It has become fashionable in some pseudo-Left circles to call India’s insensitive and ham-handed approach to Kashmir an “occupation.” Nobody needs to defend the human rights violations in Kashmir, nor the rough-and-ready methods used by the security forces, but an occupation it is not.
The forces sent to keep the peace in Kashmir are no more an occupation force than the police forces used elsewhere to impose section 144 in a Ramlila Maidan to disperse a bunch of Baba Ramdev followers. Or to keep the peace in Ayodhya. The only difference is the length of time such forces have been used in Kashmir as opposed to elsewhere. The forces in Kashmir represent the will of the people of India to remain a secular people – however badly the job is currently being done.
The latest worthy to make this Arundhati Roy kind of point on Kashmir is Pankaj Mishra. In an article in The Guardian, Mishra casually lumps India’s “occupation” of Kashmir with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. He says:
“India and Israel, both products of botched imperial partitions, were the Bush government's two most avid international boosters of the catastrophic "war on terror", fluently deploying the ideological templates of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – democracy versus terrorism, liberalism versus fundamentalism – to justify their own occupations.”
Once you have labelled India as an occupational force in Kashmir, it automatically justifies mindless communal violence in the valley in the name of the Arab Spring and “freedom struggle”. Says Mishra:
“Let's not forget: before the Arab spring of 2011, there was the Kashmiri summer of 2010. Provoked by the killing of a teenage boy in June last year, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris took to the streets to protest against India's brutal military occupation of the Muslim-majority valley. Summer is the usual "season for a face-off in Kashmir", as the Indian filmmaker Sanjay Kak writes in Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir, a lively anthology of young Kashmiri writers, activists, rappers and graphic artists. There is little doubt that Kashmiris, emboldened by the Arab spring, will again stage massive demonstrations in their towns and villages”
There are several thing wrong with this glib comparison between Israel and India.
First, the insertion of the phrase Muslim-majority Valley is itself disconcerting. If the intifada is about fighting “brutal military occupation”, how does the fact that Muslims are in a majority in the valley matter? This is where he gives the game away. Quite clearly, for Mishra the fact that Kashmir Valley is a Muslim majority region is what makes India an occupational force.
Second, Israel and India. Israel evicted the Palestinians from their homes. In India, the glorious Kashmiri freedom struggle has evicted Pandits from their homes. The Indian army has been building up its presence in Kashmir ever since Islamists and jehadis violently cleansed the valley of the Pandits.
Third, Indian policy has always respected the need for Kashmir’s separate identity. Unlike Israel, which evicted the Palestinians and created settlements in Palestinian land forcibly, India never even attempted to change the ethnic composition in the Valley ever. In fact, the ideological fathers of the Kashmiri intifada have done this. Indians, on the other hand, have learnt to live with Kashmiri laws that are clearly discriminatory against people from outside the valley.
Mishra acknowledges this, but uses it as a stick to beat up the BJP with. This is a favourite tactic with the pseudo-Left. When you want to demonise India, bring in the BJP and the RSS – and everything is justified. Does Mishra not know that India is larger than the BJP and the RSS?
“In 1993”, says Mishra, “the then Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, reportedly advised the Hindu nationalist leader LK Advani to alter the demographic composition of the mutinous Kashmir valley by settling Hindus there. Advani, later India's Deputy Prime Minister, fondly quoted from Netanyahu's book on terrorism, given to him by the author. Israeli counter-insurgency experts now regularly visit Kashmir.”
This is a nice way of acknowledging an inconvenient truth. India, even under LK Advani and a BJP-led government, did not try to change the demographic composition of the Kashmir Valley. But for Mishra, the mere fact that India and Israel cooperate in counter-insurgency is somehow a great crime.
It is worth recalling that the normalisation of ties with Israel began with the Congress government of Narasimha Rao. Defence and anti-terror relationships are not based on the policies India and Israel follow internally, but from who can help us in areas we consider of prime importance for national security.
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