Everyday Forms of Resistance in Kashmir
The political scientist James Scott calls these forms of resistance as ‘weapons of the weak’.
The 2016 unrest in Kashmir, which broke out after the killing of Hizb Commander, Burhan Wani, popularly known as the ‘Poster Boy’, triggered protests across the Valley. Unable to cope up with the situation, the state government began to manufacture rumors that only 5 to 10% Kashmiris are engaged in protests. This mistaken notion of resistance in valley by state and its agents is not something new. Sometime we even heard from state ‘sub-contractors’ holding offices in Kashmir that only 10 to 20% Pakistani backed people are protesting in Kashmir. And majority of Kashmiri people are ‘cool dudes’ who had nothing to do with the protests. No doubt, it is true that very less are participating in open forms of political protest. But that doesn’t mean that majority acts as mute spectators and are not resisting against the brute might of the state. This shows their limited understanding of resistance; they had narrowed down it to stone pelting, clash between militants and army, collective confrontation of people with state authorities.
Kashmir has a long history of resistance. Resistance in valley is not just about stone pelting with the armed forces or attention-grabbing demonstrations which we often encounter. Other forms of protests may not sound louder, but they are everywhere in the nook and corner of the valley. The political scientist James Scott calls these forms of resistance as ‘weapons of the weak’. In Kashmir open political actions dominate accounts of political conflict. This is clearly visible in the accounts presented by historians, journalists, statesmen, or leaders of popular movements. For example fight between rebels and army, heavy stone pelting on convoy, etc in Kashmir are always covering the headlines. However, there is a vast realm of political action that is almost habitually overlooked. These are ignored for two reasons. First, it is not openly declared in the usually understood sense of “politics.” Second, neither is it group action in the usually understood sense of collective action”. In his book “Weapons of the weak: everyday forms of resistance” often hailed as his masterpiece, James Scott writes “oppression and resistance are in constant flux, and that by focusing on the ‘visible’ historic events such as organized rebellions or collective action we can easily miss the subtle but powerful forms of everyday resistance”. In a sense excessive attention has been paid to the rare occurrences of open political actions, and too little to ordinary, everyday forms of resistance and their symbolic and ideological underpinnings.
By a bold exercise of the mind one can easily locate these forms of resistance in Kashmir. Take the example of games played in Kashmir. One out of many games is the locally famous army-militant. In which children are in a race to act as a militant but not army cop who is seen as villain. One should bear in mind that this is not just a game but a sign of resistance too. The question arises how? Child while realizing the contemporary situation in Kashmir comes to the conclusion that army is brutal; they are killing, blinding and torturing people. And perceived that militants are those who are fighting for the cause of common people. So, children chose to play the role of militant but not the army cop. In the same way when in villages or towns, children fight among each other on several issues. The one who gets some heavy jolts will report to parents about the brutality. The moment parents came to know about this fight they will call the child who beats the weaker ‘waich kai kortha amis zan osuk armywol’- means see what you did to him, you acted like brute army cop. If a small child in a family will try do some mischievous activities. The mother often would say “jaan saba odha chai military, czup karit baihow nata marnai yem” there is army outside stay calm otherwise they will beat you. Here the question arises why child is threatened with army action? The reason behind is clear army is treated as the ‘symbol of brutality’.
Take the recent heavy snowfall in the Valley; social networking sites have been stormed with pictures of snowmen depicting situation in Kashmir following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani. We saw how hundreds from Kashmir are trying to express with snow art what happened in past months. One of the Facebook users posted a photo of himself on the networking site alongside a snowman whose head was covered in a headscarf and ‘Don’t Pellet Me’ written on its body. We saw sculptures of snow carrying messages like Burhan the hero, we want freedom, don’t pellet me, free Kashmir, and save Kashmir. Another form of everyday resistance is the name calling and most of its targets are political leaders in Kashmir. It is so extreme that if you will tell a small boy around the age of four he will tell you the locally given nicknames of all. Slander, gossip, and character assassination of state appointed political leaders in Kashmir can also be seen at every walk of life.
One should not deny the fact that these forms of protests have certain features in common. They require little or no coordination or planning; they make use of implicit understandings and informal networks; they often represent a form of individual self help; they typically avoid any direct, symbolic confrontation with authority. Thus by focusing on open forms of resistance you are excluding majority of population. One should bear in mind that much of the politics of subordinate groups falls into the category of “everyday forms of resistance,” and these activities should most definitely be considered political. Because they do constitute a form of collective action, and any account which ignores them is often ignoring the most vital means by which weaker section of society manifest their political interests.
Note: A same type of write up appeared in TheWire. This piece is an addition and modified version of that idea by the author.
Author is a doctoral candidate at Department of History and Culture Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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