Hakim Shahzad Hamdani
The word ‘Radical’ has been defined in different ways by different people. Some have defined it in terms of favouring a drastic political, economic, or social reforms while others have found its meaning within those persons who hold or follow a strong conviction or extreme principle advocating fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.
While trying to understand and club these two definitions it may not be wrong to relate the word ‘Radical’ as a conviction in the mind of an organization or an individual to drastically impose political, economic or social reforms through an uncompromising methods. Where conviction comes out of a deep rooted ideology to impose such principles which may not be proportionate to the ideology of the majority but opposite to it.
This definition makes you understand that radical or radicalization is not always extremist in form or action but it depends upon on the reforms on which its sole conviction is based. For example the famous ‘Land to Tiller’ law which was enacted by then head of kashmir namely Sheikh Muhammah Abdullah was a radical reform meant to bring equality and end of feudal system since it was drastically imposed and equally opposed, yet fruitful in nature. Even the radical reforms during British India were enacted to bring a social reform by abolition of untouchability and bringing caste equality. The 19th century’s radical reforms brought by Raja Rammohan Roy cannot be ignored. He fought relentlessly against social evils like sati, polygamy, child marriage, female infanticide and caste discrimination. All these reforms have been of radical nature which means these reforms were initiated through the conviction of one individual or an organization and against the will of those who opposed it.
This conviction to drastically bring reform in a social system had been against the majority’s conviction at that point of time but yet it was all for the betterment of the society. So being of extremist/Radical nature or not, solely depends upon the reforms one is inclined to bring within a society. Today a majority of Indian people applaud the reforms of the 19th century because all these radical reforms came through a legitimate process and not through force even though it was imposed upon those who considered it wrong. Having said that we now learn that the word ‘Radical’ or ‘Radicalization’ can be either a prosperous radical reform or a disastrous radical reform, all depends upon the ways it has been brought in the society.
A prosperous radical reform may be disliked by many and enjoyed by few in the beginning but as it spreads the real essence of it is slowly realized and appreciated by the masses. A disastrous Radical reform is disliked by many and enjoyed by few in the beginning but as it spreads the real purpose is slowly realized leading to mass uprising against it. The biggest example of it can be found in Indian History. The formation of ‘East India Company’ by the then British state was initiated for the purpose of trade but as it started to bring economic reforms in India its purpose was later realized and opposed.
In this fight between a prosperous yet radical reform and a disastrous yet radical reform comes the word ‘Resistance’.
Hoping many of our esteemed readers have a brief knowledge about the famous 1857 Revolt of British India where some selective princely states of Northern India had the conviction to bring a drastic political change and to rise against the tyrant rule of British in comparison to the majority of Princely empires in central and southern India who were not of the same conviction rather it later led to one of the reasons for its failure. Question remains, was it a radical reform by the then people or rise of a resistance force against the social, political and economical oppression enforced by the then British empire?
Is being Radical also a form of being resistant?
Today the people of Independent India uphold that famous revolt as ‘The first war of Independence’. Their projection doesn’t relate their own act as Radical but a war or resistance which was raised against the then British empire. After 70 years of Independence and 70 years of slavery the essence of being Radical and Resistant still exists. Yes, it exists but not in the narration of that nation which got Independence but the one who lost its independence.
Today every political voice in India considers the ongoing resistance of Indian administered Kashmir as Radicalization. They narrate the freedom struggle of Kashmir as a conviction to drastically bring a social, political and religious reform against the majority voice of kashmir but fear of holding a legitimate plebiscite to seek the majority’s aspiration.
Who initiated this drastic political reform in the valley and who are the ones who took away the Independence of this peaceful nation of Kashmir?
Why resistance of kashmiris is being Radical and India’s fight against the then British being Radical is their Resistance?
Alas! None of these political voices have been able to answer these question. It is an irony that you live in your house and a visitor comes and just that he has a deep rooted ideology to make some changes in your room, he starts pulling you out of your own room. You object to that change and end up being of a Radical ideology.
The present and past situations in Kashmir is nothing less than that room and one has to go deep into the roots of history to find the answers.
The history of this Himalayan region is not of a recent origin but dates back to 625 CE. Its history is filled with rulers from Karkota Empire of 625 CE to Afghan Durrani dynasty of 1771 and the Maharaja Hari Singh rule till 1947.
Every empire brought Radical reforms which basically pleased their own interests and suppression of the majority’s voice against it.
In the British census conducted in 1941, Kashmir was registered as a Muslim majority population of 77%, a Hindu population of 20% and a small population of Buddhists and Sikhs comprising the remaining 3%. During the same year Prem Nath Bazaz, a Kashmiri Pandit journalist in his book ‘Inside Kashmir’ mentioned that the poverty of the Muslim masses was worst. Most of the majority population happened to be landless labourers.
