The Azadi of the Kashmir People and of Humanity

Introduction

This proposal is envisioned as a general directive to any or all people’s movements across the globe, with a special reference to the ongoing agitation by a large section of people in Kashmir[1] around their right to self-determination (hereafter referred as People of Kashmir). That is to say, though the proposal is addressed to the people of Kashmir engaged in a protracted agitation this is only incidental. It has to be considered as an initiative to evolve a common consensus among all human beings and communities that value their right to self-determination and right against torture. And they may or may not consider and engage with the suggestions, as per their sole discretion.

 I. Azadi

We strongly believe that, ultimately, the sustainability of a solution to the Kashmir crisis is in direct proportion to the depth of understanding the Kashmiri people have about their idea of Azadi or Freedom with its different layers and paradoxes.

To clarify this point, let us examine the basic positions of the parties involved in the crisis; i.e. the People of Kashmir, State of Pakistan and Indian State.

Options before the Kashmiri People:

They want to exercise their right to self-determination through a plebiscite which, if it happens presently, may offer the following three options for them to choose from:

1. To leave the Indian Republic and to become a part of Pakistan

2. To remain as a regional state in India, but with autonomous or special status

3. To form a new and independent Nation State

The stand of the Pakistani State

1. India is denying the fully legitimate right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir[2] to have a plebiscite, and is indulging in massive human rights violations against the same. .

2. Therefore, Pakistan supports the Azadi movement in Kashmir (The support includes training and arming militants who then wage war against the Indian military).

The stand of the Indian State:

1. The regional state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the India. (Not a word about the plebiscite as a human rights issue).

2. The problems in Kashmir are being instigated by the Pakistani State. (In other words, the people who are agitating for the Azadi in Kashmir, are merely playing to the tune of the Pakistani state, which therefore represent its vested interests)

 II. Azadi: Layers and Paradoxes

It seems that the idea of Azadi, as it is commonly espoused, is limited to the extent of Kashimiris wanting freedom from the Indian State. But taking a closer look, we find that, it necessarily contains many other aspects within itself.

For example, if Azadi means just that Kashmir becomes a part of Pakistan – the first option of the above-mentioned plebiscite – it would be very difficult for the vested interests of Indian State to allow that to happen. Irrespective of all its nationalist rhetoric, there are some substantial issues the Indian State cannot avoid considering. For example, Pakistan is a country with nuclear armaments, being systematically taken over by fanatic (Islamic) militant groups whose stated objective is to establish an Islamic rule, not only in Pakistan but all over the world, by any means. Getting them access to more areas controlled now by India, increased penetration into the Indian subcontinent by the same.

Moreover, many parts of the Himalayas stand like a great wall between India and Pakistan, and between India and China. China, another neighboring country, supports Pakistan against India for serving its own narrow ends. Thus, a China-allied-Pakistan having free access to the Kashmir region, with its vast array of natural resources like rivers, poses a substantial threat to the interests of the Indian State.

The basic question here seems to be: How can the people of Kashmir make sure that their land will not be used for perpetuating and furthering violence? In fact, the issue primarily relates to the life of Kashmiri people themselves. Could any community live in peace when their land is an actual war front?

The case of violence against Kashmiri Pandits in the past is worth mentioning here: How could such an act of hatred and violence emerge out of the land of Kashmir? Why wasn’t the community able to uproot such instincts at the earliest? In other words, how can the Kashmiris make sure that such a severe sense of otherness never takes root again in its soil? We need to have a reasonable vision about this very important matter not just for the Azadi of Kashmiris but for the Azadi of every living being on this planet.

To look at another aspect of Azadi; what would be the fate of women in that free Kashmir, probably under the rule of a patriarchal (militant) version of Islamism? Would they be able to do things as they like? Would a Kashmiri woman who doesn’t want to wear a burqa, be able to exercise her free will? Would she enjoy freedom from religious fanatics who intent to control her mobility or her freedom to choose friends? In short, would she be able to enjoy her right to self-determination and her right against torture?

