For J&K, lessons from Chauri Chaura

The lynching of Ayub Pandit must make people of the Valley pause and ask: Is the Kashmiri soul being brutalised ? Kashmiri leaders will have to talk to their people frankly like Gandhi did after Chauri Chaura.

Written by Apoorvanand | Published:June 28, 2017 1:21 am
 kashmir unrest, kashmir problem, kashmir valley unrest, kashmir lynching, srinagar lynching, srinagar policeman killed, ayub pandit lynched, kashmir-india, indian express Srinagar : File photo of DySP Mohammad Ayub Pandit who was beaten to death outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid in Jammu and Kashmir. (PTI Photo)

“We cannot allow the state brutality to which we are subjected each day snatch our humanity and values,” the Mirwaiz said, asking: “What will be the difference between them and us then?”

Wise words these. Mirwaiz spoke like an elder. He spoke with pain in his voice and with concern for his people: “Mob violence and public lynching are outside the parameters of our values and religion,” the leader asserted. We cannot doubt the sincerity of Mirwaiz’s anguish. It is good that there was no rationalisation of the lynching of Ayub Pandit, the police officer who was killed by the crowd of believers just outside the Nauhatta mosque in Srinagar, who were there to mark Shab-e-Qadr as part of the holy month of Ramzan.

There are different accounts of the tragedy. One version claims that Ayub was filming the people moving around the mosque and that made people angry; some say that the crowd lost its patience after he opened fire from his service revolver. But one cannot miss that the way he was beaten up, stripped, dragged on the road and later dumped in a drain, was savagery at its lowest.

The Mirwaiz and his friends need to go further, for the question remains before him, his colleagues and the people of Kashmir: Is it not time they took a pause and thought deeply about the method of their struggle?

Some may say that the death of a police officer should be not magnified to undermine the struggle which spans decades and has been largely peaceful. They are right. There is no one way in which the movement in Kashmir is conducted. There are some who have taken up arms to fight what they believe is the Indian occupation of Kashmir, but we know that they are not large in number. Outside them lies the larger part, which has been non-violent. It is also true that the Indian state seeks to promote the view that this movement is only a cover for Pakistan and the militants and that it is part of a so-called global terror network. That is how it justifies the use of the indefensible AFSPA. It seeks to portray every Kashmiri as a potential militant.

What the Indian state is doing is hardly surprising. This is how all governments deal with popular movements — constantly dubbing them troublemakers and outlaws out to destroy peace and tranquillity, which is only ensured by a tough state.

But what about movements that are driven by pious, democratic goals? Freedom is a sacred idea. When the lure of blood and violence starts replacing the calls for freedom, one needs to halt. The murder in a mosque, that too in a holy month, should make every Kashmiri pause and think about what the Mirwaiz is saying: Is the Kashmiri soul being brutalised?

Leaders need to have the courage to ask their people not to move in the wrong direction. This is what Gandhi did when his followers burnt a police station and killed policemen at Chauri Chaura. It was a small incident but he suspended the Non-Cooperation Movement, taking responsibility for the act of violence. His colleagues were aghast but for Gandhi, the method or means to achieve the goals was as crucial as the end.

Freedom cannot be vengeful. Protests in Kashmir are driven more and more with a will to embrace death. It also illustrates the hopelessness engulfing the movement.

There have been killings of security personnel even before. But not in this manner. One can only hope that the people of Kashmir retain their humanity and understand that violence is taking them over. Stone-pelting, when it becomes routine, robs protest of its meaning. If it is done to only mock and provoke the Indian state, it loses its force.

Violence has popular appeal. It has to be resisted consistently and constantly. Violence, in the name of a goal, however lofty, cannot be justified. For this very reason, Maxim Gorky accused Lenin of brutalising the Russians when they felt empowered by him to impart instant justice to class enemies. He witnessed the lynching of suspects at the hands of the proletariat and called it a criminal act. Revolution, if this is what it was, could not be accepted.

What Gorky, a writer, and Gandhi, a political leader, saw with clarity has to be revisited by all of us: Let us not be strategic towards the question of violence. There cannot be permissible degrees of violence. When violence starts looking spontaneous, as with the murder of Ayub Pandit, one must realise that there is a long practice and training of minds which has naturalised it. The murder of Pandit is a symptom of a larger malaise. Kashmiri leaders will have to talk to their people frankly like Gandhi did after Chauri Chaura. Gandhi wrote: “The tragedy of Chauri Chaura is really the index finger. It shows the way India may easily go if drastic precautions be not taken. If we are not to evolve non-violence out of violence, it is quite clear that we must hastily retrace our steps and re-establish an atmosphere of peace, re-arrange our programme and not think of starting mass civil disobedience until we are sure of peace being retained in spite of mass civil disobedience being started and in spite of Government provocation.”

One can only hope that the words of the Mirwaiz are heard in the Valley and the people of Kashmir bring back their humanity by, at the very least, standing in silence for the man who was killed by his own. That they gain strength to repent on the behalf of their brethren.

