How Indian society has been desensitized to the plight of Kashmir

FILE PHOTO: A Kashmir girl rides her bike past Indian security force personnel standing guard in front closed shops in a street in Srinagar, October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo

By Nazma Parveen, 

Kolkata: August 2020 marks one year to the dilution of Article 370 in Kashmir, which stripped it of its statehood by questionable legal means and the resultant communication blockade that followed the decision. One year ago, this decision was taken by the Indian Government in a bid to integrate Kashmir into mainstream India.

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One year later Kashmir continues to remain under a 4G ban, at least a dozen leaders of mainstream parties like PDP and NC, remain under house arrest and the cycle of violence continues unabated in the valley. What we witnessed in the last year is the systematic desensitization of the Indian population to what is happening in Kashmir.

When Herbert Spencer gave the ‘Organismic theory of society,’ he compared society with an organism. He explained that individuals are the limbs of the society and behave as its cells. Every organism depends for its life and full performance of its functions on the proper coordination and interrelation of the units. Just as the diseased condition of one organ affects the health and proper functioning of other organs, similarly individuals who form the society are inseparably connected for the realization of their best selves.

Indian society is currently suffering from what can be called the ‘desensitization syndrome’.

It would be preposterous to say that before 2019, the Indian society was empathetic or understood the circumstances of a common Kashmiri, but it would be fair to assume that the worst Indian society felt was an air of indifference. When the Pulwama attack happened in February 2019, it set the tone for what was to happen in Kashmir over the next few months. The desensitization has happened regularly with uninterrupted doses of propaganda portraying Kashmiris as mischief-makers and their systematic dehumanization over a continuous period of time. The erstwhile sentiment of indifference gradually transformed into naked hatred. Despite repeated reports of human rights violations in the valley, the Indian populace either justified and even cheered for the developments.

What has Govt. achieved so far?

Isn’t it important to know what exactly has the Government achieved by ripping a state of its statehood, muzzling the voices of around 8 million and caging an entire state in the name of integration? The decision of revocation which was taken by the BJP led NDA coalition govt. with tall claims have fallen flat on its face. There are enough figures to indicate that militancy was on a decline since 2000, so what was the need for applying brute force and an iron fist approach? Yes, public protests and stone-throwing incidents have been stopped, but if the recent reports are to be believed there has been a surge in recruitment of locals in militant groups, which is a worrying trend. Also, the militant activities and the resultant violence that were previously restricted to the hilly regions have been extended to the heart of Kashmir with numerous incidents reported from Srinagar in the past one year.

The brutal clampdown, along with the pandemic and 4G internet ban has broken the back of the economy in the state since tourism and local businesses suffered immensely. At least 1.5 million Kashmiri students have been missing school – first because of the clampdown and now because of the pandemic, with no means of accessing online classes like the rest of the country. The resentment and feeling of dispossession have only increased in the valley and Kashmir is now like a ticking bomb. If stripping them of their identity, communication blockade, detention of leaders, arresting journalists was not enough the Government has come up with the delimitation exercise which is nothing but a ploy for disempowering the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and gradually changing the demography of the region.

A few ago, a Kashmiri Pandit body demanded the restoration of Article 370 to protect the cultural and economic interests of the people in the region and reiterated that there cannot be a military solution to a political situation. But the truth is that for the Narendra Modi Government the agenda was never about the welfare or upliftment of the Kashmiris but only a political gimmick and furthering the larger cause of Sangh ideology.

A downward spiral of morality

The fact that the majority of Indians don’t see anything wrong in the oppression and humiliation of their countrymen is a testimony to the level of desensitization they have achieved. Coming back to Herbert Spencer’s theory, it is ignorant of the people to believe that while a small section of the society they belong to, is being subjected to various atrocities they will continue to remain unaffected. When a disease grips a part of the body, if left unattended, sooner or later it spreads to the remaining parts as well. A disease only manifests when it gets the appropriate conditions and environment for it, similarly, the desensitization has manifested in its full glory in the communally charged environment of the country.

The Government is confident that a country that has been surviving on mere spectacles since the past 6 years be it the Balakot attack, demonetization exercise, or the recent lamp lighting and utensil banging feat during a pandemic is not bothered about asking relevant questions. When it comes to Kashmir, it figures way down on the Indian morality pyramid.

We have successfully managed to alienate the Kashmiris even further and perhaps it will be too late when people realize that there is no victory in humiliating our countrymen and invisibilizing an entire state. The success of this decision can be gauged by the fact that the Government has decided to impose a curfew in Kashmir, just before the first anniversary of the “masterstroke.”