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Why an ‘azadi’ wala defends corruption

I wrote an article recently on how oppressive extortion by a police officer had pushed a Kashmiri teenager to take up arms against the state. One might have thought such an article would be panned by top figures in the state establishment, and win kudos from those who complain of oppression by the state apparatus in Kashmir.

But no.

The opposite happened. Some top figures in the state establishment praised the article, and some of the cheerleaders of <em>azadi</em> critiqued it.

Their plaint was that I had ignored the ‘sentiment.’ This is an old story, which plays out like a broken record. Such voices tend to argue that this sort of thing (extortion, or any other sort of oppression) is bound to happen under the Indian state until freedom comes. Therefore, to focus on such things is to divert attention from the ‘cause.’

Presumably, in their scheme of things, such things should just be accepted. It’s almost as if they want things like cruel extortion to happen, so that they might add data for their arguments. It’s an inversion of logic: they don’t demand freedom on the basis that they are oppressed, but rather seek out data of oppression to bolster their fixed objective.

The fact that the boy got killed by the forces within a few days of his joining militancy didn’t seem to bother them. It is even possible that some of them might quietly have welcomed another statistic to add to their arguments for <em>azadi</em>.

<strong>Sordid motivations</strong>

The way some of them look at things, writers and analysts such as I should not focus on oppressive acts of individual officers, particularly if those officers hail from the state.

Indeed, one has noticed over the years that apologists for militancy and the freedom struggle go out of their way to paper over cruelties and oppression at the micro-level.

Not only does it bring them data of oppression, it conveniently brings them storm troopers. For, such oppression motivates the poor and defenceless to turn to their generally undefined but alluring talk of freedom, to become cannon fodder for their cause.

Most of them shy away from defining that cause precisely. They draw as much upon liberal ideas of self-determination, or post-Modernist and subaltern tropes of identity-based aspirations, as on Islamist or pan-Islamist exclusivism. Indeed, the more liberal ideas are at times deliberately deployed to obscure the more exclusivist and extremist ideas of what the ‘cause’ actually is.

There is another, more devious and sordid reason these apologists of the ‘cause’ don’t want analysts to focus on micro-oppression. Many of the loudest of these apologists turn out to be well-off children of politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, judges, and others who are deeply entrenched in the power structures of the state.

They benefit directly from the extortion and other exploitative tactics of those who run the state. Sometimes funded by this systematic milking of the system, several of them study at well-regarded universities, often abroad, where their woolly post-Modernist presentations are warmly celebrated.

<strong>An unspoken understanding</strong>

At times, it almost seems as if there is an unspoken bond between the cheerleaders of <em>azadi</em> and those who actually oppress people at the grassroots. The latter seem to have no problem with people abusing India and rejecting its systems in general terms, as long as they don’t agitate against particular acts of oppression, exploitation or extortion.

One might even talk of collaboration amounting to conspiracy between those within the structures of the state who want an oppressive, militaristic regime to ‘control’ Kashmir and those who argue for independence, Islamic rule, or Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Together, they ensure that the freedom struggle as well as the exploitative oppression on which it thrives keep going unimpeded.

It is hard to grasp the contours of this collaboration unless one realises that corruption amounting to extortion is the single most important facet of the system as it functions in Kashmir. Those who get motivated to join militancy, pelt stones, and get killed in encounters are almost always from poorer families with no access to the networks of power and influence. They are at
least partially motivated by anger and resentment at that extortionist corruption.

<strong>Black-and-white narratives</strong>

I have argued <a href="https://scroll.in/article/899894/what-propels-the-new-generation-of-rage-in-kashmir-a-book-attempts-answers"><strong>in my book</strong></a>, <em>The Generation of Rage in Kashmir</em>, that powerful manipulators on both sides cling to two-dimensional black-and-white views of the situation, insistently refusing to acknowledge any shades of grey, leave alone the existence of four-dimensional reality.

In a chapter titled ‘Conflict Economy,’ I have explained how these entrenched voices gain money, fame, power, awards, medals, and various sorts of promotion by bolstering each other’s black-and-white views of the situation in Kashmir. This unspoken collaboration thrives by cynically exploiting the emotions of the poor, using the ‘sentiment’ of which my critics spoke as their instrument..