It was further explained that a phase of absolute corruption had spread under the Hindu and Sikh rule. Muslims were pushed to pay hefty taxation, discrimination in the legal system and forced labour without wages was at its peak.
Another person George Forster in his book ‘A journey from Bengal to England’ published in 1786 writes about the Radical reforms in political and economic spheres that started to change the economic scenario of kashmir.
He writes that till Afghan rule the Shawl industry in addition to other commodities and trades received newer customers in the form of Iran, Turkistan, Russia as well as Afghanistan.
Kashmiri merchants as well as those from abroad could meet and trade with one another without being worried that most of their profit would go to the state.
It was later during the Sikh and Hindu rule, radical economic reforms started to emerge. The State made it difficult for foreign traders to prosper due to
increased forms of taxation. A time when foreign merchants largely traded not with Kashmiri shawl weavers but the State. By the 1900s, the Shawl industry in Kashmir was almost dead.
The end of british rule and Partition between India and Pakistan in 1947, the infamous Instrument of Accession signed by then Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir (who was already overthrown by the then Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah) with India, the UN intervention on Kashmir as a dispute and the promises made by the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to hold plebiscite in Kashmir were something that started to shape a different history of Kashmir.
The Participation of Muslim United Front (MUF) in elections of 1987 and forced detention of MUF members followed by mass rigging in Kashmir Elections by India was the last drastic political change or one can say the last nail in the coffin of Kashmiris tolerance. Kashmir was now becoming resistant against those radical reforms by India which entered as a visitor and now was reluctant to leave.
Since the illegal occupation, India has always used its sponsored elected members to dilute each and every form of Independence which ever existed in Kashmir. From pushing hard laws like AFSPA to changing the demography of Kashmir by occupying agricultural land through its forces. There are infact countless radical reforms implemented in the valley, be it Political reforms by diluting the 1957 status where kashmir had its own Prime Minister or economic change by implementing GST, occupying Kashmir’s owned Hydro Power projects and killing the backbone of kashmiri Agriculture.
Today those self claimed intellectuals of India who are showing there concerns and are equating the resistance of Kashmir with being Radical have ignored the level of suppression this Himalayan region has been going through all these years. They are ignoring the radical reforms forced upon the people of kashmir since the day India entered in Kashmir through its forces.
Even after witnessing hundreds of massacres by India through its forces, the valley never turned its back to speak with their oppressor and end the cycle of bloodshed and conflict. They welcomed talks even though it came in phases or as an immediate response to end the cycle of violence whenever kashmir would erupt against innocent killings.
These initiatives by India had always been to buy time and move on rather than to sit down and settle the issues once and for all but still the people of Kashmir never lost the hope of dialogue and still they dont.
Contrary to it the level of radicalization has reached such a point in the minds of Indians that the founding father of their Independence is now a traitor and the killer is a national Hero. Where people are now being subjected to torture for what they eat and where minorities are forced to convert to Hinduism under the slogan of ‘Ghar Wapsi’ and leaders of India calling for a Muslim free nation by 2021.
Incidents of dadri and lynching of minorities is still haunting the soul of Indian secular vision.
One really wonders that after all these drastic reforms happening in India and the radical approach that India holds in past and present vis a vis kashmir, what moral ground they hold to label the resistance of kashmir as a growing radicalization.
How much Radical their own country can become where its judiciary hanged Afzal Guru (a pro freedom leader) just to satisfy the conscience of Indian people and then threw away the principles of humanity of not allowing even his family to have a last meet. Later disallowing to hand over even the mortal remains to his family so that they could bury and satisfy their own conscience.
The bitter reality is that India has started making new friends under a new Prime Minister having new approach to handle disputes with new strategic partners. With this radical approach, Kashmir has also started to realize its own fault of waiting everytime at the doorsteps for someone who could talk to them and end their miseries. The space for dialogue which started to narrow in 2010 is filled up with anger and broken promises.
This anger which is now leading the valley to such a stage where the advantage of fear phycosis unleashed by India since 1989 is nomore relevant. Where people irrespective of their age run towards battlegrounds to stand in between Indian forces and armed Kashmiri fighters.
This younger generation of kashmir has grown up listening to the killing of Militant commander Ashfaq Majeed and Hanging of Maqbool Bhat and now they count themselves with Burhan Wani and Afzal Guru.
It will be the right way to sum up by saying that Kashmir is surely becoming intolerant and this transformation is not their becoming Radical but their becoming intolerant towards the radical approach of India which was never prosperous but disastrous.
The rhetoric statements from India have no more takers left in the valley. The only thing left are those who are trying to linger on with their lives while watching the young guns of kashmir falling down to pellets and bullets every day.
The writer is a co-coordinating Ambassador of One Young World (UK) from Indian administered Kashmir and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org