India’s Dissent Intolerance

The offensive republic does it again. For cheering Pakistan cricket team’s win over the Indian team in Bangladesh, Indian state books 67 Kashmiri students under section 124 A (sedition), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 427 (mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.

Sedition charges in India carry three years prison sentence. Three years… for cheering and clapping! Wendy Doniger, you’re mildly lucky, India is pulping only your books. Here it is pulping sixty-seven young Kashmiri lives, for one of the most frivolous reasons possible.

Soon, we will hear that the fault is all with colonial laws, or the arctic chill in India’s much-touted tolerance is coming from the “Modi wave”. While India is dissent-intolerant, liberal nationalist Indians have often perceived this intolerance as the inability of the Indian ‘society’ to digest offense–mostly seen as a trait of the right-wing groups–and only directed at the liberal Indian writers, artists, or non-Indian scholars of Indian culture or history.

I have previously argued that dissent-intolerance extends more fiercely, more cruelly, and much more often against those communities and nations deemed as “internal enemies” of India. Would Indian police file sedition charges against an Indian Hindu if he or she were to cheer for the Pakistan team? I don’t believe so. In fact, it is likely that such a behavior would be touted as a sign of India’s maturity.

It is no secret that Kashmiris abhor the Indian state. They would prefer India withdrew from their land and lives as soon as possible. Indian right-wing realizes this; so they hate Kashmiris in return–and openly propose genocidal solutions to the ‘Kashmir problem’. Indian liberal nationalists, on the other hand, suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder: they want Kashmiris to ‘love India’, ‘move on’, and ‘be happy’, and just can’t seem to get that Kashmiris will do no such thing, unless India leaves Kashmir.

While Indian liberal elites might want us to believe they are trying to save Kashmiris from the rightwing, in reality by hiding (or never mentioning) the existence of the longstanding Kashmiri liberation struggle from the Indian people they are pushing Kashmiris directly into the path of Indian state’s violence. It is acceptable in India–equally in rightwing and liberal circles–to kill and imprison Kashmiris for expressing support for the independence struggle. Only deaths of ‘innocent’ Kashmiri may draw any attention, if at all. And ‘innocents’ are defined as those who have supposedly nothing to do with politics.

Police officials in India are right in smelling that behind cheering for Pakistan there is, in fact, a great anger against India. The impulsive filing of sedition charges against the Kashmiri students only shows that the subliminal Indian fears about Kashmiris being unpatriotic are right. Indian state just doesn’t want to accept the fact. India refuses to see what it wages in Kashmir as a war. It refuses to see its gargantuan offensive military infrastructure and its impunity laws in Kashmir as a military occupation. It refuses to see those it has brutally fought and sought to destroy for 66 years as the enemy. It is a matter of accepting the terms of engagement. To see people as enemy is to accord a certain degree of respect to their aspirations and interests. But to see someone as an ‘internal’ enemy is to criminalize those aspirations and interests–and only states have the power to criminalize. Kashmiris obviously see their aspiration and interests as legitimate and those of India as illegitimate, but the difference is that they don’t have the power to criminalize.

Fascism: The word derives from ‘fasces’, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. That is, if you deviate from what the collective sees as right (in this case Indian diktat that requires Kashmiris to have the correct type of patriotic emotions), you suffer the ax (sedition charges). For Indian liberals, it is time to accept that this fascism is built into the very nature of Indian national territorial imagination–in which Kashmir remains trapped.

On cricket, what can one say? It is just a silly game. But the way Kashmiris ‘play it’ makes it much more meaningful.


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