The writer teaches at Delhi University

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  1. P
    Jun 29, 2017 at 5:04 am
    This article reflects how distant Delhi University liberals are from the reality of Kashmir. The policy the writer wants India to adopt is the same policy of the UPA government adopted for 60 years. It is the appea t of Gandhi and his barter with Jinnah that introduced the whole problem of the par ion and Gandhi always compromised the country in favor of his rigid morality. Time for India to reject the poor Gandhian philosophies and trust their faith in a modern, progressive India. Hopefully one day the Delhi University liberals will take up professions that are actually useful to the country instead of constant and meaningless activism that keeps their moral outrage burning.
    1. A
      Jun 29, 2017 at 1:48 am
      Situation is out of hand after this government stand on Kashmir. BJP cannot control the situation by aggregation against the people of J K. ...Kashmir will soon become next Palestinian.
      1. G
        George Cruz
        Jun 29, 2017 at 3:24 am
        Total non sense. There was EVIL ISLAM in the Indian subcontinent until the brutal invasion of Turkish Islamic thugs in the 1100s. The entire Indian subcontinent was a lose federation of Hindu kingdoms worshipping the similar gods like the Shiva, Krishna, Rama, etc and a confluence of subsets of religions like the Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism coexisting peacefully. Islam is the only EVIL religion lets its followers encourage to commit terror/killing based on Jihad/Sharia.
        1. G
          George Cruz
          Jun 29, 2017 at 4:51 am
          minor correction: There was NO EVIL ISLAM in the Indian subcontinent until the brutal/barbaric Turkish invasion in the 1100s'.
        2. D
          Jun 30, 2017 at 7:23 am
          Why do you think Indian state will not adopt the same methods that they adopted in the 1990s? It is sissy Mehbooba who is a soft separatist that is the CM, the day situation goes out of control, she will have to either step up and unleash the might of the state, or step aside... Indian Army is fully capable of restoring peace in 3 months, just shut everything in the Valley. Separatist will come down to their knees.
        3. P
          Jun 28, 2017 at 10:30 pm
          A/-s/-s/-h/0/l/e, kashmiri soul was brutalized when so many of sons and daughters of wise hindu sages got converted to trickery and threats of political islam's conversion machinery.. Whole kashmir belonged to those Pundits/sages and the dialogue with Alexander shows what Kashmiri soul was..... Now d-u-m-b h-0-l-e-s are talking about Kashmiri soul??? and asking "what will be the difference between us and them?" Islamists who know no human values, no human rule and want to make whole world a taliban ghetto are asking the difference?? and this paid shameless author supporting them. India lost to invaders because of apporvanands
          1. A
            Jun 28, 2017 at 10:19 pm
            Non violent movement. What is the credibility of this author. Why is he been invited to write a blog at Indian Express. Only because he writes against India and Indian interest, he is is given a chance to write blog!
            1. R
              Jun 28, 2017 at 9:41 pm
              My God, look at the valley between reality and understanding of this Hindu writer for asking this question out loud! After 40 years of being brutalized by the Indian Security Forces, Tens of thousands of Youth being eliminated, most of them in FAKE and STAGED encounters and the rest tortured and murdered by these Thugs in Uniform, he still wonders whether the soul of Kashmiris has been brutalized. I guess to the BRUTERIZER it is always convenient to believe that everything is fine with the BURTALISED.
              1. P
                Jun 28, 2017 at 11:07 pm
                India has best and most humane security forces in uniform... if they are bad for islamists in kashmir and if those islamists can still kill so many cops and army people, then you must think that those cops must be dealing with worst kind of humans... so either consider this army to be good and think that the islamists are just evil, or consider the army to be thugs and consider the islamists they are dealing with as worst form of humanity... your choice.. you can use lie detector to understand which one is your truthful opinion, because as an islamists you may not be in tune with truth anymore..
                1. T
                  Thrinethran T
                  Jun 29, 2017 at 4:48 am
                  The ISF are only there to prevent the territory from becoming another Afghanistan, which is what the neighbour wants to accomplish. The State of J K has also had 114000 crore of Central Assistance, 10 percent for a population of one percent in the last 16 years, which has been appropriated by the elected leaders without a trace of accountability.
                2. A
                  Jun 28, 2017 at 9:03 pm
                  To believe that guys like Mirwaiz is sincere when he talks pf humanity and values itself shows that this columnist is totally biased in favour of people who in any other country other than India would have not lasted even four days. Par ion of the country is a done thing and everyone has to move on with that and accept the deed once and for all. Crores of Hindus who could have also fought a similar battle like what the Kshmiris are doing now as they too belonged to a place which they had to vacate because of blood bath. Kashmiris even today have a choice to migrate to any other place which will have them if they have no interest to stay in India. Rest of the country don't wish to have recalcitrant elements in their own country. Either they live in peace within the country or seek it elsewhere. Lynching of a police officer is the last straw and the country no longer feels favourably disposed towards perpetrators of such deeds.
                  1. P
                    Jun 28, 2017 at 11:09 pm
                    True, but it doesn't show that columnist is just biased, it shows that either he is utter fool or a paid peddler of propaganda for those islamists.. or something worse.
                    1. P
                      Jun 28, 2017 at 11:13 pm
                      he is a traitor and government should make a law to do a public lie detector test on people whom they want to try to sedition.. so for this guy simple questions will be..... are you a well wisher of india and support its integrity and well being.... then some to know and show that his mind understands what islamism is doing in kashmir.... like do you know that Kashmir is being hijecked by islamism, do you know the main issue now is religion... it takes hardly 30 minute to phrase good questions to prove on lie detector that he is a traitor and we should do this for everyone we suspect to be traitor..
                  2. M
                    Mahendra Yadav
                    Jun 28, 2017 at 8:29 pm
                    If piles of rotten shiiiit is stored by all muni l corporations in India for 1000 years,What will be the name of the greatest pile?-Apporvanand
                    1. J
                      Jun 28, 2017 at 8:14 pm
                      The problem is the struggle itself. Just stop that for few years and then revisit if it is reqd at all?
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