There lived a zookeeper at a small zoo in a town called Takghshora in the heartland of India. His mundane daily life involved keeping the monkeys from fighting for bananas when it was served to them. Bananas were thrown at them, half a dozen for each monkey. The moment he would throw bananas inside the cage, all the monkeys would start to loot their share and render a large part of the food waste. Half fed monkeys would fight more. So, he met the sheriff and asked for help. The sheriff suggested there simply were not enough bananas for all the monkeys, which makes them insecure about survival and thus the fight. More bananas were sanctioned. A full dozen for each monkey. Next time the zookeeper threw double the number of bananas inside the cage expecting calm and equal distribution. The poor man was shocked to see double the fight and even more the wastage. He called out to the sheriff again and said that the monkeys still didn’t feel secure about the future. The sheriff suggested that the bananas were still not enough. A full dozen may be fine for a one-time meal, but they need to be sure that they have enough meal for the day. More bananas were sanctioned. This time the zookeeper thought his problem was solved. He was ready with three dozen bananas for each monkey, fully confident that the distribution would be peaceful and equal. But this time the fight was even more violent. Not only the bananas were wasted, but several monkeys also sustained injuries. The mayor was called. More bananas were sanctioned. Collectively there were more bananas for each monkey which they could not finish for weeks. The sheriff was relieved and proceeded with a heap full of bananas thrown inside the cage. Within minutes there was total chaos. All the monkeys fought violently, injured each other. A couple of monkey kids got stomped as well. None of the monkeys could eat a single banana. Apparently, monkeys don’t have a sense of ownership. And apparently, human beings do. A long time before this incident one English naturalist proposed that monkeys were the real ancestors of human beings.
In a village far north of Takghshora, a dacoit entered the property of a fruit merchant and asked the merchant to hand over the property to him.
‘This is my land. I will die protecting my land.’ The merchant protested.
‘What makes you the owner of this land?’ The dacoit questioned.
‘I have been living here since birth. I have nurtured this orchard. I have tilled the fields with my sweat and blood.’
‘Yes, I agree. You have cared for and provided for this land. But my question remains. What makes you the owner of this land?’
‘I got it from my father. He was the owner of this property’
‘What makes your father the owner then?’
‘This is our ancestral land. My ancestors developed this property.’
‘And how did your ancestors get this land?’
‘Well…it was uninhabited land. My ancestors settled here and started developing it.’
‘So. It was just acquired by you. Now I am acquiring it. And I promise you I will also give my sweat and blood to the orchard.’ And so, the dacoit kicked the merchant out of his property.
How does one decide the true ownership of a territory? All territories have been acquired or conquered in some or other time in history. How long do we trace back in history to decide the true ownership of a property?
What does a country really mean? A geographical boundary? A territory? A piece of land, its natural resources, rivers, mountains, farms…? A constitution? A flag? An emblem? An anthem? A sacred animal? A political party? Or is it People? People who have decided to share all the above in harmony? But then, what happens when some people don’t want to be a part of the group? What do we do to those people?
Article 370 was the thread, however weak, that could bind the people of Kashmir to us. The accession happened conditional and those conditions were never fully met. Demilitarization never happened. Neither did plebiscite. Less than 5% of voter turnout does not mean anything. On the contrary, they write it on the walls, in big bold letters, even in the presence of our ‘brave’ soldiers. ‘Go back India.’ If one country one law applies to article 370, how come the same principle is not applicable to AFSPA? Yes, armed forces special power act, the law that gives the Indian armed forces impunity against all kind of human rights violations. The army ransacks their livestock in the name of search operations. They would always enter with their muddy boots on Kashmiri carpeted floors, ransack every household item, put rice, pulses, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, spices and whatever else they find in one big useless heap. Ask a father to open drawers containing his daughter’s undies in front of his daughter. Only the Bhakts can tell what national interest that serves. They pass lewd comments to teenage school-going girls, often sing Kumar Sanu love songs in their pathetic voices. Dogs start to bark when they are on patrol duty at night.
