January 24, 2024
Poonch, Indian-occupied Kashmir.
The colonized exist in a state of tension created by their poor material and political status in relationship to the colonizer. 1
– Frantz Fanon
The use of monetary rewards by an occupier state to try and turn an occupied people against the resistance movement is not novel. Be it the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan or Israel’s occupation of Palestine, offering economic incentives to make the occupied spy on their resistance movement is one of the oldest tactics in the handbook of occupation and colonization.
On Jan 1, 2024, the Jammu and Kashmir Police announced a fresh and long list of rewards for ‘informers’ whose information leads to either a discovery of something or an encounter with the rebels.
What does the list say?
Monetary rewards ranging from ₹1 lakh ($1200) to ₹12.5 lakh ($15,000) are offered for specific information leading to successful operations, such as the location of trans-border tunnels used for illicit activities, reporting drone sightings or droppings, identifying individuals communicating with rebel handlers, and revealing those encouraging youth to join the rebels in educational institutes. This marks the first time that the Indian state has extended the reward categories beyond information related to the presence of rebels. The rewards will be granted upon the successful outcome of operations resulting from the provided information.
While incentivizing spying does not require more problematization and is already known for being a notorious move of colonizers and occupiers, category 6 in the new list points at a new and more dangerous future. Earmarking ₹100,000 ($1200) for the person it says:
“Whoever gives information about persons in masjids or madrassas or schools or colleges who are encouraging, inducing, and inciting people to join terrorist ranks or to pick up gun and the information gets corroborated during investigation/ enquiries that are initiated on receipt of the information. (emphasis added)”
Why does this need more attention?
Masjids (mosques) and madrassas (schools where religious education is imparted) form an important part of the daily life of Kashmiri Muslims. Encouraging spying in these spaces makes individuals feel uncomfortable even in those spaces where they are supposed to gain some respite. This is yet another attack on the Muslim identity of Kashmir. This has been a constant strategy for the Indian state in recent times.
At the same time during the past two years, india has continuously attacked the Kashmiri economy and tried to make it depend more on india. They have done this by implementing the democratic world’s longest communication blockade in 2019, killing local businesses, to hurting Kashmiri exports, and painting Kashmiri commoities as indian and restricting them to the indian market. With that in mind, the ploy to hand cash rewards to Kashmiris for spying on the resistance movement, in a moment when the economy and unemployment is staggering, is all part of a well-thought-out plan.
On the other hand, incentivizing spying in this manner and on this scale is aimed at drawing a wedge in the Kashmiri society. It has been timed well with the ground laid through strategic economic deprivation of the Kashmiris for the past many years. The tight knit character of Kashmiri society has been one of its biggest strengths in the fight for freedom from the indian occupation. This move aims to attack people’s social bonds with each other, encouraging distrust of ones loved ones and acquaintances, in a bid to crack the Kashmiri freedom movement.
Besides this, the settler colonial aspirations of the indian state require for it to tamper with the Muslim identity of Kashmiris. While that has been its strategy, this fresh move only confirms their swift progression to that end. At this time, Fanon’s words at the start explain the situation very well. However, the indian state needs to note what Fanon says after that:
“This tension is released in violence and aggression …. becomes transformed into a thirst for liberation whereby the minimum demands are that the last shall be first.” 2
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