A Response to Pratap Bhanu Mehta (and the Indian liberal intelligentsia)

Photo by Zia Shakeel. Kashmiris rise against the brutal murder of Peer Mehrajudin by Indian armed forces on May 13, 2020.

On May 16, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an Indian academic and former Vice Chancellor of Ashoka University, wrote an op/ed in the Indian Express entitled “The Kashmir Lockdowns.”


Here, a SWK volunteer responds to this piece, a classic example of the obfuscations of the Indian liberal intelligentsia.


What is it about Indian experts on Kashmir that they cannot look beyond statist frameworks even when they claim otherwise? From speaking of a potential Kashmirisation of India to now worrying that the ‘more violence’ in Kashmir owing to how it is being imprisoned is a harbinger of the future of India, the self-obsession is on display for everyone to see. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s latest piece in The Indian Express begins with the Republic of India and its constitutionalism, and ends with its future, even as the article is titled The Kashmir Lockdowns. Not only is Kashmir only in the backdrop of India’s story, but its entire history is erased to make it an issue merely after August 5, 2019. As if Kashmiris were living happily under India’s control prior to that!


The piece has a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to presenting the Kashmir story. Here are a few points we find especially problematic about it:


1. There is no deepening of “Kashmiris’ death wish” as the author claims. Kashmiris love life, a life of dignity and courage, which is why they demand Azadi — freedom. Under the Indian occupation, life in Kashmir is reduced to body counts, count of the disappeared, the dead, of the mass graves, and stories of torture and the dead eyes. Kashmiris seek an end to such subjugation and reject the attempts at dehumanisation by the Indian State. It is only the Indian State that thrives on its death wish upon all Kashmiris who seek to dismantle its control over their everyday lives.

2. It is NOT the “cowardly lack of outrage among India’s legal luminaries and elites” that WILL convince Kashmiris that there is no redress for them in Indian constitutionalism. Kashmiris have been convinced for decades that India is a military occupation, that all violations stem from its control over Kashmir and hence there is no question of redress within the same system. The cowardice that Indian left, right and centre have shown with respect to Kashmir is only a manifestation of their desire to control Kashmir and how they cannot see it except outside of the integral part framework.

3. Indians seem to have realised only now of the precarious ground situation in Kashmir. But it has always been! It is not just the digital connectivity or the freedom of press, that are a cause of concern. India has used multiple instruments of control over the decades to strengthen its military occupation. If anything, these things need to be seen in continuation of such a policy and not as a sudden, overnight breakdown of an otherwise democratic system.


Delhi-engineered options in Kashmir in the form of a pro-India collaborator class have been a reality since 1947. That some experts have woken up to it now is not surprising given the necessity to defend such policies for ‘national interest’ and of course using the Pakistan card anywhere and everywhere. There is no “estrangement” that people of Kashmir feel now about the idea of India that could make “Pakistan’s job easier”. There has been no such relationship of harmony with India in the first place. And what strategies can be pursued to elicit trust? There can be no trust of an occupational state machinery that is inherently violent and its multiple arms that seek to perpetuate absolute control, from its military to its judiciary to its outspoken activists who only obfuscate the Kashmir narrative at best even as they claim to sympathise with Kashmiris. Indian experts will continue to manipulate Kashmir’s story, seek to erase its history, and pretend to not hear the deafening cries of Azadi, but as Kashmiri poet Uzma Falak powerfully declares,

I refuse to be the victim you want to pity

I refuse to be the wounded psyche, your pathological specimen,

I refuse to be your salvage project, your empowerment industry

I refuse your we-will-give-you-a-voice, we-shall-set-you-free declarations

I refuse your glib talk on peace.


Photo by Zia Shakeel. Kashmiri women protest the brutal murder of Peer Mehrajudin by Indian armed forces on May 13, 2020.

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