For J&K, lessons from Chauri Chaura : Violence cannot be a societal habit

“We cannot allow State brutality to which we are subjected to each day snatch our humanity and values,” the Mirwaiz said, asking, “What will be the difference between them and us then?”

Wise words these. Mirwaiz spoke like an elder. He spoke with  pain in his voice and with concern for his people: “Mob violence and public lynching is outside the parameters of our values and religion,” the leader asserted.

“It is very important and imperative for us that we do not allow our social fabric to be brutalised and keep our basic values intact,” he alerted his people.

We cannot doubt the sincerity of  the Mirwaiz’s anguish.  It is good that there was no rationalisation of the lynching of Ayub Pandit, the police officer who was killed by the crowd of the believers just outside the mosque of Nauhatta in Srinagar who were there to mark SHABE KADR as part of the holy month of Ramzan.

There are different accounts of the tragedy. There is a version claiming that Ayub was filming the people moving around the Mosque and that made people angry, some say that the crowd lost its patience after he opened fire from his service-revolver. But one cannot miss that it was savagery at its lowest, the way he was beaten up, stripped, dragged on the road and later dumped in a drain.

And yet the Mirwaiz and his friends would need to go further, for the question remains before him, his colleagues and the people of Kashmir who are fighting for freedom: is it not high time they took a pause and thought deeply about the method of their struggle?

Some may say that mere death of  a police officer should be not magnified to undermine the struggle for freedom which spans over decades and which has largely been peaceful. They are right. There is no one way in which the movement for freedom in Kashmir is conducted. There are some who have taken up arms to fight what they believe is Indian occupation of Kashmir but we know and the Indian establishment also knows well that they are not large in numbers. Outside them lies the larger part which has been demanding freedom  or right to self-determination for decades which has been non-violent. It is also true that the Indian state seeks to promote  a public opinion in India and the world that this movement is only a cover for  Pakistan and the militants. Also that it is part of  a so called global terror network. That is how it tries to justifies its use of the indefensible ASFSA and its brutal suppression in  Kashsmir, the disappearances and the rapes. It seeks to portray every Kashmiri as a  potential militant. It in fact would love if this larger non-violent population takes up arms, at least that is what we gather if  we believe that the chief of our army was in his proper senses when he said that he would prefer Kashmiris with guns than Kashmiris with stones. For it would give him licence to shoot at will, an itch he can hardly resist.

What the Indian state is doing is hardly surprising. This is how all governments deal with popular movements, by constantly dubbing them troublemakers, as outlaws, hell bent on destroying peace and tranquility which is only ensured by a tough state.

But that is state. What about movement who are driven towards pious, democratic  goals? For freedom is nothing if not sacred. It is the duty of every human being to move from a  state of un-freedom to freedom. When you wash this emotion or sentiment with your own blood, you make it more sacred but when you spill the blood of one you treat as your opponent, the stain is hard to remove.

When the lure of blood, violence starts replacing the call of freedom, one needs to halt. The murder in a mosque, that too in a holy month should lead every Kashmiri to take a pause and think about what the Mirwaiz is saying: Is the Kashmiri soul being brutalised?

Leaders need to have courage to ask their people not to move in wrong direction. This is what we saw Gandhi doing when his followers burnt a police station and killed policemen inside it at Chauri Chaura.It was a small incident but he suspended his non-cooperation movement taking responsibility for the act of violence. His colleagues were aghast by the irrationality of his decision but he was firm : method or means for him was as crucial as the goal or end.

There were apologists for violence even in those times. Bhagat Singh and his colleagues did make a valiant attempt to respond to him by writing their Philosophy of the Bomb. But Gandhi was firm. With the burden of the blood of your enemy you cannot enter the land of freedom.

Freedom cannot be revengeful. What is now happening in Kashmir is that the protests are more driven more with a will to embrace death than freedom. It also shows that a state of hopelessness is engulfing the movement. Life has become futile and worthless and it does not matter how it is lost.

One can blame the violence of the Indian state for this. But then it means that you have already conceded defeat before your enemy: it can mould you in its image.

There have been killings of security personnel even before. But not in this manner. One can only hope that the people of Kashmir retain their humanity to understand that violence is taking over them. Stone  pelting , when turned routine , robs protest of its meaning.  If it is done to only mock and provoke the state of India , it loses its force.

Violence has a popular appeal. It has to be resisted consistently and constantly. Violence, in the name of a goal however lofty cannot be justified. Violence cannot be permitted to turn into a societal habit.

Maxim Gorky, for this very reason accused Lenin of brutalising the Russians when they felt empowered by him to impart instant justice to the class enemies. He witnessed lynching of suspects at the hands of the proletariat and called it a criminal act. Revolution, if this is what it was could not be accepted.

What Gorky, a writer and Gandhi ,a political leader saw with clarity has to be revisited again by all of us, even if we are not visionaries like them: let us not be strategic towards the question of violence. There cannot be permissible degrees of violence. When it starts looking spontaneous, as would be explained the murder of Ayub Pandit, one must realise that there is a long practice and training of minds behind it which has naturalised it. The murder of Ayub Pandit is a symptom of a larger malaise. Kashmiri leaders ‘ll have to talk to their people frankly and boldly like Gandhi who wrote  after Chauri Chaura that even brick bating was a violent act, that there was no space for excitement in a  civil disobedience movement .  He wrote that he could not take it lightly as “ The tragedy of Chauri Chaura is really the index finger. It shows the way India may easily go if drastic precautions be not taken.If we are not to evolve non violence out of violence, it is quite clear that we must hastily retrace our steps and re-establish an atmosphere of peace, re-arrange our programme and not think of starting mass civil disobedience until we are sure of peace being retained in spite ofmass civil disobedience being started and in spite of Government provocation. We must be sure of unauthorized portions not starting mass civil disobedience.”

One can only hope that the words of the Mirwaiz are heard by the valley and the people of Kahmir bring back humanity to themselves by at least standing in silence for the man who was killed by his own, that they gain strength to repent on behalf of their brethren.

 

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