Trouble in the Paradise

Fadi Javid

Kashmir Magazine

Kashmir a place known for its aesthetic description “paradise on the earth” is also recognized today one among the “conflicted or deadly zones”. The phenomenology of dread and continuous killing of all category people has brought the serious existential crisis to human life. Due to continuous killings, the trust on security is lost and dread of death is growing in the minds of common people. Thus, in this sense, Kashmir entails today “beauty” and “blood” together. What made Kashmir a paradise and what attracted a great poet Amir Khusro decades ago who described Kashmir in his beautiful words, “agar firdoos bar roye zameen asat, hame asto hame asto hame asat”. If there is paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, and it is this”. Of course it the natural aspect of Kashmir which never fails to attract tourists from different parts of the world. Its lofty mountains, lush green trees, flowing water, fresh air, snow and so on are unique gifts which God has sanctified to this land. The elements of love, brotherhood, tolerance sympathy, affection, customs, and traditions is what we call “Kashmirayat” adds more beauty to its social and moral dimensions. On the other hand, Kashmir is equally known for its unending bloodshed, innocent killings, and unceasing violence. What made Kashmir a conflicted zone is a serious question that should be addressed. However, in this connection, I tried to appraise India’s military approach to Kashmir and pose few important questions which can help us to understand the central cause of the conflict.

a) Is military approach a right choice to make to Kashmir peaceful and secure?

b) Could this approach ever bring stability and win the hearts of Kashmiri people?


c) How is radicalization conceived in the context of Kashmir conflict?

d) Does armed force have a serious need for ethics while using lethal power?

There are many ways to answer these questions but I tried to bring them into a philosophical praxis. I observe that military approach is a wrong choice to counter radicalization, insatiability, and chaos in the Kashmir. To understand this thesis one has to see it from the approach of opposite contradictions, as a pair of “hate” and “love”. There is always a serious contradiction between the two in this sense they both cannot remain peaceful together. Where there is such contradiction, there is conflict, conflict by further strife becomes violence and results loss of human life. Kashmir situation is made up of a constant strife between these opposing forces. This contrast is also visible in different parts of Indian societies in terms of Hindu-Muslim conflict which is nothing but politically constructed “hate” and “love” game in which these two forces are being played. Love for the nation and religion or any political party is being portrayed through the practices of lynching, killing and other sorts of harassments over minority people particularly Muslims and Dalits. It is paradoxically the opposite of love. To show this sort of love one has to act in a very opposite way.

In Kashmir conflict, these two forces are sharply working but different from the earlier case. Since the forces of “love” and “hate” are the same but they differ in their sources and methods. As exemplification one has to see, the majority of the Kashmir people hate Indian military force. There are certain reasons to answer the question why? Let’s observe some of the pre-Burhan and post-Burhan events which I believe must have in a proper sense strengthened the hate-force among the Kashmiri’s. With the result, a movement which has been started earlier came into sharp focus during Burhan Wani’s period that aims to fight against army atrocities in Kashmir and free it from militarization which is engaged in different sorts of domination, occupation and human rights violation. There are two perspectives at the scene, for the one perspective, those who join the movement and stand against the armed force are labeled as “terrorists” or “rebels” while the other conceive joining youth as “hero’s” fighting for a noble cause. People express the love for the rebels, chant their names and paint them on walls. These rebels are highly respected, remembered and revered even after their death. People profoundly honored their bullet-riddled and blood soiled bodies kiss their faces. At their funerals, people cry out of anger and unbearable pain of losing their men. Every funeral brings new trouble that is more men vowing to join the movement. People conceive the blood and bodies of their people as proof that they are fighting for freedom.

To understand this contrast we shall visit some pre-Burhan events which can also help us to understand why Kashmiri educated youth are sacrificing their precious lives. It requires a separate research to find out approximate statistics of civilian killings, forced disappearances, mass tortures and sexual violence etc. committed by armed forces in Kashmir. In a 1993 report, Human Rights Watch stated that Indian security forces "assaulted civilians during search operations, tortured and summarily executed detainees in custody and murdered civilians in reprisal attacks". Rape a harsh crime was also viewed as a counterinsurgency tactic committed as a means to "punish and humiliate" people of Kashmir, it can be understood from (Kunan Pospora mass rape event up to Aisa, Nelofar event). In this connection I have gone through some earlier human rights and Amnesty International watch reports. A report by the US State Department said, “Indian authorities use Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to avoid holding its security forces responsible for the deaths of civilians in Jammu and Kashmir”. In October 1992, representatives from Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) the report says, “we documented 15 cases of rape, 44 extrajudicial executions, 8 cases of torture, and 20 injuries resulting from indiscriminate shootings of non-combatants by Indian army and security force personnel”. The atmosphere of the per-Burhan and post-Burhan period are similar in many ways if we go back to 1990s we can see two organizations were fighting one against the other. In other words, I shall say one for occupying the disputed territory the other for its independence. My point is in both of the cases Kashmiri civilian has been assaulted, tortured and executed. However, violations of human rights and humanitarian law by the security forces were continued. These violations include the killings, disappearances and tortures like severe beatings, electric shocks, crushing the leg muscles with a wooden roller, and burning with heated objects. However, atrocities of such kinds have attracted much international condemnation but the Indian government failed to account for these abuses and take rigorous action against it. Thus it shows that the seeds of radicalization came from the per-Burhan period.

