And we’re surprised that they take up arms?

The people of Kashmir and large parts of the north-east have for decades been subject to the rule of a power they consider alien. That this power should be the government of India is particularly disheartening – the people of India know what it means to have no freedom in their own homes and backyards; at least, one would think that we should.

Why should the Kashmiri people forgo their right to self-determination? Is it because they happen to be stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time? Is it because we are only protecting them from what we know to be a threat to them (but they don’t)? Didn’t the missionaries who wanted to civilize us heathen have a similar reasoning? Or is it perhaps because the politicians on either side of the Kashmiris are jerks who cannot keep their dicks in their pants? (I mean no offence to the women on either side intent on screwing the Kashmiri people over, of course; the dicks referred to are only proverbial. Even otherwise, evidence seems to suggest that they would be too small to matter, or politicians in India and Pakistan would be using them, instead of their mouths).

The politicians of 21st century India who rail against the colonial attitude of the west and the ‘moral and cultural depravity of the west’ are also the same politicians who adopt the ”Kashmir is an integral part of India, and anybody who says otherwise is an enemy of the state” line. One would have hoped for a few sensible people in India’s parliament of 543 who would voice a more reasoned, reasonable argument, but one learns to live with disappointment in a country like India. A country where we seem to have made peace with the idea that democracy is the rule of the few powerful over the vast majority of the powerless, with the only choice in the matter being whether the people choose the devil or the deep blue sea.

Among the more abominable gifts of the people of power in India to the Indian polity is the alienation of large sections of the aboriginal people of the subcontinent, the adivasis, from their right to liberty, their right to the land of their forefathers, their right to life. When these people do manage to raise their starved voices, they are branded Maoists or Naxalites, locked up, without legal recourse, for years on end thanks to the draconian AFSP Act. Forget illegal searches and seizures; forget probable cause and the assumption of good faith; the act allows police and army officers to basically shoot at whim – officers of the state can shoot people they ‘suspect’ of being naxalites first, and not be asked too many questions later. Which is all right, I guess, because law-enforcement in this country has a stellar record of respecting human rights and civil liberties. Or Not. There is a reason the average Indian mistrusts the police and would do almost anything before they have to visit a police station.

Why do the adivasis have to give up their land for the sake of progress which gets measured by how much money the richest man in India has, rather than by how many millions of India’s poor die of starvation? Or lack the most basic facilities of sanitation? Or lack education and employment? Why should the people of Singur give up their land so that Tata can build a factory and make a fortune? A fortune, it must be noted, no part of which would go to the displaced people themselves. Why do the people of the Narmada valley be displaced from their lands, and have their fields submerged, so that the people of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar can have water at the turn of a tap? Why should the adivasis of Orissa or Chattisgarh let themselves be forced off their forests which have sheltered them, which they have sheltered? Why should they give up their hills, the gods that they worship so that Vedanta can mine the hills down to the ground? Why?

And, when all these things are done without their voices being heard, how do we blame them if they take up arms?


10 thoughts on “And we’re surprised that they take up arms?”

  1. Well , politics and humanism are not equal if not disjoint. Also i am sure that you have a solution to these problems. Can you please share it with us?

  2. What you’re saying, I would hope, is that politics and humanism have not had overlap. Quite some distance from proving that they should be disjoint.

    As for your (attempted) jibe, might I ask that you RTFA? I’m sure making adivasis stakeholders in projects that are carried out in their lands won’t solve all the issues involved, but it will go a long way in at least making life better for the adivasis, and making them part of the mainstream of this country.

    Even the Indian govt has, after 80 jawans of the CRPF were massacred in Dantewada, bought out a bill that gives 26% of profits from mining to the local people. Whether or not this will be made law is, of course, something I don’t know. I can hope for progress, can’t I?

  3. Yes, I am sure it would really go a long way. But I got the impression that you were more worried about the emotional attachment to their lands over any monetary compensation. ” Why should they give up their hills, the gods that they worship so that Vedanta can mine the hills down to the ground? ” In that case, the problem would still remain that of implementation not of the lack of bills. The blame is on the middlemen who again are a tiny fraction of the very adivasis who are making profits at the cost of their own brethren. Again I do believe that you have a viable suggestion for this too.

    Same goes for the north-east. If you are suggesting that the north-east should be given independence ( I hope that you are not naive enough to believe that there is a middle way) , I fully agree with you ( there is no moral point in clinging onto a part of the country whose population bya and large do not feel they are main-stream and vice versa) . In fact, same goes for Kashmir too. Oh wait, was not there a separatist movement in Tamil Nadu at one time? So probably they should also secede. Ditto for Marathis and wherever there is a fringe group trying to cash in on genuine regional sentiments of neglect and offering violent secession as the only possible solution. And we are back to pre-1757 India. Unless of course what you are suggesting is something else.

    And please don’t take a condescending view of people who do not necessarily agree to your views ; I have had gone through your article before commenting, just stay on topic .

  4. That would be one the issues that making them stakeholders wouldn’t solve . I am not sure of which of the options between monetary gain and their forests they might choose. What I am certain of, though, is that they are better off if they are given their say in the matter, rather than being driven from their homes so that someone can make money digging mines.

    I do believe that a majority of the North-East is disillusioned with the government of this country. And it should be up to them if they want to be a part of this country. The average Kashmiri definitely does not want to be a part of India. I think it’s disingenuous to argue that the movements in Kashmir and the North-East are similar to those in Tamil Nadu and the antics of the Shiv Sena, to say that they are minority movements that are advocating violence purely for political gain. Does the average person in Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra want to leave India? I seriously doubt they do.

