Christine Fair, assistant professor at the Georgetown University, in a recent editorial piece for the Times of India (ToI), titled ‘A Campaign of Terror: The Pakistanis may never have Kashmir, but their violence has transformed it’, has attempted to ‘expose’ Pakistan’s role in Kashmir.
She claims that the Kashmir problem, in the first place, was created by Pakistan in 1947 when, through proxy jihad, Pakistan made an attempt to forcibly capture the state. Says Fair in her diatribe: “In its effort to seize Kashmir through warfare in 1947-48, 1965 and 1999 and by supporting a menagerie of terrorists since 1947 and an intense proxy war since 1989, Pakistan has demonstrated that it actually has little regard for the Kashmiris themselves”. She also documents the excesses committed by Salafi groups plying havoc with the valley’s syncretic values and relaxed atmosphere for women.
While it would be difficult for any self-respecting observer of the Kashmir question to deny the above statement as entirely without weight, the fact remains that being fair to the Kashmiris is farthest from Christine Fair’s agenda in her one-sided and distorted ‘analysis’ which in fact reduces itself to a blind justification of the Indian state’s atrocities in Kashmir.
It is Christine’s heartless analysis of the ongoing Kashmir intifada that turns into an Indian apologia. Ironically, not even the Saffron Brigade in India has dared mount the kind of apologia weaved by Ms Fair in her ToI op-ed.
She begins by, implicitly, justifying Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s assassination in a police encounter. Hizb, she writes, “is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union, and India alike”. In other words, a cold-blooded murder in a police encounter of a militant associated with an organisation declared terrorist by the US, EU and India deserves no further analysis. Anyone declared terrorist by the US-EU-India triumvirate should be unquestionably accepted as a terrorist.
Moreover, an extrajudicial killing should not raise any questions either.
Ideologically and politically, I share little with Burhan Wani. He wanted to free and ‘Islamise’ Kashmir and struggle towards a global caliphate. Since the 1990s, I have been an unapologetic and unrepentant supporter of a democratic socialist and free Kashmir. Wani believed in ‘jihad’. I stand for mass intifada. Most importantly, I consider Hizb an ideological, political and organisational anathema to the Jammu and Kashmir liberation movement.
However, declaring Hizb a terrorist organisation will need more than declarations by the US, EU and India. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have the right to defend themselves and liberate their country ‘by all means necessary’. One expects academics to question the identities imposed on the oppressed by their oppressors. Christine Fair’s delineation of Burhan Wani as a terrorist and her implicit justification of his tragic end in an illegal police action is morally reprehensible – to put it very mildly.
Her actual thesis is: blaming the people of the valley for the horrendous violence (this time symbolised by pellet guns) the Indian state has inflicted on them in the last three months. She writes: “Turning to the most recent events, it is well-known that the recent episode of stone pelting has Pakistani backing....stone-pelting has had the intended consequences of goading Kashmir’s poorly equipped and poorly trained police into killing civilians who are protesting”.
I have never come across such far-fetched academic and intellectual sophistry in my life. The Assad regime, struggling for image-making, should take notice of Fair’s talents. As a digression, by the way, one wonders why after 70 years the Kashmir police remain poorly equipped and poorly trained.
However, even if it were conceded that the police were under-equipped and that the stone-pelting had Pakistani backing, the protesters were still unarmed. Is there any justification to employ pellet-guns against ‘ill-intentioned’ and ‘misguided’ but unarmed protesters?
Also, is there any evidence to show that stone-pelting (a term Kashmiris avoid, in fact) was backed by Pakistan? She claims it is ‘well known’ that Pakistan is backing it. At least in the valley, it is not ‘well known’. Millions are protesting daily on the streets to express their genuine grievances regardless of any alleged incentive from Islamabad.
Resorting to a boringly unconvincing tactic of blaming the victim, she forgets that the logic she applies to justify state violence against the peacefully protesting valley people can also be deployed to justify Hizb’s methods. However, in her one-dimensional anti-Pakistan diatribe, Fair does not have time to consider any such nuances.
She points out the case of Kashmiri Pandits. “The vacuity of the so-called concern about Kashmir is reinforced by the complete omission of any mention of the Kashmiri Pandits who were ethnically cleansed by Pakistani-backed terrorism in 1990”, she points out. And adds: “Why does the ‘Kashmir problem’ only centre on Muslims in the valley and not any of the other lawful residents of the state?”
The State of Jammu and Kashmir is not about the valley Muslims alone (again, it is very problematic to cast Muslims as a monolith either in the Kashmiri context or otherwise). Therefore, progressive and nationalist forces in the state (and beyond) have been – ever since the unfortunate atrocities against Pandits – demanding Pandits’ return to the valley.
The expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley is a blot on the struggle for freedom. However, ‘friends’ of Kashmiri Pandits never talk about Jammu Muslims ethnically cleansed by Saffron Brigades in 1947 (besides subsequent waves of Muslim migrations from the valley to Azad Kashmir). It would indeed be great to know if Christine Fair’s support for Pandits is fairly extended to other lawful residents. In fact, let us dream for a world sans borders.
In conclusion, I have the following to suggest: while Pakistan’s role in the State of Jammu & Kashmir has been questionable in so many ways, comparing Pakistan’s policymakers’ hypocrisies with the 70,000 graves dug by the Indian armed forces in the valley is an academic sophistry only Christine Fair is capable of.
The writer is a freelance contributor.