There is equally a solid influence of post-Burhan atmosphere of Kashmir which has kindled the elements of radicalism in the young Kashmiri minds. For brevity sake, I could not point out all post-Burhan facts but some events which have enhanced existential crisis among Kashmiri’s have been taken into the observation. For this period one can precisely visit the data from July 2016 regarding civilian killings, extreme use of bullets and pellets, tortures, night raids, property damage and so on. My interaction with young college students also unveils a striking and messy existential crisis which made the point clear why they choose stones and arms over the pen. When did I ask them what do you mean by occupation, injustice, unfreedom? They narrate their malice, their continuous unpleasant encounters with army aggression, that made me realize that they are more conscious in meanings and feelings of these terms. One of the student's replies,

“Is it not cruelty, injustice, and slavery that every day we leave for college around 9 o’clock but cannot reach the college till 10:30 am because we are being stopped, searched, abused and sometimes beaten in the army camp that is on the way to college”.

Another student replies,
“Sir we are taking medicines to be psychologically stable”, he adds “we have seen unending killings and tortures since decades that resulted in depression and other psychological problems”.

My colleague asked the young students what is the solution? It is war and one day we will win it, they replied. Throughout this conversation, I observe that those young college students are highly influenced by military aggression. They expressed desires and dreams to get education and degrees they also revealed anger and hate to this authoritative rule and hegemony which are threatening their safety, abrogating their freedom and curbing their rights. It seems to me this cruel militarily occupation and their use of power without ethical constraints have given birth to radical elements among Kashmiri’s and inculcated in their minds “a will to die”.
There are multiple pathways that constitute the process of radicalization. My approach to the term “radical” is different from radicalization perceived in India? Therefore, radicalization can mean different things to different people. I would like to see it from existentialist’s standpoint. I have no problem in conceiving radicalization as an ontological category exists in all humans but it comes into sharp focus under certain situations. Situations in which an individual consciously chooses not to be “something” or “someone”, Subject to oppression and extreme exploitation, rather it is a refusal to live in that way. It is a refusal to act like a “dog” or a “puppet” under others controls, more importantly, it is a conscious refusal to become slaves who surrender their freedom, subjectivity, and individuality. In this sense, they refused to live in “bad faith” which Jean-Paul Sartre characterizes as “inauthentic existence”. Sartre’s and Camus’s philosophy encourages an individual to say “no” to the situations which threaten and abrogates one’s freedom. They urge people to accept the adversity and challenges of life, confront it and try to make it worthwhile. From a Sartrean perspective, humans are ontologically free; their power of saying no is the clue which reveals their nature as free. Rebel says Albert Camus “is a man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation”. Therefore, it follows that radicalization is a conscious act of saying “no” to the undesired and unwanted situations. It is a reaction of every action that intends to cause trouble and life-threatening factors.

Moreover, if we see Burhan Wani who was martyred two years ago is the highest example of Kashmir radicalization. We shall also observe the cases of Manan Wani a Ph.D. scholar and Dr. Rafi Assistant Professor at Kashmir University joined the movement. My point is what made them radicals? What made Burhan, Burhan? Burhan what we know today, same is true about other radicals. What attracted them towards the movement? Through rhetoric political tactics Indian think thank politicians escape these questions by labeling such agitating youth as “unguided people” but this stand can only expose their quacks, humbugs and sense of betrayal. Denial to accept such flaws is foolishness. The truth of continuous indiscriminate and unnecessary civilian killings, repression, tortures, night raids, property destruction, blinding and wounding children with pallets and bullets is a major problem and prominent cause of conflict, uprising, and agitation that can only add fuel to the elements of radicalization.

The “security environment” of Kashmir has been shaken by the actual use of military forces. The quantitative strength of military forces and their unlimited freedom to exercise their power increases day by day in civilian cities, which brings imminent danger to the civilians. It has lead to deterrence and growing instability that puts a harsh impact upon human existence. Therefore, such an atmosphere makes people more prone to serious protests, violence, fearlessness, and radicalization.

It is unethical and irresponsibility not to take immediate and necessary steps when the stability and security of a territory and rights, values, and dignity of its people are at the stake. The situation demands an urgent need for ethics (moral law) so that peace, stability, and healing can be brought to the spirit of Kashmir. However, the knowledge and application of the moral law for both military and police forces should be emphasized uncompromisingly in use of their power. Killing of civilians, beating, torturing, abusing and damaging their property should be strictly monitoring under concise ethical and legal law.

