I am not qualified to speak about what is going on in Kashmir right now. But my friend wrote this beautiful piece with her thoughts and I asked if she would let me post it here for all of you as well.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been observing the flurry of Kashmir posts in a variety of traditional and social media platforms. In those two weeks I’ve seen the weaponization of words such as aryan, nazi, fascist, and Hindu nationalist to refer to people who support the political integration of Kashmir into India. I have also seen the weaponization of words such as Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist to refer to people who are afraid of potential abuses by the Indian government and heavy military presence in the area. What I have not yet seen is a careful analysis of the way a deeply colonizing/colonized international academia/media (including Indian academia/media) is partially responsible for fomenting fear, anger, and hatred between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia. I also haven’t seen much critical analysis of the ways in which identity politics have contributed to communalism. Nor have I seen any honest discussion on the spread of Wahhabism in South Asia and why it is taboo in liberal circles to talk about it. I also have not seen any mention of the corruption of the previous Congress government in creating disillusionment and a desire for change in the majority voting public.
Virally shared opinions like the ones expressed by Hassan Minaj, Arundhati Roy, and Priyanka Chopra are selective interpretations of reality seen through specific lenses (Muslim, marxist, and Hindu respectively). They have a right to express their views, and they have some level of “authority” by way of being Indian, but their words can be more harmful than helpful when falsely presented as complete and unbiased truths instead of as pieces of a larger more complex whole.
My observations are the following: One person’s frightening military shutdown is another person’s preventative security measure. One person’s devastation at special rights revoked is another person’s jubilation at equal rights granted. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. One person’s patriot is another person’s nationalist. One person’s independence movement is another person’s violent separatism. One person’s Muslim nationalism (in Kashmir), is another person’s righteous majority self-determination. One person’s Hindu Nationalism is another person’s anti-colonial- anti-corruption movement. One person’s foreign occupier is another person’s civil rights liberator. One person’s fascist demagogue is another person’s life-affirming hero. One person’s Hindu oppressor is another person’s secular government.
The grievances being aired by Hindus on social media over the past two weeks include: the reported lack of empathy for Hindu pain when atrocities against Hindus are brought up in the company of non-Hindus, the erasure of Hindu stories in the media, the rise of anti-India sentiment (which can be interpreted as thinly-veiled anti-Hindu sentiment by proxy of India being majority Hindu), the silencing of pro-India points of view, the erroneous conflation of pro-Hindu with Hindu-nationalist, and the fact that there is a severe lack of positive portrayals of Hindus/Hinduism/India in Western media while there is an abundance of negative portrayals which can create implicit bias against Hindus and Indians amongst Westerners.
In addition to conversations about the above important issues, I also think we should be engaging in proactive conversations about:
–Decolonizing Hindu studies for our children so they can grow up proud to be Hindu.
–Teaching our children to recognize when they are being indoctrinated by anti-Hindu bias so they can take a stand against it.
–Formulating ways to help suffering Hindus and other media-invisible groups in South Asia and beyond (even the ones oppressed by other Hindus).
The 30-year unresolved situation of Kashmiri Pandits demonstrates that Hindus need to do a better job of helping other Hindus in need. Muslims know that if they stay silent and don’t advocate for other Muslims, then there is no guarantee that non-Muslims will take up their mantle and help them. Muslims have a lovely concept of ‘ummah’ that binds together all Muslims as one family. We Hindus have a concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means “the world is one family.” Surely we can spare some effort to help the ones in our immediate “family” who look to us first for help before looking to “cousins” and “estranged relatives.”
We Hindus aren’t asking for others to care about us and take up our causes. We know others’ empathy, loyalty, mental and emotional energy might be tied up in caring about their own group or others who they deem to be in more urgent need. We’re simply asking that others allow us to care about each other without hindering our efforts to advocate for our own, just as other groups do.
Thank you for reading.