A Convo Down the Lane (Part II)
Mr Manoj was trying to take the conversation more and more towards politics. Now he asked an overtly political question to me.
Question: “Why do Muslims support Pakistan?” he asked. I replied that I don’t think it is the case. He was adamant though. I asked him what made him think so. Cricket, yes he had seen some Muslims supporting Pakistan team in cricket.
It again is a typical saffron narrative. Muslims of India are often looked at with an eye of suspicion on their loyalty to India vis-a-vis Pakistan. A friend of Aligarh once told me that he supports Pakistan cricket team in public while the case is different in private. This was because of the hurt he felt out of being subjected to suspicion.
Well, being under advice to control my tendency to go head on in contentious issues, I tried to avoid this one. But he kept on coming up with arguments, thus characterising the Indian Muslim as the disloyal progeny of the invader who eats here and has his heart elsewhere. It is the typical characterization that his type of narrative uses to justify the xenophobia of Mr Manoj.
Answer: I don’t think it is the general case. Yes, there may be a few ones who support Pakistan in cricket but it is no big deal. It is just natural due to cultural and may be historical reasons. There is a natural affinity between people of same cultures and faiths. Such an affinity that too restricted to a game can’t be construed as treason by anyone except by a bigoted mind. Maybe there are historical reasons as well. For example, the Hyderabad that you are talking about was a Muslim princely state that India annexed by military force. In any case from what I have seen of an Indian Muslim, he is more inclined to support his own country than any other even in cricket. There may be a few, but I am not supporting them just dishing out the possible reasons.
Now Mr Manoj decided to talk about my motherland i.e. Kashmir
Question: I heard and read that Kashmiris don’t like India. But why?
It was an unexpected question. Usually, a common Indian is surprised to know that there is any dissatisfaction amongst the people of the valley. The common man’s perception is generally that Kashmir is a place where “security “forces are securing fellow citizens from the wrath of infiltrators and mercenaries. This gentleman seems a bit more knowledgeable of the ground reality in Kashmir. Unfortunately, he has wedded it to his right-wing narrative of the disloyal progeny of invaders.
Answer: Had you been brought up in Kashmir under the noose and oppression you would also have felt the same as an ordinary Kashmiri feels. So much has happened in Kashmir that you cannot imagine.
He asked what and why. He was stretching it further but I was not in no mood to…
Question: Well Kashmiris get so many benefits from the Indian government. Electricity is given free. LPG is given free. There are relaxations and reservations in employment
It is rather a common misconception in the minds of many people that the government is too generous to the ‘ungrateful’ Kashmiris and that it is spending huge amounts of money for development and all.
Answer: It is completely a case of misinformation and misrepresentation of facts. Leave alone being generous, we don’t even get our due from the centre. NHPC produces a mammoth 30% of its power generated from our state which is transmitted to the northern grid while we remain starved of electricity in sub-zero temperatures. And employment, I have seen friends, graduates and post-graduates running paces to become constables in the police. Unemployment is such a chronic issue in our state primarily due to lack of industrialisation and the absence of private sector. Yes, the government does spend a huge amount of money on Kashmir. But not for the people, it spends on a huge army presence. With nearly a quarter million troops stationed in the valley, who occupy one lac kanals of private land, the expenses are bound to be huge.
But for common Kashmiris, there is no generosity. The lack of industries is primarily due to unavailability of power. The Internet was a very late comer to the valley and is still occasionally banned. With the huge hydroelectric potential of the valley sacrificed at the altar of Indus water treaty, the benefits of which are reaped in the irrigated lands of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, it is indeed an irony that such misconceptions persist. Even in a purely economic sense accession has been a costly affair for J&K.
Question: What wrongs are being done to the people of Kashmir? “I heard that beautiful women are raped by army men in Kashmir”, he said so with a tinge of jingoistic, shameless pride.
Rape has many times been used as a weapon by a stronger and conscience-dead side in a conflict. The purpose has been to denigrate and humiliate the weaker adversary into submission. And the chauvinism that has beset the mind of Mr Manoj makes him oblivious to the shame and devilishness of such a heinous crime. It instead gives him a false sense of pride.
Answer: Yes, there have been thousands of rapes in the valley by the soldiers of a ‘secular democratic nation’. From the infamous mass rape of more than 50 women in Kunan-Poshpora to the shameful rape of and 8-year girl along with her mother in Badra-Payeen Handwara, rape has consistently been used as a weapon of war to humiliate the Kashmiris, to break their resolve to resist. Before Manoj stretches it further I take my leave and told him that I have to sleep and went to my seat.
At the end of the day, what I assume is that Manoj’s curiosity doesn’t got all its answers. He, I am sure, has more questions to ask after the conversation than he had before it. Some of which he will ask from his own narrative, his own ideology and his own worldview. For me, the conversation was very fruitful. It further helped me to understand why certain Indians behave and think in a certain way. It made me realise how people make simplistic assumptions and draw deceptive conclusions to fit their own narratives; How people, otherwise well-mannered and fair-minded, turn unfair even merciless by subscribing to hateful ideologies and chauvinistic narratives; How historical baggage shapes our mindset. But most of all it made me realise that no matter how much a person is bigoted and biased by jingoistic feelings, he still is restless. Somehow, somewhere in his mind questions keep ringing. Maybe because of the deceptive conclusions, the antipathetic feelings, the hateful arguments, the feelings of ethnic and communal superiority, no matter how sophisticated and strong they are, still they are unable to completely silence a person’s conscience. It still prods him to ask questions of the unfair narrative that it has somehow accepted.
Note: To go to the first part of this article kindly visit the link https://oracleopinions.com/2017/05/10/a-convo-down-the-lane/
Author tweets at @TayyabBanna . His fb link is https://www.facebook.com/secuurrity
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.