I must confess it is rather hilarious for me, as a Kashmiri Hindu, to be questioned on the infamous premise of "what-about-ery". What about Kashmiri Hindus, such as myself? What about our beloved armed forces? Are their lives not lives; do they not matter? People who ask such questions include, to my bewilderment, even those who recognize the significance of saying "Black Lives Matter", as opposed to "all lives matter."
I'd like to remind them of what Judith Butler explained in an interview:
"When some people rejoin with "All Lives Matter" they misunderstand the problem, but not because their message is untrue. It is true that all lives matter, but it is equally true that not all lives are understood to matter which is precisely why it is most important to name the lives that have not mattered, and are struggling to matter in the way they deserve.
This ties in with the violence in the Valley. Violence in the Valley is not primarily a physical assault. It is a consistent, almost ceaseless attack on the human spirit. It is widely understood that the lives of Kashmiri Pandits and our armed gentlemen matter, but only because they have publicly recognized selves to present, articulate and defend. In a discursive marginalization that has rendered Kashmiri lives unintelligible, robbed Kashmiris of everything, even their selfhood in the name of the Indian state, have we the shame to stop calling ourselves a democracy? Come and see the blood in the streets, Neruda wailed. The Indian State today has the impunity to murder unarmed protesters in your name. In our name. As you delight in the gore, forget not that nationalism built on corpses is never yours, never anyone's. Please, please stop invisibilizing people. You have more than blood on your hands.
It is widely understood that the lives of Kashmiri Pandits and our armed gentlemen matter, but only because they have publicly recognized selves to present, articulate and defend.
It is deeply tragic that the message of the Kashmiri Pandits and the armed forces is carried by people with dubious integrity, little to no awareness of the Kashmiri context, and absolutely no intention or concern for the lives of those they endorse. If you only talk about the Kashmiri Pandits and the armed forces to silence Kashmiri Muslims, you are the problem. Much as I strain to hear it, there is not one sincere voice grieving for the Kashmiri Pandits' pain of leaving a homeland no longer theirs, for the difficult lives that many of them still spend in refugee shelters. Where is the concern for our jawans? For the pittance foot soldiers receive in the name of monetary compensation? For the inhumane conditions many of them are subjected to by their officers who force them to perform unpaid domestic labour? For the state negligence of their mental health, when it has been concretely established that many of them deal with post-traumatic stress disorders? We have stripped ourselves of our democracy, and we delight in wearing the blood of our countrymen as nationalism.
Burhan Wani is not my martyr. He is not my Che Guevara. I condemn his method. I despise his organization. I do not condone his violence. But I do not equate it in magnitude or brutality to the Indian State's onslaught on Kashmir. It is only liberal philosophy which has the calm, the intellectual distance to free itself from contexts, to be so universalist that substance becomes parody. The Gandhian ethos requires a performance. It requires an audience which is watching, which cares. We have long surrendered Kashmir to nationalism, and washed our conscience with their corpses in the Jhelum. Who is watching? Who cares? Do not let Umar Khalid stand for all of us. We do not grieve for Wani as the embodiment of perfect convictions. We grieve him as one of ours, as yet another Kashmiri whose life did not escape the aegis of entitlement. Maybe if you did not celebrate our deaths, maybe if you did not make regular mockery of our plight, we would not be so pained. As long as Kashmiris see basic human courtesy as something so distant that it has to be wished for, there will be no peace.
I condemn [Burhan Wani's] method. I do not condone his violence. But I do not equate it in magnitude or brutality to the Indian State's onslaught on Kashmir.
Political independence is not one of knowledge, even cognition; we are still part-benevolent, part-autocratic. The question of Kashmiri independence is a complicated one. It comprises several strands of thought, and there is immense conflict, immense disagreement. To claim to have had the last word on the Kashmir issue by highlighting the difficulty of surviving independently is anathema to millions of people. To grieve for Kashmir as an Indian, then, is never to unsee the vulgarity of violence, to try listening to the deafening screams that the powerful try to muffle, and to achieve the simple act of conversation. Of empathy. In that is the hope of Kashmir, of this country, of this world.