Let us consider the third option of the plebiscite: Suppose that the Kashmir becomes a new, independent Nation-State and let us also suppose that it is a secular, parliamentary democratic system, since we have already considered the possibilities of a religious despotism. Wouldn’t Kashmir need to have a military that perpetually swallows money (exactly put, the surplus value of the community) even when it is for just maintaining its mere existence, as is happening in Nation-States all over the world? On the other hand, if Kashmir won’t be having a military, wouldn’t it then need at least some assistance from Pakistan and/or China for its security? What would be their real interests in providing such expensive support to the Kashmiri people? Leaving aside the issue of the military, wouldn’t the Nation-State of Kashmir have a bureaucracy, which too would relentlessly suck up the surplus value generated by society, as happens in every other Nation-State?

In sum, there are too many grave issues related to the institution called Nation-State, that are absolutely important for any society that is mulling over the option of forming a new Nation-State, to consider.

III. Inherent contradictions of the Nation State

The Nation-State is a system primarily based on the concept of the border – be it political, ethnic, cultural or linguistic – and on a sense of exclusive identity or ‘making of otherness’. It is, with all its paraphernalia like military, bureaucracy, roads, railway and communication networks etc., structurally dependent on the Market Economy for its own survival. That is to say, it cannot sustain itself by the relatively meager surplus value generated by other modes of sustenance, like farming, pastoralism, foraging etc., and is dependent on the industrial mode of mass production, the central component of the Market Economy.

The lifeline of the Market Economy is the individual, alienated from both her/his fellow human beings as well as nature, who intends to gratify her/his never-ending private interests with little regard to the common good. The economy is also based on the idea of unlimited material growth on a planet with limited resources. The effects of such an alienated vision of private accumulation and infinite material growth are everywhere for us to see in the form of exploitation, oppression, environmental degradation, pollution, ‘divide and rule’ politics, war (including possible nuclear war), centralized/monopoly control of resources, mass manipulation through propaganda, imperialism etc.

Just as the Nation-State is dependent on the Market Economy for its survival, the market forces are dependent on the Nation-State, to seize resources and surplus value from community/ies and to channelize them for their own ends. The interdependence of these two entities is all too evident in the pathetic state of contemporary national and international politics. Mainstream political leaders today function like mere managers and brokers of private capital or corporates in almost every instance. In fact, we are heading at a reckless pace towards a state of Militant Capitalism in which both the rulers of the State and of private corporations are becoming interchangeable, if not one[3] [4]. Both of them – the Nation State and the Market Economy – could be rightly said to be the necessary counterparts that uphold the same alienated and reductive vision of life that could survive only by systematically and relentlessly destroying the Common.

On the other hand, principally speaking, Democracy is a situation wherein one considers the (non)other as oneself. The wise saying, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you articulates the same approach. It is an inclusive vision that recognises the non-duality of the one and the other or the Common, which is the principle basis of the other foundational ideas like equality and fraternity. Cooperation is the moving force of such a way of life, unlike in a Market Economy, which is based on competition.

Thus, one of the fundamental contradictions of our times that, we, that is, humanity, must face right away in a do or die manner is this: How could a system of governance and resource-use, that is structurally necessitated to destroy the Common for its own survival, be able to protect Democracy, which cannot survive without the Common?

This irresolvable contradiction can be verified objectively by any reasonable person. And just like any human being or community of our times, the Kashmiri people also need to examine this paradox thoroughly, if their dream of Azadi has to have any enduring substance at all. And, if any community does think that an independent, sovereign Nation-State is possible in a globalised 21st century, it is nothing but self-deception. The Kashmiri people’s vision of Azadi or self-determination now seems to be stuck within the notions of the Nation-State; that is to say, it is orientated by the very ideologies that are the cause of their  – and humanity’s – suffering.

We emphasize this point also to make it clear that, even if Kashmiris can forget and forgive all the wounds inflicted on them by the Indian State, it is in no way a truly better option for them to conform to the Indian State.

