In the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack on the CRPF convoy Kashmiri students and businessmen, mostly in the North Indian belt, were threatened and beaten, with the former receiving particular threats of being ousted from their respective universities. The Pakistani state was demonized in an unprecedented way. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been severed. The Most Favored Nation (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan in 1995 has been pulled off. Symbols of cultural and political significance linked to Pakistan, for instance, pictures of Pakistani cricketers have been defaced and removed. To make matters worse, war mongering between the two nations has been set-off with assertion from Indian Generals for waging war to vindicate its tragic loss of personnel lives. Once again the specter of nuclear bombs induced apocalyptic images has resurfaced among the popular folks on both sides of the border.
The Pulwama attack is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks on military establishments; hitherto army cantonments in Uri and Pathankot were targeted. It is cogent to note that these attacks mark a departure from conventional targets of terrorists such as civilians and are a direct threat to state actors. Hence the motives behind terrorist act have to be understood in this milieu. The question is whether these attacks are reaping political dividends or not. Furthermore, the Pulwama attack has created an environment of crisis and fear among Indian Muslims.
Why Kashmiri students are being forced to leave and violence is being perpetrated against them who were drawn to the promise of hope in India, in the first place? Added to this is the anger that is self-destructively turning inwards. It is becoming an exercise of self-loathing that is looking for someone to blame. As a result of this, someone turns out to be the ‘other’ including Kashmiris and Muslims who are found to be directly guilty or acting as associates in the killings of Indian soldiers in the verdict of the popular geopolitical imagination.
Popular geopolitical imagination is the causal idea that sustains distinctions between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ and is produced by the moral and physical boundaries that divide the world into our space and their spaces. This imagined geography is a creation of the Hindutva mindset, which demarcates the unassailable geographical boundaries stretching from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. They are then rationalized and unified in a singular landscape through the situatedness of religious and pilgrimage sites associated with Hinduism. Indeed, this demarcation is an exclusionary aspect of the Hindutva mindset that always keeps Muslims out of the pack as they are acquiesced in an arbitrary way. For serving the purposes of territorial integrity an imaginary enemy is invented, emanating from across the border who threatens the unity and integrity of India. Sankaran Krishna, a political scientist, has termed this unease with boundaries as cartographic anxiety. Therefore, to avert the threat and maintain territorial integrity of India military is fattened by defense acquisitions and arms purchases by the state, diverting resources from welfare and development activities. Evidently, the military expenditures account for 2.14% of the GDP outweighing combined share of education and health expenditure. In this vein, foreign policy and diplomacy becomes the means of actualizing the geopolitical imagination of the Hindutva mindset.
The environment of fear and violence against Kashmiris and Muslims is the result of this popular geopolitical imagination of the Hindutva mindset. In particular, the violence is a product of obsession with territorial integrity. During the event of a terror attack or one particular act of religious desecration, cascades begin to gather momentum and are exploded into different forms of violence such as abusive action, religious cleansing, electric blood lust, rape and murder. Moreover, the rage against the ‘other’ also stems from the intimacy and knowledge of the neighbor. When the neighborhood is revealed to be a Muslim or a Kashmiri in this case, a sense of betrayal is experienced and is translated into revenge and retribution.
However, on the question of whether India could wage a war against Pakistan is itself contingent upon the equation of military capability and geopolitical scene of South Asia. Recent reports by CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) revealed that in the event of a war Indian military supplies won’t last more than ten days. China is the one of the major liaisons in the region and as an all weather friend of Pakistan, will go along with it due to its vested interests in the latter. India therefore, can’t afford to go on a two front war and will succumb to its foolhardiness. What is needed is rechanneling of talks between India and Pakistan and building on the leverage gained from the Kartarpur corridor diplomacy. At the same time the stance in our foreign policy need to be reconfigured owing to changing geopolitical situations.
Note- This is not an attempt to justify the violence in the aftermath of Pulwama attack but a deconstruction of discursive practices of the Hindutva politics.
Siddhant Kumar is a Content Writer at The True Voice.