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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 51 New Delhi December 7, 2019

A Lesson for Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty: Diplomacy is About Not Saying the Wrong Thing

Sunday 8 December 2019, by Nyla Ali Khan

It is detrimental to democracy when the Consul General of India in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty, asserts that in order to facilitate the return of the displaced Pandit community, India will build settlements in Kashmir.

This sort of deleterious rhetoric, when employed by diplomats and policy-makers, becomes the authoritative discourse of officialdom.

In the current prevailing “culture of fear”, such rhetoric gives further impetus to forces of bigotry and intolerance. The fear of the “other” must be addressed boldly and courageously by rational people not just in the international community, but in mainstream Indian politics as well.

The private gathering, at which Consul General Chakravorty voiced his polarising “diplomacy” in a forceful manner, was held in New York City. His rhetoric was bolstered by a couple of Bollywood bigwigs. Right-wing Bollywood directors and actors, who regale their rapt listeners with disingenuous claims of reviving “Kashmiriyat” through their craft, fail to historicise the concept.

It would behove sycophants of the BJP in Bollywood to seek a cure for their ignorance.

In the turbulent decades of militancy and militarisation, a large constituency of Kashmiri Muslims, at great risk to their lives, kept alive a cultural and religious identity that these phenomena were not able to do away with.

The display of national chauvinism and brazen breach of trust by the Modi Government early in August 2019 has destroyed the vestiges of Kashmiriyat that we had sought to protect.

Kashmiriyat is the unacceptability of any political solution that does not take the aspirations and demands of the Kashmiri people into consideration. Kashmiriyat is the sanctity of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, which was ratified in 1951 and was an enormous leap towards the process of democratisation.

I take great pride in the conviction of my ancestors who climbed every mountain and forded every stream to relay their political message of regional pride, Kashmiri nationalism, and assertion of people’s power.

The cultural identity of the Kashmiri people has been damaged by the erosion of our democratic and autonomous institutions.

We have faced the terrors of insurgency and counter-insurgency. Now, we are facing irrepa-rable damage wreaked by authoritarianism.

The nationalist chauvinism, religiosity, and triumphalism after the revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir in the “New” India, which I don’t recognise, is demoralising and reprehensible

We acceded to India in 1947 when communal frenzy was raging throughout the subcontinent. Our ancestors thought that India represented the ideals of secularism and democracy. They believed that, despite temporary aberrations, Hindus, Muslims, and other communities would unite.

And, the faith of our ancestors in the ideals of secularism and democracy led them to believe that there would be rule of law and a democracy where religious persecution would cease.

I was raised to not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. I was taught that the life of a Hindu was as sacred as that of a Muslim, and any harm to a Hindu should be prevented at the cost of our lives, because our religion taught us that it was our duty to defend and help our neighbour, who may be weak.

Today, I see the government of a democratic country deterring the growth of democracy and depoliticising the people of one of its federating units.

The younger generation of Kashmiris has been disfigured by the inability of national security apparatuses and nation-states—either secular or theocratic—to recognise their political, socio-economic and cultural aspirations. This generation of Kashmiris is war-weary, embitte-red, and despondent.

I hope that we, Kashmiri Muslims as well as Kashmiri Pandits, shall crave a world in which social justice, political enfranchisement, cultural pride, and self-realisation are the order of the day.

I hope that instead of exacerbating divides, rational Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits work together to connect, promote social justice, and care for those affected by humani-tarian disasters.

Some of us have always believed that the revival of pluralism could be the antidote to the orthodoxy of ethnocentric politics. It could also have been the antidote to the implosion of religion and government.

Dr Nyla Ali Khan is a Visiting Professor at Rose State College, former lecturer at the University of Oklahoma, and former Professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. She is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as a guest editor working on articles from the jammu and Kashmir region for the Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She is the granddaughter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Dr Khan can be reached at nylakhan[at]  

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