IV. Azadi and the Other

Usually, when a community or communities are fighting against a common enemy, they tend to be more or less united, but, once they manage to ward off the threat, this unity crumbles. Take the case of the India/Pakistan independence movement itself. After the British rulers started expressing their intention to leave, the differences between groups like Gandhians, Nehuruvians, Communists, Socialists, Hindutva proponents, etc., or the differences between their ideas of Azadi, started to turn up unmistakably. The then division of the country as two separate nations itself is an apt example of this phenomenon. In fact, the Kashmir issue, the incidental subject matter of this writing, itself is one of the effects of these inner conflicts. It is as if people are constantly deluding themselves by thinking that the package of a sense of otherness, distrust, fear or hate can be reserved for the enemy only.

Therefore, again, understanding what we mean by Azadi, without any reference to the enemy or the other is something that no community/communities could afford to ignore ever. Actually, such a common consensus alone makes true unity possible and it is the central axis of any liberation movement worth the name. At present, the Kashmiri people seem to think that they can slowly figure out what kind of Azadi they really want, after becoming independent from Indian state; but this is unlikely to be the case. Societal/political processes do not allow for a vacuum; once a dominant force exits a particular situation, the next dominant force, whether malignant or not, will take over the same.

 V. Our Common Destiny

We now live in a globalized world; the Market, Corporations, the State, multi-lateral institutions like the World Bank, IMF etc. orient and dictate our daily lives. Needless to say, the sum total of their effects is also global and range from climate change to possible nuclear war. Humanity, in all sense, stands at the cross roads. To overcome this situation, we are necessitated to reach an irreducible minimum common consensus, about the orientation required of a human being, for leading a peaceful life on Earth. No movement, no community, not even a single human being living in this globalized world, could sensibly deny that necessity by assuming an exclusive destiny.

It therefore follows that the Kashimiri people too don’t have any exclusive options. They must understand that the oppression they are experiencing is part of the violence that the entire humanity is going through. I.e. they need to understand the core issues that engender the above-mentioned contradictions both locally and globally and need to orient their movement for self-determination accordingly.

 VI. The Reality of Oneness and the need for a Non-dual approach

When we consider the three major sources of violence in our times i.e., 1. Market, 2. Nation-State, 3. Religious/racial fundamentalism, we can see that, all of them are based on alienation or a sense of otherness and consequent distrust, insecurity, fear or hate. All three are eager to put humanity into two categories, Us and Them.

We have explored already the contradictions of the first two entities. The third one, Religion, seems to be the best tool available for both the State and Market to destroy the Common. Religious fundamentalism also arises from the believers’ desperate attempt to counter the alienation being caused by the State and Market and to recapture both the community experience of living and a sensible value orientation. But unfortunately, this often ends up recreating the clannishness of the past to counter the alienation of the present.

On the other hand, if we look into crises like global warming, what is self-evident is that even the minutest action of a living being has effects on the entire planet, including the elements. That is to say, we all are connected; that the first principle of Oneness or the Common exists in and through our diversities. The negation of this fundamental aspect is the prime contradiction which causes all violence. Thus any vision or project that intends to negate violence, in any aspect of life, needs to have this principle of non-duality as a constant, normative reference; at least to avoid the retrospective embarrassment that we have become just what we have been opposing.

Briefly, understanding and practicing non-duality is the way out of all our crises. It is the prime means to a democratic situation, whether as upheld by Modernity or as has been repeatedly suggested by most of the masters to whom religions pay token reverence. It is the necessary and an ever valid policy for a peaceful co-existence.

VII. The Dialectical Relationship between One’s Azadi and One’s Non-Violent Orientation to the (non)Other  

Each human being naturally contains a (unique) will which finds expression in one’s need to live freely according to one’s inner urges. Its counterpart, namely, community represents the human being’s necessity to live collectively, to find food easily, to fulfill the need to love and be loved, to bring up children etc. Such creative needs of human life can remain creative and enjoyable for one only when they take form according to one’s free will. In other words, communion among human beings has to happen in a way that it doesn’t compromise a human being’s sovereignty over one’s free will while fulfilling the necessities of a creative life. The community is compelled to interfere with the sovereignty of its members only when one is intentionally indulging in violence towards another. No community or religion or institution has any right at all to interfere with a sovereign who treats the one and the other unitively; s/he has the absolute right to be let alone.

