How India mistreats Kashmir

By Kapil Komireddi, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kapil Komireddi is an Indian journalist. He has written from South Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The views expressed are his own.

Returning home from a visit to Pakistan in 2009, I was invited to have tea with one of the Indian army officials stationed on the international border. Inside his office, I was introduced to another traveler, a middle-aged Kashmiri man who was also on his way back from Pakistan. The three of us spent the next two hours talking about Pakistan. I spoke fondly of Lahore, but the Kashmiri was full of scorn.

“Take my word on this, sir: Pakistan will break apart,” he told the officer. “They are all starving over there.” Later that day, on our way to Delhi, the Kashmiri spoke with great feeling about his friends in Pakistan and the wedding he’d just attended there. He had put on a performance for the officer, demonstrated his commitment to India by eagerly ratifying the most common Indian prejudices about Pakistan. It was a practiced effort. “I am happy in India,” he later told me. “But our loyalty is always questioned.”

People in abusive relationships must adopt such displays of intense loyalty, and Kashmiris have been in an abusive relationship with the Indian state for more than two decades. What’s striking, particularly in a country that takes so much pride in its democracy, is the refusal of a large number of Indians even to acknowledge this reality. India’s much-revered public intellectuals and its voluble news media maintain a near total silence on the subject. Insulated from any serious debate on New Delhi’s conduct in Kashmir, many Indians fall back on old shibboleths to make sense of what is happening there. In these uncomplicated narratives, Kashmiri Muslims who speak up against New Delhi are naturally Pakistan-sponsored jihadis; Indian armed forces are incapable of wrongdoing; and Kashmir, without exception, is an “integral part” of India.

It’s a belief system that asserts India’s ownership of Kashmir by effectively disenfranchising Kashmiris. Kashmiris are demonized as fifth columnists and denied the treatment extended to “fellow citizens” in other parts of the country. But they are expected, in all circumstances, to pledge constant allegiance to India.

This explains why even the most benign reproof of New Delhi by Kashmiris can prompt so many Indians to erupt with self-righteous indignation. This happened on Monday, when Mustafa Kamal, a senior leader of Jammu & Kashmir’s ruling National Conference Party, upbraided New Delhi for not bringing down troop levels in Kashmir. The Indian Army continues to function under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir. The AFSPA is one of the cruelest pieces of legislation on India’s statue books. It provides immunity from prosecution to the troops operating in Kashmir and other restive regions of the country.

India advertises itself to the planet as the world’s largest democracy, a nation of laws, but consider the plight of the Kashmiris who are persecuted on the mere presumption of being enemies of Indian democracy – and then denied the legal remedies of democratic India to challenge that premise. The Indian government has invoked the AFSPA in more than 40 instances to prevent soldiers from being prosecuted for crimes ranging from torture and murder to rape.

None of this has produced any public outcry in India – unlike Kamal’s remarks. Speaking to a gathering of his party workers, Kamal bemoaned, somewhat idealistically, India’s refusal to sign a “no-war” treaty with Pakistan, before saying, as part of a much larger conversation about resolving the Kashmir crisis, that “I feel our enemy is our own country, not Pakistan.” This was enough to sound the jingoist tocsins across India. Times Now, the broadcasting arm of the Times of India and India’s answer to Fox News, almost exploded with nationalist rage. “Can Mustafa Kamal get away by calling India the enemy and Pakistan the friend?” asked one of the channel’s anchors. The Times of India published stories accusing Kamal of describing India as an enemy.

It’s clear from Kamal’s statement that he acknowledged India as “our country” and, as a citizen, placed the burden of responsibility for Kashmir on New Delhi rather than Islamabad. But the effort to portray him as a separatist only intensified. Kamal appeared this week on Times Now’s flagship show to clarify his position. But the host, Arnab Goswami, a blowhard whose act combines the buffoonery of Glenn Beck with the belligerence of Mark Levin, cut him off. “Is India not your country?” he shouted. It was an absurd and humiliating inquisition. I don’t know if Kamal ever harbored separatist sentiments. But if he comes out in favor of Kashmir’s secession tomorrow, nobody should be surprised.

Contrast this “controversy” with the arid reaction to the discovery just last year of unmarked graves containing more than 2,000 bodies in Kashmir. There were no angry newscasters demanding answers from the Indian government. Extraordinarily, a discovery of such magnitude, instead of waking us to the brutality of the AFSPA, was cast as evidence of India’s redeeming features, a cause for self-congratulation: it was a governmental body that unearthed the graves, after all. Instead of questioning a policy that so randomly distributed death among Kashmiris, India celebrated its capacity for self-monitoring.

The novelist Amit Chaudhuri once wrote that “Indians don’t know how to fashion eloquence out of a sense of being wronged or having wronged, at least not without the unmistakable timbre of self-congratulation.” This is primarily because we ”have never really known what it means to inhabit a morally uneasy position.” The hysterical reaction to Kamal is a measure of Indian society’s sense of its own unimpeachable righteousness, and its imperviousness to the appeals of those seeking the restitution of their dignity.

