The Colonised become the Colonisers

“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians” – Muhammad Iqbal.

India was once a country at the mercy of British rule, a profitable part of the British Empire and subject to Britain’s colonizing tactics. India like a good student absorbed these tactics and added them to their playbook, later to implement their own version of settler-colonialism. In 1947, the dissolution of the British Raj happened and with it twelve million people were displaced as abstract lines were drawn creating the self-governing countries of Pakistan and India. However, the contentious issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was also born and still remains part of the political landscape. The fraught battle between the two nations over who should assert authority in the region created tensions which reached boiling point as India removed J&K’s special status last Monday. The issue of India taking control of Kashmir sits in a nexus of state power, nationalism, and colonialism and should be analysed as such.

The crisis unfolded last week when Article 370 was withdrawn from the constitution by the Indian government. Article 370 was integral to keeping some kind of peace in the region. It allowed J&K to have special status within India. Provisions such as outsiders not being able to buy land or property were in the agreement meaning a certain level of autonomy was afforded to J&K.  Article 370 was viewed as an important tenant in maintaining stability and was entrenched in the constitution and thus theoretically could not be removed. The Narendra Modi government itself said in 2018 in a written reply in Parliament that there was no proposal to remove Article 370. Furthermore, the Supreme Court refused to accept that Article 370 was temporary in nature as sometimes argued by politicians. The importance and permanence of Article 370 is clear. On removal of the article, the BJP announced a ‘reorganization bill’ which bolsters the ideological nationalist belief that India should be a unitary and centralized nation-state. India is what the political theorist Hannah Arendt terms ‘seeing like a state’; specifically a hyper-nationalistic state.

When we allow fascism and hatred to take root in a political system in such a way, terror unleashed onto those most vulnerable in the guise of ‘democracy’ is inevitable. This issue of taking control of J&K is intricately interlinked with Modi’s campaign of hyper-nationalism.  As Hannah Arendt, who herself experienced fascist terror, theorised, to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology. The ideology must win the hearts of many and even gain a majority and then terror can be used to stabilize the totalitarian state.  In India, terror imposed on J&K has become the vehicle to carry out Modi’s ideology of hyper-nationalism and the masses have come on board in the hopes of creating a greater India. The first step in justifying this terror is to rectify what Modi views as the wrong of the ‘Muslim-appeasement bill’ which is Article 370.  This move shows India is happy to rule in an authoritarian fashion to expand its power and territory whilst ignoring international law and its own constitution.

India having learnt from its previous masters set out a carefully designed plan to dish out imperialism. Kashmir was already described as ‘the most militarised region on earth’ with 700,000 soldiers, paramilitary and police patrolling it. The Indian military are the architects of this prison. As Hafsa Kanjwal reports for Al Jazeera, “In the days leading up to the announcement, the government inflicted a series of psychological trauma on the local population”. Leaders of Kashmir were put under house arrest. Communication was cut off, with phone signals and internet blocked, thus worried people could r not each family or friends, this coupled with the increased deployment of troops. It could well be there may be some people of Kashmir who may not even know of the change in legislation. Journalists in Kashmir are reporting and printing newspapers by hand in order to keep the people somewhat informed.

As India took control by isolating Kashmir from the world they added more brute force to the picture. They took their next steps and began to shape the narrative, another trick learnt from the British as they try to abandon their image as colonial masters and rebrand themselves as a soft power. The state in India has ironically been the one to do outsourcing – they lent on the Bollywood industry to sell a happy go-lucky narrative of the events in Kashmir. As Bollywood buys titles, ‘Kashmir humura hai’ which translates to Kashmir is ours, now we face the future of state propaganda being outsourced to the clutches of capitalism with a catchy ‘item song’ playing in the backdrop.

Where do we go from here? – As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The lack of an international response is deafening yet predictable. However, if we do not speak of these events they will go down in history as a victory for fascism and we become the supporters of the oppressors.

NCF researcher Maariyah Rashid