If we can accept this vision, to secure one’s freedom one has to do only one thing; practice non-violence. The approach could inclusively transcend even politics itself through a way of life in which the means and ends meet.

VIII. Some Tools for a Global Movement for Self-determination

While keeping this minimum common consensus in mind, let’s turn our attention to some of the necessary normative notions that an integrated, global, decentralized, movement must possess to overcome the global crises. We also need to examine some applied aspects of the same, which is immediately relevant to the present times.

Civil-Disobedience

Civil-Disobedience could be an umbrella concept that contains any vision or action that asserts non-duality and negates alienated interests, in a non-violent manner. Expanding the sovereigns’ right to disobey and the right to be let alone is of prime interest to such a vision. The exercise of these rights has a long history ranging from the age-old traditions of many indigenous, nomadic communities and (spiritual) mendicants of all sorts (including the hippies of the sixties), and more. If the (passive) will of the people is the supposed basis of the authority of modern governments and private capital, it is precisely that which we need to withdraw systematically, and in a consistent manner.

Non-Violence

As we have found, a human being or a community can legitimately claim sovereignty only when they practice non-violence. Apart from that, it is important to note that divisive organizations such as Nation-State justify their very existence by upholding the security threat to both its citizens’ lives and private property, from others. So that, they can turn any such seeming threats whether they happen along its border or arises from within, as an opportunity to assert their legitimacy and to further their militarization. The instinct is well exemplified by the surveillance and security laws being implemented by States all over the world against the backdrop of a few terrorist attacks.

Taking Back the Commons

The Nation-State, unlike preceding systems of governance, accepts only private property and State property. This was never the case with previous systems. Very large tracts of common land, including forests, pasture grounds and wetlands, were previously accessible to diverse communities. History amply shows that States emerged as a political system by usurping the Commons – forests, arable land, water resources (including the sea), from local communities[5] [6]. Restoring the Commons to locals and using them sustainably and in a democratic, decentralized manner would be among the most important steps towards a just world.

De-growth Movement

As analysed above, unlimited and continuous economic growth is a condition that must prevail for the existence of Market, and hence, the Nation-State. The Monetary Economy, with its notions of profit, interest, credit/debt, without which the system cannot function, is built upon that fundamental assumption of growth. Infrastructural necessities, (for e.g. a factory that is designed to produce a fixed number of products within a time limit to be profitable), as well as the attempts of an alienated individual to overcome his/her own grave (psychological) emptiness by indulging in material consumption etc., contributes significantly to the necessity of unlimited growth.

If we can have a global de-growth movement that rejects such a vision of growth by keeping a sustainable economy/economies as its goal, the present system would crumble under its own contradictions with little delay. In fact, the current state of slowdown of the global economy, gives us a very favorable opportunity in this regard. The beauty of the de-growth movement is that all those individuals and groups that could envision such a process can do it in a decentralized manner without disregarding any of their particular projects; a reorientation with reference to the common goal is all what is required. For example, a group trying to encourage organic farming could make sure that the transactions between farmers and consumers take place directly, and without the Market Economy coming in between them.

Dismantling the Monetary Economy or Credit/Debit System

To gain freedom from the world of money (and the banking system), from its demand for never-ending growth, we could start by localizing money by making it trust-based, without involving any central authorities or third parties, and building a gift economy (or non-economy) as its goal. For example: In a household, siblings exchange things without any explicit agreement on immediate or future rewards since their inherent trust makes such expectations or formalities unnecessary. Similar is the case within close-knit communities as well. In inter-community situations, groups can exchange their surplus produce without any need for a third party (money) element. Exchanges would be different from one community to other due to their preferences of different modes of sustenance. Communities manufacture/gather things in complementary and compensatory ways – their mutuality grows organically with reference to one another. These and other similar non-monetary practices would definitely weaken both the upward flow of surplus value in a Market Economy, and the infrastructural capabilities of the Nation-State, and most importantly our dependence on them.