Furthermore, there is also an important need for unbiased introspection, fair examination and rational intervention in this critical time by the Indian intellectual class, mainstream political parties, Indian civil society to dissuade a cruel, unjust, authoritative and agonizing approach to Kashmir which can only lead to violation of fundamental human rights and threat to their security, privacy, dignity and freedom. It is also important to mention that if Kashmir issue with this intensity could be intentionally left unheard and unanswered, then the slogans of peace and development can never be achieved in this region. With the result, human life at this territory will face more serious existential as well as the psychological crisis in terms of instability, the meaninglessness of life, dehumanization, depersonalization, depressive disorders, dissatisfaction with one’s life, the death of loved ones and other psychological traumas. Such a crisis has a direct effect on human’s existence their meanings of life and goals.

Under these circumstances, I assume the violence becomes intimate and harder to escape as well as the elements of radicalization and resistance may extend more and get more attention from youth. Under these situations, transformation occurs. Transformation in the sense turning of civilians into agitating people, agitating people further turns into rebellions. At this point a “will to die” takes birth and people prefer death over life. Death in the field of resistance rather than suicide is to be conceived noble and holly.

How these “life experiences” can be viewed philosophically? Jean-Paul Sartre a French resistance leader and renowned existential philosopher of the twentieth century writes about rebel namely Ibbieta in the Wall. Ibbieta with his companions has been captured and imprisoned by the army. His companions have been killed and Ibbieta was offered a release if he will inform the soldiers about their rebel leader’s abide. Ibbieta rejects their offer and chooses not to be their informer. Sartre says this choice and will is Ibbieta’s freedom which enables him to say “no” the choice to refuse remains a victorious act of his freedom. In Sartre’s view, they can imprison him torture him, at last, they can riddle his body with bullets, but they cannot obstruct and break his will that is his inner citadel because only he holds the key of it. One can see an example of Sartrean writings in a popular American epic war movie “Brave Heart” in which William Wallace who has survived the death of his father and brother, rebels against the English soldiers who have invaded and occupied Scotland. After a long period of resistance, William has been captured and brought to the English magistrate who ordered public torture and beheading for him. People were crying for his mercy even the magistrate asked him to utter a word of mercy but William instead shouts “freedom, freedom”. He died but his memories implore his men to fight for freedom and finally, their unending and unfailing resistance succeeds them in freeing occupied Scotland. There is a point to see Kashmir conflict through this analogy the rebels like Burhan Wani, Dr. Rafi an Assistant Professor and many more who had offered release before death but they rejected their offers, they left their positions their jobs and comfort and choose to die. So what is common in these cases is their conscious and freely chosen rebellion, refusal to surrender, to be slaves or puppets and more importantly their will to die. It seems they proffer to die on their feet rather than living on their knees. For me, this is the outcome or a response of the agitating people who experience harsh militarily occupation, aggression, and human rights violation by military power and exercise. The phenomenology of dread and the possibility of death cannot be denied or doubted in presence of (AFSPA). It seems to me military approach to Kashmir unveils a war between armed and unarmed people for the sake of peace but alas! That can never be achieved by these means but rather brings more complex situations than that. Thus militarization is not the security to Kashmir rather a great insecurity which has lead to human rights violation on the one hand and radicalization on the other. So radicalization in this context is an answer to militarization.

In today’s context, I perceive Kashmir as an uncertain place where death as a traumatic encounter can blow anytime. It is a military approach that has brought Kashmir to this situation. In this situation, every level of human life possesses the same situation i.e. uncertainty. In this context Zygmunt Bauman a philosopher of our times is relevant on Kashmir crisis because Kashmir depicts an uncertain situation where peoples do not know what will happen to them in next moment and from where they get a strike. This uncertain situation can be imagined through Bauman’s favorite metaphor,

“We are walking, as if on a minefield. We are aware that the field is full of explosives, but we can't tell where there will be an explosion and when. There are no solid structures around us all on which we can rely, in which we can invest our hopes and expectations. Even the most powerful governments, very often, cannot deliver on their promise. They don't have enough power to do so”.

Bauman characterizes this crisis as “Liquid fear” I have seen it as “phenomenology of dread”. Both of the experiences reveal a concrete danger and state of uncertainty which humans face in different parts of the world. In Kashmir, the perpetual growth and visibility of these elements threaten human existence and its crucial values like freedom and security.

By now you might be thinking that something has gone terribly wrong to Kashmir due to extreme military use and their unrestrained power which has merely brought unjust and authoritative rule as well as engaged with morally wrong practices. The overthrow of the military domination is never morally acceptable. However, If we look at it from both sides of the story possibilities are not limitless neither humans propensity to endure suffering is limitless. Hence, to bring peace stability and healing to Kashmir nobody has to bring back the dead rather for peace the central cause of the conflict has to be appraised and dissolved through best and most appropriate means without bothering about fractious political culture fueled by religious sentiments and ideological differences. In the end, for hope and possibility of change I recall Camus’s encouraging words, “If time frightens us, this is because it works out the problem and the solution comes afterward”.
Javid Ahmad Mallah
Teaching Philosophy at GDC Kulgam.

Auther of
Towards a New Holocaust: A Philosophical Appraisal
Rethinking Dhangal: A Philosophical Critique
Fasting in Light of Philosophy