Understanding ‘Militarized Nationalism’ in Kashmir

Representative Photo

Notions such as national honor and national pride form the basis of militarized nationalism, which can be both, defensive, in trying to retain territory, as well as offensive, like incursions to annex territory and gain control over its resources.

In the case of the simmering Kashmir conflict, lingering ever since the partition of the subcontinent, it acts as the basis for India to consolidate the discourse of nationhood, by invoking the militarized nationalism among its masses, which thrives on glorifying ‘national pride and honor’.

Projecting Kashmir an integral part of the country comes handy as an argument to the Indian administration, as it solidifies the assumption that Kashmir acts as the head and crown of India, a notion that has been intently created using mythical accounts, embedded media, and state-sponsored literature.

Besides, the festering conflict provides New Delhi an avenue to overcome its internal threats emanating from the fault lines within, be it the militancy in the northeast, or the survival issues of its minorities.

Indian media’s propaganda further provides political parties operating in the Hindu mainland with a narrative to manifest an agenda and win elections in the name of national-security. Sidelining the internal troubles subsequently gives emphasis to the narrative of a country with one flag; one culture; one nation.

The idea of Bharat Mata, as a bodily figure, having a body and a soul, maybe a mythical concept – but it proves helpful in mobilizing the masses to further annex territory by gaining control over the resources, while using religion as an overtone.

With this narrative as the basis, people of Kashmir fighting for the right-to-self-determination by default indulging in ‘disrespecting, offending, hurting, polluting, and attacking the Indian state’ will always be deemed as aggressors.

To ‘protect the dignity of the motherland’, offenders have to be subjected to torture by the state with full recognition from its population, giving it the legitimacy to use force, be it shotgun pellets, bullets, curfews, enforced disappearances, mass rapes, humiliations, extra-judicial killings and other systemic tactics.


The argumentative Indian

It’s the threat of pain, Thomas Schelling notes, that tries to structure someone’s motive, and it’s brute force which tries to overcome his strength.

Ever since the armed rebellion erupted in Kashmir, with subsequent counter-insurgency launched by the state,  that resulted in human rights violation, a discourse that has emanated from liberal-modernists in India, and across Pakistan, seeks to view the morality of the aggressor and the repressed as being equal. These sections argue that the people of Kashmir should also condemn the wrongs committed by insurgents, in the same manner that the Kashmiris condemn the atrocities committed by the Indian forces.

This comparison and stance, is a position of privilege, trying to ignore that the ethical position of an oppressor, and that of a colonized people can never be equal. It also ends up drawing a misleading analogy by viewing the Kashmir population with the masses of India and judging them through the same yardstick.

To those taking pride in the Indianised mindset, a retrospection of their moral standing may prove how obsolete their position remains, for, such people share the responsibility of supporting a state that has committed war crimes under the national-interest hypothesis.

This logic may have been applicable only if the government acted as a co-agent of the population, which is not the case.

With military nationalism intensifying, and following the official stand of India on Kashmir, the narrative is institutionalized to an extent that anyone who publicly rejects this narrative is demonized and punished by the state using all its means: army, police, jurisprudence and the newspeak media.

While those who support the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir become a mere aberration, such groups only act as fringe-elements in front of the overall majority, that blame these groups for putting the integrity of Bharat Mata at stake by proposing an ‘outdated case’ of the right to self determination, which according to them is not just impossible, but unacceptable.

Despite India’s bloody history in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, most of its population finds nothing wrong in asking questions to the people of Kashmir, a majority of which has faced humiliation, assault, harassment, abuse, that what do they mean by Azaadi? And how will Kashmir will survive when Pakistan wants to merge it and China plans the same?

Such apprehensions not only account as linguistic-violence but reflect the insensibility and deliberate whataboutery. Those sections that are part of the colonizer, including the bourgeois, rights-activists, public intellectuals and commoners, have no authority to seek answers, for they share the blame of upholding the military nationalism controlling a population against their will.

First annex, then retain

The present dispensation of India on Kashmir emphasises on retaining the territory, which has been the priority from several decades. Continuing this policy, the state relies on mainstreaming the militarized nationalism which lends the state-establishment consent to generate mass support, to carry out defensive and offensive tactics.

The defensive tactics for the state remains the sponsored ‘goodwill’ Sadbhavna programmes, de-radicalization and other employment schemes, besides the use of soft power in multiplying the facets to an already multilateral dispute.

While the aggressive strategy comes in terms of Panoptical surveillance of the entire population in Kashmir, with huge reliance on technology, monitoring people’s activities through data control, the use of propaganda campaigns, to demean the mass uprisings, and continuous efforts to decay the intellectual capabilities of its young generation, through orientalist-style authoritarianism in the state, by eliminating the ‘potential threats’, coming from the ongoing armed rebellion and street protests.

Victoria Schofield, one of the leading international experts on Jammu and Kashmir, argues in Why Kashmir is Still Important, that one the important aspects is the use of valuable resources. “It is almost impossible to quantify how much money has been spent in terms of military defense for both conventional and nuclear weapons which India, including Pakistan, can ill afford because of their continuing enmity,” she writes.

Until Kashmir finds a way to fend off assault, and making the state afraid to assault them, the process of coercive violence through the military setup will continue. The Indian state apparatus will prefer to kill some Kashmiris to make other Kashmiris behave.


Umer Beigh is an independent researcher and journalist. He is a graduate from the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, New Delhi.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.


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