Open Source Knowledge and Technology

Centralizing or monopolizing technologies and energy sources are the life-line of the prevailing system. Therefore, the technologies/fuels we choose for sustenance need to be local, i.e. their production and maintenance should not be dependent on any third party. The technologies have to be simple enough for anyone to understand and to become skilled in their usage. In earlier times, farmers were totally independent of the industrial world with their own seeds, cattle for ploughing and manure. It was only when they were grafted onto the industrial system through hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, centralised energy and water supply etc. that they came to lose their self-sufficiency.

Specific Initiatives that could Significantly Contribute to this Global Movement:

1. Stop the construction of (major) roads and bridges by the State (read private capital and military) that will give it access to the land or resources that belongs to the Common.

2. Stop the construction of (big) dams, since constructing dams is the established means through which the State appropriates water resources and huge tracts of surrounding land including forests.

3. The State gathers the majority of its revenue by taxing consumer goods. It would be a significant step forward if we could produce consumables through cooperative efforts that don’t intend to pay taxes.

Rulers and bureaucrats of different governments who are interested in such projects also could facilitate the process by dis-identifying with the self-preservation instincts of archaic institutions, and by interrupting the infiltration of Market interests. Soldiers or militants shall withhold themselves from initiating conflicts or wars and must disobey authorities who display intentions contrary to the above. A genuinely green politics has the capability to contain and legitimize all these and similar dispositions.

We just have to accept both personally and collectively that there are no winners in the present system; there are only victims, defeated by others or by themselves. Wisdom can and does affect change anywhere.

 IX. Conclusion

In this proposal, we have briefly explored different layers of Azadi; its perennial content and present contexts, its global vision and a local know-how that can put such a vision into practice. It is our belief that the general principles and specific suggestions described here are important to consider for any movement of our times, including that of Kashmiri people.

They may consider them thoroughly, to expand, add to, and extend their scope, for all of humanity and to further substantiate their own particular movement, to realize Azadi.

*****

[1] The Jammu and Kashmir state has three main regions. 1. Jammu. 2. Kashmir and 3. Ladakh. The demand for Azadi seems to be largely confined to the people of Kashmir valley, while finding relatively limited support in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State. Even in the valley, opinions are divided in favour of independence, accession to Pakistan, greater autonomy or self-rule within the Indian union, and political status quo.

[2] Pakistan demands India to conduct plebiscite not just in the Kashmir region but in the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir.

[3]  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/16th-lok-sabha-will-be-richest-have-most-mps-with-criminal-charges/article6022513.ece

[4] In 2012, Indian State charged a case of sedition against nearly 7000 persons, mostly fishermen, who agitated against a nuclear plant being constructed in their area – Koodankulam- in a totally invasive manner. See the details: http://twocircles.net/2012apr18/koodankulam_fir_filed_against_over_55000_people_6800_charged_sedition.html

Indian State also passed a Nuclear Liability Bill that caps the total amount of compensation to the victims of a nuclear accident, to INR. 15 billion (1500 crores), which is hugely inadequate, if not completely irrelevant in such a situation. The amount has to be paid by the operator in India i.e. the central government, even if the accident happens due to the errors of manufactures and suppliers of nuclear hardware i.e. private corporates : http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-civil-liability-for-nuclear-damage-bill-2010-1042/

[5] See the interview with the Finance Minister of India (2004-2009), published in Tehelka, Vol. 5, Issue 21, 2008. When asked about his vision about the future of India, the minister replied that he envisions an India where 85% of the total population lives in cities.

[6] Refer the Enclosure Movement that happened in Europe during the period from 16th to 19th century, by which very large areas of common land became the private property of a few powerful ones with the assistance of different States. To understand a similar process that happened in India, see the important work authored by Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha, This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India.

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