By: Sriram Ananth
I apologize in advance for what seems like a rather pompous title to this essay. I mean, who the hell am I to be suggesting anything to anybody?
I am nobody.
Nevertheless, if you’re a person who values a diversity of opinions, I daresay mine is as good as anyone else’s. And I’m of the firm opinion that all Indians should support Kashmiri liberation.
Please allow me to elaborate.
I have, in the recent past, come out into the open as an Indian who is in solidarity with Kashmiri liberation.
I don’t know just how big of a club this is – you know, folks who identify in some way or the other as Indian and are in solidarity with the liberation of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. I think we are often led to believe that it is smaller than it actually is. But I have a feeling that’s more due to a Hindi-dominated, Northern bias to Indian pop culture. Partition and Pakistan are closer home and Kashmir tends to strike a raw nerve there. The whole doodh mangoge toh kheer denge nonsense for starters. Not to mention Bollywood-inspired, fair-skinned nationalism. One could be forgiven for thinking that the vast majority of Indians are really nationalist and ipso facto against Kashmiri liberation.
Equally true is the fact that there are many famous Indian intellectuals, writers, and activists who are quite open about their support for Kashmiri liberation (and if you’re some Hindu fundamentalist loser, you’ve probably already threatened to kill them or something). I know there are countless other nameless and faceless leftists, feminists, caste liberationists, and social justice warriors across the length and breadth of India who deep down are against the occupation of Kashmir and in support of human rights and freedom.
Even in my own personal circles, I know of many people who would identify or be identified as Indian who support Kashmiri liberation. Also, almost all of them would identify or be identified as Hindu. I think that’s important to state, because every Indian reading this article is wondering that to some degree or the other even if they don’t want to admit it.
So I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to suggest that we Indians should support the liberation of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. I’m not suggesting I know exactly how we should do so. I’m just suggesting we each try our best and at least start the journey.
And here’s why.
Because the liberation of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters from the brutality of the occupation they face will ultimately result in our own liberation as well.
Our liberation from the fascism that is this Indian state.
Our liberation from the religious fundamentalism and misogynistic nationalism of the subcontinent.
Our liberation from the bloodthirsty neocolonialism and imperialism of this world.
Please don’t mistake me, those Indian nationalists among you who inevitably will – I don’t have some overtly romantic notion of Kashmiri society. Nor am I some “pseudo secular commie”.
(To be sure, I am indeed secular and do occasionally identify as a leftist, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be defined by some Modi-worshipping chaddiwallas).
I will confess to having a certain admiration and love for the more beautiful parts of Kashmir, but that’s certainly not some quixotic vision. I have no doubts as to the myriad problems with Islamic fundamentalism or patriarchy or parochialism in Kashmiri society. Just as I have no doubts as to the myriad problems with Hindu fundamentalism or misogyny or jingoism in Indian society.
So make no mistake as to where I am coming from when I say that my heart beats for Kashmiri Azadi.
Because it beats for the Azadi of all human beings.
Now, one might argue that this is all well and good, but it doesn’t really mean a whole lot more than being an easy platitude. You know, my liberation is tied up in your liberation is tied up in someone else’s liberation, blah, blah, blah…who the hell cares, am I right? Sounds like the kind of phrase plastered on the dusty fridge magnet of some failed lefty activist who eats quinoa and tempeh for dinner (yum).
So, how do we ground this whole inter-sectional liberation in reality?
I could go on and on about the decades of torture and brutality inflicted upon the Kashmiri people at the hands of the Indian military, supposedly in our name, to protect us Indians. There are enough documented and undocumented disappearances, killings, rapes, and assaults conducted by the Indian military apparatus to make ones head spin. Perhaps I could even expand the geopolitical scope and speak of what is in essence a trilateral occupation of Kashmir, no doubt the sheer viciousness of the Indian side of the occupation far exceeding anything the Pakistanis and Chinese seem to be carrying out on the bleeding backs of Kashmiris. Just a brief look at Kashmir’s history over the last century confirms how they have been brutalized by the larger powers-that-be.
But a lot of people have written, documented, and filmed those atrocities over many decades, and for the most part it still doesn’t seem to have moved the majority of Indians beyond either an opaque indifference or a belligerent nationalism.
It’s really quite sad.
So for this piece I would rather stick to how being in solidarity with the liberation of Kashmir has helped in my own personal liberation – and hope that it convinces a few others who might identify as Indian…or South Asian, or Canadian, or American, or what have you. (The potential for a global Kashmir-solidarity movement is immense, considering it is practically non-existent right now.)
My journey towards being in solidarity with the liberation of Kashmir was not a simple one for many reasons. Like all journeys, it involved travel, learning, and a little fun adventure. But where the rubber really hit the road so to speak was deep down inside my soul. I was forced to confront my own inherent Indian chauvinism and nationalism. I had no choice but to unlearn a lot of what I learnt about India growing up, indeed, what it even meant to be Indian. And once I crossed that line, a beautiful thing happened – I started seeing myself in more liberated ways – not just as an Indian immigrant in North America, not just as a South Indian, not just as a Bangalorean, but also as a transnational Tamil, a global Dravidian, a worshipper of the divine feminine, a believer in matriarchal societies, and countless other evolving parts to my socio-political identity.
Because standing in solidarity with my Kashmiri brothers and sisters helped me get back in touch with my own roots – beyond the garbage of the Aryan-patriarchal caste system, beyond the insularity of the Indian nation-state, beyond some Manuwadi dogmatic Hinduism, beyond colonial and neo-colonial frameworks of thinking.
In short, standing in solidarity with the liberation of Kashmir contributed in a major way towards my own social, political and, ultimately, spiritual liberation.
I went from being an atheist, to an atheist who believes in goddesses (I will never have a need for any patriarchal male deities or gods in my life, thank you very much.)
I went from being a simple humanist to a more organic universalist who values all souls, human and non-human.
I went from being a rage-filled, dogmatic leftist to a calmer, more peace-loving human being.
And regardless of what you make of my own liberatory journey, whether or not you find overlaps or differences with your own, one thing should be crystal clear – I am indeed happier now because I crossed that line to supporting the liberation of Kashmir as someone who identifies and is forced to identify as Indian.
I think you will too.
Sriram Ananth is a writer, therapist, and the proud father of a wonderful daughter. He leads an enriching transnational life between Canada, the US, and India. He blogs at:https://loveliberationstruggle.wordpress.com/