Kashmir: Rebel with a Cause
Why and how are people making the choice to join the movement?
The self-representations of Kashmiri people who are creating their destinies; they freely (?) make the choice to militarize their bodies and transform their identities. Kashmiri fighters are the most visible agents of social change in redefining the self-identity. Given the everyday violence of war in Kashmir, Kashmiri people are making radical choices in the struggle for survival. People living in these extreme conditions realize that survival in war is not fully congruent with the notions of survival in peace. In the context of peace, it is difficult to understand that to survive and live with dignity amidst the crisis of war may require one’s participation in the very same violence that destroyed one’s sense of dignity and integrity. Violence is a means of survival as well as a means of communicating resistance and the integrity of a struggle for self determination to the Indian army. The cultural and physical landscape of war provides amongst the most felicitous spaces for the rise of resistance and struggle. The Kashmiri struggle is embedded in such a landscape of war. It is important to acknowledge people’s participation in Kashmir, rather than dismissing the people as shaped by false consciousness while they attempt to forward a movement within a nationalist struggle. In examining the expressions of violence in the contests between the military powers of the state and resistant Kashmiri nationalist movement, Kashmir is urging us to look into the processes — ‘a distinctive set of beliefs and structures’. When the own political expressions of the people have been suppressed, all the peaceful means of protest have been attacked. What other way is there to change things? The only way left is to pick up the stones and fight for a better life. People are making the choice to transform their identities, militarize their bodies, and participate in the front lines of battle. Their choices are not easy. When they join the movement, they must discipline their minds and their bodies in preparation for war. They are resolved to the understanding that their intimate relationships with their families are forever transformed; that they will not have access to them, that the likelihood of death is more real than that of survival in war, and that their experiences are forever radically transformed in their own eyes and in the eyes of their community. To this extent, there is little evidence of a duped mind or a false consciousness in the choices that they make to join the struggle. This kind of death, this kind of violence is not in vain because new generations are emerging to continue the struggle. It is not a senseless death, but rather one endowed with purpose, with vision, with integrity, and with the determination that freedom in the territories of the Kashmir will be realized. My intent here is not to romanticize the violence or valorise people’s sacrifice. Rather, I am suggesting that we need to understand the self-representations of people in the Kashmir, how they choose to become active in the violence of war, and how they choose to participate in a movement that is committed to the violence of armed struggle. The material reality of everyday violence is one that hundreds of Kashmiri face each day in Kashmir. The Indian army’s searches and ‘clearing’ operations to weed out the insurgent presence of the Kashmiri struggler continue to result in the disappearances and deaths of Kashmiri women and men. In this context, people are making the choice to transform themselves and their identities from the norms of traditional civil society to the norms of violence and war. Popular assumptions about the brainwashing and conscription of people to act as fodder for the movement, not only reveal a bias that is partially shaped by stereotypes, but also reveal a gap in understanding the choices that Kashmiri people are making.