Human rights violations in Kashmir are no secret. It ought not to be a secret unless you deliberately don’t want to know the truth. A simple google search with keywords, ‘human rights violations in Kashmir’ reveals the documented unimaginable brutality by Indian Armed Forces on civilians. Not to forget the fact that most of these acts go undocumented. In this case, the minority of documented ones are enough to bring shivers down our spine. Massacres, torture in detention cells, fake encounters, pellet guns, disappearances, mass graves do not scare a common Kashmiri anymore. It’s the everyday life of ‘Normalcy’ that is creating a fearless breed of teenagers and even kids. How else can one justify a twelve-year-old kid with just a stone in his hand standing face to face with our ‘brave’ gun-wielding soldier? They are not scared of being killed or tortured. You can’t scare a Kashmiri with a gun. Not anymore. But there is something they fear. Sexual Violence. Rape has been used as a weapon of war by Indian security forces. There have been documented cases of soldiers confessing that they were commanded to rape Kashmiri women. At the 52nd United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Professor William Baker gave testimony that rape in Kashmir was not merely a case of isolated incidents involving undisciplined soldiers, rather the security forces were actively deploying rape on the Kashmiri populace as a method of humiliation and frightening. During some interviews of soldiers on why they raped local Kashmiri women, some responded that Kashmiri women were beautiful. Others said it was a non-family station. ‘Perks of a disturbed area posting’ is what they call it internally.
Now the question arises. Why would a Kashmiri be wanting to be a part of this group? The whole idea of ‘integral’ part of India falls apart considering these atrocities. What is even more concerning is the response of the public at large to all these allegations. When the ruling parties gain votes by oppressing common citizens of a state, undoubtedly something heinous is happening. Something is seriously wrong when people hail the army for committing these crimes. Somehow, rape committed by armed personnel is not seen as the same as done by civilians. Especially when that rape is done in the name of ‘national security’. Somehow, our collective conscience changes. Their entire resistance is summed up to just one word. Pakistan. Do we really believe that the entire population of Kashmir has been instigated by Pakistan? Or we chose to believe that to hide our own inner demons that somehow fancies a sense of power by subjecting atrocities at helpless women? The naked face of this demon is in a showcase in almost all twitter posts that sympathized with the victims of army brutality during Burhan Wani uprising in 2016. Open rape threats were made publicly by the army of trolls of the ruling party, further legitimizing the act itself. And yet people support them. The ‘majority’ does. Can it really be lack of awareness? I bet not. For those who are still sane, it is simply lack of willingness to be aware. And for the rest, there is a wicked attempt at diverting the discussion. The moment you try to bring this up, there are a couple of standard responses. Yeah, but not the entire army is like that. But the army does sacrifice for the civilians. Are these justifications enough for their brutality? Do we really need the Army to be above law and justice?
At the time this article is being written, Kashmir has been locked up under heavy military presence, without internet for more than four months now. India fears that if the internet is restored anti-India sentiments would be fueled by separatist leaders. Isn’t the sentiment intrinsic to every Kashmiri by now? Didn’t they make it amply clear when they came out in millions in support of the militants you killed? Kashmiris hate your occupation. Eating biryani with a handful of Kashmiris as a part of propaganda PR does not prove anything. Do they really need someone to tell them to fight against the forces that oppress them? The Indian administration passionately declares ‘normalcy’ there every now and then, which is hypocrisy personified. If everything is normal, why not restore internet and let the world know what they have to say? Is it so hard to understand this hypocrisy? Or are we a part of this collective hypocrisy?
We are after their beautiful land, their natural resources, their riches and in some sadistic cases their beautiful women. No sooner the news about the repeal of Article 370 was out, leaders of the ruling party started promising Kashmiri brides to Indian men. As if they couldn’t find better options among themselves. We don’t want the people. The whole argument of ‘protecting’ the people of Kashmir is a lie the ruling parties want us to believe. A lie repeated all over again and again. A lie we all have chosen to believe. They don’t need protection from us. We are the demons they are fighting. Its time we accept it.
Our collective reality circles back to the zookeeper situation. We are the descendants of the monkeys that fight for more resources despite an abundance of them. While Kashmir fights with whatever they have. They don’t have anything to lose. And this one community, we won’t be able to conquer. Certainly not with our collective evil.