Bloodshed has ebbed in Kashmir and something like peace is returning to the valley, yet closure will not come unless there is repentance on the part of those who claim Kashmiris as their “fellow citizens” but withhold from them the privileges of citizenship.

Kapil Komireddi can be reached at komireddi@aol.com

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Topics: India

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. krm1007 ©™

    We have invested a lot of resources in India over the past two decades and given a lot of aid to prop it up. There has been no investment on this return. Instead India has squandered all the resources in building nuclear weapons while poverty remains rampant in the country. Terrorism is rampant in the region in part fianced by Indians. We need to revisit our relationship with India. American taxpayers will not tolerate this anymore. We need to take care of our own populace going forward. We cannot be exporting jobs to India or giving it financial or technical handouts.It has become too big to govern or create any value for western countries or even for its own population. India needs to be carved up into smaller independent states to be a viable economically and geo politically.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  2. krm1007 ©™

    Taj Mahal (purely by connotation, not size) reminds one of the saying of our dear architect friend Mies Van Der Rohe that “Less is More” and its application to India geo-politically. The recent economic bubble burst and minority backlash in India point to the necessity of imploding India in a controlled manner to make it more manageable administratively, before it ruptures chaotically. The Moghals may have left behind a legacy of regality in India but it was Mies that has given Indians a political concept that may give Indian Hindus a chance at survival albeit in a fragmented form.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  3. krm1007 ©™

    INDIA: On a Goat and a Stick:

    The problem with India is that it is built on a system of cultural and societal values based on Hinduism which is a cult. Nations built on a cult seldom survive in the long run. You can only take it so far based on symbolisms of a goat and a stick with a skinny little man aka gandhi banging boys at night and spinning wheels during daytime.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • Farrakhan

      Yes, the goat was also banged by Gandhi, and you were that goat in your previous life

      January 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  4. reasoningpolitics

    Reblogged this on Reason and Politics and commented:
    Add your thoughts here... (optional)

    November 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  5. Baadshah

    Interesting why Kashmir is singled out – the problems are across all states in one form or another. India is no more a democracy today than Russia. The dynasties, oligarchies, selfishness and lawlessness rules – most always with complicity from the authorities of course. Laws on paper exist but are no good unless executed on by courts and the police.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  6. Jayadevan

    Any discussion which has Indians and Pakistanis logging in soon turns into a slanging match between them. Logic and common laws of decency in debate have no place in them. The fact is that nobody, Indian or Pakistani, cares the least bit about the Kashmiris. The self-serving rulers of both countries have used them cynically for their own goals, Kashmiri politicians (on the Indian side at least, because we hardly get to hear about the part on the Pakistani side) have feathered their own nests flogging the cause of separatism. Pakistan cynically turned over a third of their part of Kashmir to the Chinese. The truth remains that Kashmir is an embattled place, where the least level of negligence on the Indian border has resulted in Pakistani military adventurism which costs India a heavy price to rectify, like the Kargil adventure, when Pakistani regulars infiltrated Indian territory – Pakistan disowned them at first, even denied them military burial and it was only much later that they acknowledged this fact. On the Siachen glacier, the highest battle-ground in the world, Pakistani and Indian soldiers face each other and lose much more men to the cold than they will ever lose to bullets. But the mistrust between both countries is such that they will never back down from this futile eyeball-to-eyeball stance. Pakistan feels that it can make India die the death of a thousand cuts at a low cost by training and infiltrating militants into Kashmir. In fact, any insurgency in India, be it the Sikhs or the home-grown jihadis have never lacked for material or logistics support from Pakistan.

    In an insurgency, where the targets wear uniforms or are civilians, the armed forces, who still draw their culture form the British army very quickly adapted to the Westmoreland doctrine "If it's dead and its Kashmiri, it's militant". This quickly degenerated into human rights abuses. There have been prosecutions in a few cases, which are too few. There is a sense of outrage among the people of India about this which is shut up by the National Security slogan. Further, the ethnic cleansing done by the Islamic militants in 1990, when targeted killings of Hindus drove almost the entire population of Kashmiri Pundits out of the Kashmir valley. They have not yet returned to their homes. So any talk of human rights now is shut up by an unanswerable question – what about their rights? It is futile to say that the ordinary Kashmiri is not hostile, it was the militants who did this. The jingoist knows no grays – you are either with them or against them. And in a continent riven with communal violence. where Hindu and Muslim talk of past glories and past misdeeds, and politicians use religion as a tool to rule the masses, any discussion soon turns into a slanging match. So the AFSPA becomes a holy cow. A lone woman in Manipur, in the North-Eastern part of India has been on a hunger strike for the past twelve years, demanding a repeal. Largely ignored by the media, she lives because the India state will not let her die.

    Frankly speaking, ideas of freedom and democracy are not very popular in the sub-continent. India fights a war of attrition, Pakistan is more ham-handed. But both of us have crushed revolts, armed or not, with a heavy foot. The Sikh militancy (India), the Baloch revolt (Pakistan) are notable successes. The cost was heavy, but who really cares about a few thousand dead civilians? Pakistan lost In Bangladesh only because of logistics problems and the fact that their military, engaged in ethnic cleansing, soon degenerated into a rabble which was unable to put up a decent fight when Indian troops invaded.