    Also, this is the Web, (not to mention my blog!). Condescension is the norm. Evidenced by your first comment:

    Also i am sure that you have a solution to these problems. Can you please share it with us?

    . As long as the argument you are making is logical, I don’t care if you call me a pea-brain eleven times while you make it.

  5. Well, less than 40 % of Indians ( and mostly urban) cared about independence in 1947. Same thing happens in Kashmir, the separatist movement is centred on Srinagar and probably Baramula. The ret of the region simply do not care which side they are as long as they are in peace. Its the same in North-east. My point is, it takes only a fringe armed radical minority to make claims for seccession/independence. The vast majority just have to remain silent .
    The other point is, invariably everyone in the country acknowledge that there is a problem with the treatment meted out to the tribals. No one denies that the Naxalism takes root where the govt failed. But this may be the cause for the naxal movements, not a reason to condone it ( since you have not expressed any explicit pro-naxal sentiments, this is not a criticism of yours). And since no easy solution has been found, I hoped that you would rather suggest an answer instead of repeating the same age old things which everone knows anyway.

  6. Firstly, I have a deep suspicion of statistics like

    less than 40 % of Indians ( and mostly urban) cared about independence in 1947.

    I make stuff like that up far too often to be taken in by such numbers.

    The thing about a ‘fringe armed radical minority’, is that its reasoning will be suspect. I see nothing suspect about a demand by people for representation in decision making, and in profits.

    As regards Naxalism, I disagree with the violence; but then, I have the luxury of disagreeing with violence. I haven’t had my life snatched away from me. And the solution to the problem isn’t simple, but it is easy: It will take a lot of political wrangling to get the sums about who gets what share of the outside aid right, but it isn’t a hard decision to make to state that the situation needs to be looked at, in the first place.

  7. I wish I could cite the numbers, I tried searching for the link yesterday but could not find it. But neverthless, only about .1 million joined the Quit India movement while there were about 2.5 mns joining the British army during WWII . Besides, there were instances ( like the Kakuri train robbery case ; there were other incidents about swadeshis but they are in Bengali I wish I could make a link outof them) wherein the local people on the site of the crime perceived the revolutionaries as robbers.
    Anyway, lets believe that giving independence away to Kashmir or North-east wont create any new seccessionist plans and also it is desired overwhelmingly by the people in the respective areas. Now in that case, the question becomes, whether or not it is in the best interest of the rest of the country to do so. Once you give independence to kashmir at the moment, all you are doing is giving a free reign to the Jihadist groups ( and their interest other than that of H-M’s is the entire India not the Kashmir valley)to create further mayhem in the country. They can now have a country of their own to set bases, recruit, train without impunity. And please dont ignore the reality by saying that it is not going to be the case. Now what do you chose? An independent Kashmir now or through an Indo-Pak talk when the militancy has died down? I am all in favor of independence for a people whose population does not feel connected with the mainstream but I also have to consider whether or not it is not fully detrimental to the interest of the other side and hence is feasible.
    Regarding the naxalite problem, I still wished you had suggested some implementable steps instead of the hand-waving general comment. Again, no one is denying that their situation needs to be looked at. But no one is sure how to deal with it now and thats the problem. The government tried to implement the Salwa Judum – displacing the tribals from their homeland, put them in a camp where they could be “educated” and relocated somehwere else later. This is a re-enactment of the strategy ( and a British one at that) that solved the problem in Mizoram. What they missed is, in the case of Mizoram it was also the involvment of the church that helped in giving up violence which is not the case in Chattisgarh. Anyway, it is still just a way to deal with the problem.

  8. 1. ‘ I cannot simply ‘give’ Kashmir freedom without considering the repercussions on India’ is not an argument I see to be any different from ‘I cannot give India freedom; where will the raw materials for Britain’s industries come from?’.
    The only thing that matters when you’re deciding whether Kashmir should be made independent has to be whether the people of Kashmir want to be left to themselves.

    2. ‘What we are doing now is abominable’ is a step in the right direction, for my money; a small step, a first step, but a step. ‘Can we please ask the adivasis what they want done?’ is another step.
    The Salwa Judum was state sponsored terrorism, just so we’re clear on that. You don’t give a bunch of thugs arbitrary powers over a people they know nothing about. That this might well be colonialism redux (run amok) is a fair point; all the more reason to support the cause of emancipation.

    [Also, should we perhaps stop writing post-length comments? Just asking.]

  9. 1. Well, this is beyond a question of economics ( which was the case for British India) , this surely constitutes a grave existential threat for the rest of the country. The difference of scale, I guess, matters. If I flip the question, it becomes why should I not continue to cling on to Kashmir for the interest of the rest of the country because the alternative though desired by the people in the valley is not secure ( we can ignore “desired”) for the others?
    2. Well, if Salwa Judum is state-sponsored terror, Maoism is Terror. So why justify the latter and blame its reaction?

  10. I disagree with the ‘this is a threat to national security’ fallback. (I also disagree with your use of ‘existential’ here, but that’s for some other time). India shares 2000 km of border with China, 2000 km with Pakistan, 1000 km with Nepal and Bangladesh and we have no problem defending those borders, but give the Kashmiri people freedom and all hell will break loose? I don’t buy it.
    More importantly, though, I don’t think we as a country (which is ever so fond of calling itself the world’s largest democracy) should be willing or even ok with the sacrifice of half a million Kashmiris for some semblance of safety; it goes against everything a democracy should stand for.

    If I mistreat and abuse you for years on end, and one day you snap and hit me back, and I retaliate by breaking your knees, who would you say is more at fault?

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