Introduction to Volume #1, Issue 3 of The Sparkplug
This third issue of The Sparkplug considers the challenges and contradictions that are entangled in Kashmir’s pursuit for self-determination. Included is a conversation with author and human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar, based around her research on how the nationalist movement in Jammu and Kashmir intersects with the socio-economic challenges that in turn face migrants to Northeast India.
Accompanying the conversation is a short excerpt from the preface to Haksar’s book, The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism, which was updated to take into account the repeal of special status for Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. While the selection is brief and gives just a glimpse at the historic context that informs the present moment, Haksar’s book frames the history of Kashmir through the narratives of two prominent Kashmiri activists — a Muslim and a Pandit on common ground. Both sought a strong, socialist nation that would be inclusive and empowered its people. Both figures were adamant on the importance of protecting minorities in Kashmir, under the sway of an increasingly zealous and religious form of nationalism.
Class struggle and caste segregation are firmly at the centre of this confrontation, around which, like vultures, circle the divisions of religion, industry, and supposed “economic development”. From the military industrial complex, to the entertainment and tourism industries, the influences of multinational capital have unfolded over decades.
This issue also features an excerpt from a letter by Afzal to Nandita, which confronts the underlying danger of purist ideology and dogma, which births further violence — compared to political action that is based in compassion toward an inherently flawed humanity. Beyond the particular context of Kashmir, this letter poses a broader question of belonging and identity. What constitutes a claim to nationality, and what justifies the divisions of statehood?
The questions facing Kashmir are deeply relevant to any social movement as they challenge the purity that is expected of “martyrs” or “leaders” of a social movement. As was done to Afzal upon his disillusionment with the nationalist movement, that status is easily stripped. Martyrs are quickly disowned by a public that suddenly sees their heroes as complex individuals who may contravene the expected mores or challenge the “group-think” that is adopted by a movement. Those who assume the mantle of the left so often take on such patterns of exclusion.
Kashmir poses this question to all of us, warning of the internal divisions that disempower our parallel movements, and deceptively leave us inept and defenseless. It is up to us to keep asking the questions that center humanity over ideological purity, and that seek ways forward for more egalitarian futures.
Excerpts: The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism, by Nandita Haksar
On repression, neoliberal reforms, and disenfranchisement in Kashmir: Interview with Nandita Haksar
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