    The two countries have more people on the border than the two Koreas, have acquired nuclear weapons. Both countries, which have abysmal levels of development spend money on armaments aimed at each other (India – 2.5% and Pakistan – 2.8% of GDP). And this in counties which are on the lowest on any list on any index, be it development or social justice or transparency. The latest was Pakistan just managing to beat India -Pakistan was the 3rd worst country for women, India the 4th. They both managed to beat Somali, though – the poor Somalis, riven by years of violence, lacking any system of government, lacking all the glories in the past that India and Pakistan claim, came in at a lowly 5th. So, you can see, a little human rights issue serves us no purpose, unless it is for the pot to call the kettle black. Indians will wax eloquent about targeted killings of Shias and Ahmediyyas in Pakistan, the shooting of Malala, etc. Pakistanis will do the same about Kashmiri Muslims, the 1984 killing of Sikhs in 1984, Gujarat riots of 2002 and so on. And we will both kill off our girl children, either in spirit or in body. Our diaspora will carry our "honour" killings into every country we step into.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Reply
  7. Raju Charles

    The Truth!!!
    Kashmir to Kerala people are free in India! India must resettle all the displaced people of Indian origin in Kashmir! Unfortunately the caste Hindus are not willing to accept any Hindu Dalits from Pakistan or Sri Lanka!

    November 25, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
  8. AMIT_USA

    Mr. Kapil,
    Well what India was fighting for is not a freedom movement but a terrorist movement born and bread by Pakistan –if you are ignorant about this –Please do not write such one sided st v p id articles .....

    Or u may be on ISI roles like Fai...

    November 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  9. lovUSA

    Quite idiotic and the worst article ever from CNN, basically from a author who was born and raised in Andhra Pradesh India and who then moved here to US for his convenience and now passing judgements. That too without taking any factors into consideration and I am 100% sure that the author is a dumb head and have zero knowledge about the social dynamics of India and Pakistan. Probably he should have written a article about Andhra Pradesh and promoting Telugu as a language but I highly doubt that he would have been able to do that because of the level of knowledge i just came across from him.
    Now coming to the main topic, Kashmiri muslims are getting whatever they sowed. May be due to lack of awareness or just for convenient ignorance I never found anybody talking about Kashmiri PUNDITS.
    These poor people were the original natives of the land as like anybody else but Pakistani sponsored terrorists in Kashmir performed ethnic cleansing on them. You might need to visit the Delhi Kashmiri (Pundit) colony or Kashmiri colonies all across India to meet some of the families who lost their homes and land and were terrorized to leave their homes in Kashmir.
    Pakistan has been running proxy warfare in Kashmir since 1980's when General Tikka Khan used all the Mujahids from Afghanistan Soviet war against India. Thousands of Kashmiri Pundits and other innocent citizens perished and suffered at the hands of these terrorists.
    It was only at this point of time India took tough stand against the terrorism and Kashmiri Muslims who were not only supporting the Pakistan sponsored terrorism but were supporting blood bath everyday. Indian army with its hard work and lots of sacrifices was finally able to brought peace to Valley.
    Kashmir is more peaceful that it was in last 15 years.
    Kapil Komiredd, you should be ashamed of yourself. Write back to me if you need some lessons in Indian and Pakistan history.

    December 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Jamshed

      Komireddy is a indian jew, writing in India not usa. (read the article!!!) you can't digest the truth so you throw barbed insults at people without even knowledge of facts.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:59 am | Reply
  10. kashmir tour packages

    Great article….!!!Nice to know about new things with helping concept. I am almost brand new to blogging and really like your post, it is really on target! Thanks for all of your time & work. Hope you always write this blog.
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    December 3, 2012 at 5:20 am | Reply
  11. bijon shah

    How many indian soldiers died in kashmir since independence?did ilyas kashmiri behead indian soldiers?how many hindu sikhs and muslims were killed by seperatists,what about people of leh and ladakh whose lifeline to remaining parts of india goes through kashmir.what about kashmiri pandits and their homes?what about hindu pilgrim sights in kashmir.?is kashmir only for muslims who want to join pakistan?
    so many question...

    December 7, 2012 at 7:27 am | Reply
  12. Kannan

    I wonder how much this guy Komireddi got paid to write a report like this. Majority of Kashmiri Hindus are now displaced to other parts of India due to fear of Muslim terrorists. Now Kashmir is almost a Muslim only state. Anyone who lives there has to take their chances with the Muslim terror groups sponsored by Pakistan. They have no value for women or children. They have nice weapons like AK47 and RDX (C4) explosives. How do you deal with a situation like this? India don’t want to surrender Kashmir to terrorists. The only was is to take extreme measures. People who live there don’t mind the violence / like violence because if they fear safety of their family they could have moved to other parts of India.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  13. Alex

    http://escapefromindia.wordpress.com

    December 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  14. Law Practice Professionals

    The reason why so many off subject posts? Law Practice Professionals http://masseyexcy.jigsy.com/entries/general/potential-lawsuit-azithromycin-linked-with-irregular-heart-rhythm-fda-warns

    August 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
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