• February 23, 2024

The republic of sorrow

(First published on January 26th, 2019)

Question: What does India get out of it? Believe it or not, the sheer size of the deployment of the Indian forces in Kashmir has exceeded any known case worthy of the Guinness Book of World Record. To some estimates, the number has surpassed 1 million soldiers and paramilitary officials. While this is not a small number on its own, it becomes more shocking when you take into account the total population of Indian-occupied Kashmir which is slightly over 12 million. If you calculate each household as a nuclear family, there is a soldier in Kashmir to police every two households. If you factor in extended families, one soldier is deployed in Kashmir to police each household. Kashmir literally is under house arrest. And there are no signs of this number going down in the future. Have you heard of another democracy treating its own people so harshly? If this is not an occupation, I do not understand the meaning of the word any more.

Ready to be shocked further? Do you know the total size of the Indian army? The number of active duty soldiers in the Indian army is 1.4 million. Go back to the number of Indian military deployment in Kashmir again. Shocked much? Ready for some more? There is no official number on the total financial cost of the deployment. For budget’s sake, break this number down to various elements, hide them under various heads. And you would think democracy thrives on transparency. Back in the 1990s, when the size of deployment was significantly smaller, the Indian media speculated that the daily cost of this occupation was Rs60 million (roughly eight hundred thousand US dollars in today’s value). It is a rough estimate in the pre-nuclearisation, pre-Kargil, pre-Indian economic boom days. Ever wondered how much India must be spending now when it has the financial muscle and modern equipment to crush an independent-minded people? This, mind you, is just the speculation about the financial cost of military deployment and does not include the cost of bribes to individuals and the Kashmiri government, the money spent on espionage or the financial losses incurred by the lack of peace.

Surprisingly enough, the Indian army sees itself as a champion of the people. This self-image continues even after an Indian army major decided to tie a peaceful voter to his jeep’s hood to stop protesters from pelting stones. Remember Jeremy Scahill’s account of Blackwater’s human rights excesses in Iraq? Well, Scahill’s Blackwater could learn a thing or two from this lot. This self-deceit continues as men, women, and kids are blinded by the unrestrained use of pellet guns. And those who die as a result of excessive use of force are immediately dubbedmilitants or terrorists. No muss, no fuss. Who would you rather believe, the families of the deceased or the authorities?

But before we talk a little more about pellet guns, let us take a look at the Indian media’s response. It is funny that although foreign tourists visiting Indian occupied Kashmir, many of whom are avid Indian fans, tell us about the exceptional presence of Indian armed forces in the state, the Indian media keeps pretending that it is not there. While the Indian government and army maintain their silence on the total size of deployment, some in the Indian media have tried to prove that the number is significantly smaller, albeit without proof. I know it is a bit callous to rub it in, but if you truly want to know what is going on with the Indian media, you need to read this passage from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:

“No, no,” said Frankie, “it’s the brain we want to buy.”


“Well, who would miss it?” inquired Benjy.

“It could always be replaced,” said Benjy reasonably, “if you think it’s important.”

“Yes, an electronic brain,” said Frankie, “a simple one would suffice.”

“A simple one!” wailed Arthur.

“Yeah,” said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin. “You’d just have to programme it to say What? and I don’t understand and Where’s the tea? Who’d know the difference?”

“I’d notice the difference,” said Arthur.

“No, you wouldn’t,” said Frankie mouse. “You’d be programmed not to.”

Well, the Indian media is programmed to… well… you get the picture. And Indian journalists, poor things, think they are serving the national interest through this chicanery. In truth, they do no such thing. They are mere complicit pawns in the pursuit of what Freud may call delayed gratification of a state’s ego and irrational impulses at literally an immeasurable financial and human cost.

And this exercise in futility at people’s expense and the complicity of Indian media and intellectuals simultaneously radicalises India and threatens (yes, you read it correctly) the world conscience. I will show you how.

If you have followed Kashmir’s history carefully, you must be aware that shortly after independence Pakistani tribals and soldiers disguised as tribals entered Kashmir to end the stalemate in the state. Since this happened without the explicit permission of the then commander-in-chief of Pakistan Army, it was the start of the country’s non-state, sub-state actor woes. What you might have missed is the fact that from the Indian side the first to enter was not its army but the goons of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to rape and pillage the Muslim population. Thus, began a profitable partnership between Indian deep state and the RSS. The RSS now controls the Indian state through its political front, the BJP, and often taunts the Indian defence establishment claiming that it can prepare soldiers quicker than the Indian army. This radicalisation is busy rewriting India’s DNA.

And how does this threaten the world conscience? By hiding the truth. Conduct a few experiments. Open Google in a browser. Type Kashmir. Click on the images button. Any sign of blinded kids? Now click the news button? The same? Now type “Kashmir blind” and search. On the images page, you will see heartrending pictures. You must be aware that only days ago The New York Times carried an op-art piece titled “An 18-Month-Old Victim in a Very Old Fight”. Type this text in Google’s search box and click search. Don’t mind if you see the story among the search results. It is a newspaper’s story. Click on the news tab. Do you see it anywhere? No? Okay, refine the search. This story was carried on January 19, 2019. Refine the search to the past week. Five stories show up none of which is from the NYT. I am not big on conspiracy theories but remember the president of the United States has accused Google of suppressing certain results. Now, how would you react if you are told that Google used to show different results before Sundar Pichai became its CEO?

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2019.

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