The real heroes or anti-heroes of the Kashmir struggle in its most recent manifestation are the stone-throwers of Kashmir. It is they and their families which means their mothers, sisters, wives or daughters who the government of India and its "honorable" deputies the politicians and the media, especially the TV channels should be focusing upon. They need the limelight more than anyone else because they've a lot to say about their lives and they know it better than those who might want to speak for them.
The Kashmiri leaders without exception have no moral right to be standing on any platform and voicing anti-India sentiments because they're as shameless as leaders across this country and they've done nothing for their own people. They've looted them left, right and center and used the anti-India bait whenever it suited them best. It's time that the people of Kashmir realized that and stopped taking them seriously. Right-wing reactionary leaders such as Geelani should not be the focus of attention and neither should Booker-winning authors-turned-activists despite the best of intentions.
Platforms are meant for those who struggle on the ground. The job of intellectuals is to make space for them and not to appoint oneself as their spokesperson. I for one would sincerely like to talk to the stone-throwers and their families. I want to know how they live, what they do on a day-to-day basis, what makes them happy or angry and what is the sense of hopelessness that they're going through at this point in time. It is they who have a genuine grievance against the current political and economic conditions and it is they who risked their lives to defy the army and the police and put the government on the defensive.
I want to know their reasons for demanding a separate state, what they feel about the role of women, what are their views on minorities whether Hindu or Christian in their state, what they think about human rights and related issues such as social and political justice and most importantly what kind of a political economy they think would best suit the space they inhabit.
With due respect I don't think that space belongs to Geelani or Arundhati Roy or their detractors such as Arnab Goswami of Times Now English news channel, a self-proclaimed nationalist who thinks that patriotism is about declaring one's nationalist credentials as vehemently as possible (No! It's Not!) or their supporters. Frankly it doesn't matter what they think.
The freedom that the poor would like to have is not the same freedom that the rich and the middle classes dream of. The freedom of the oppressed is about survival and human dignity. The freedom of the rest is about power. The facebook "revolutionaries" and the pseudo-leftists of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University might want a revolution but needless to say they won't be fighting it. The poor know that revolutions are about the risk of losing life, limb and whatever meager resources they possess.
It's a fact that the poor and the unemployed are the least nationalistic in any country of the world. They're not obsessed with the politics of identity. A provision for a decent life is what most of the times they are looking for. Therefore the government if it has an iota of sincerity in its claims to find a solution - must deal squarely with them. I'm certain they would eventually abandon the anti-India line of thought provided we're fair with them. It's the terrible unfairness combined with brutal repression that is the source of their anti-India feelings. James Scott makes the point in the Weapons of the Weak that "Formal, organized political activity, even if clandestine and revolutionary, is typically the preserve of the middle class and the intelligentsia." Quoting Hobsbawm, he says that the poor are far more interested in "working the system"to their minimum disadvantage" than in fighting revolutions. If indeed they're revolting against the government of India on an anti-Indian platform it's because we've pushed them in that direction. That must change or nothing will.Let's talk about the Indian soldier on the street fighting it out with the Kashmiri youth. Let's find out how enthusiastic he's about being a martyr. The army generals and the media gloat over the martyrdom of the soldiers. Why don't they themselves or their children go out and fight the battles for this great nation ruled by criminal gangs if they think martyrdom is so much fun. Brecht says in one of his poems: "Those at the top say:/ This way to glory./ Those down below say: / This way to the grave." The Indian soldier is as attached to life as any one of us and is not dying to be a martyr. He knows only too well the difference between "glory" and "grave" and I'm sure he would prefer to live with whatever little life could offer him and have neither the glory nor the grave.
There is no reality except the reality on the ground and that is the reality we need to be seriously thinking about. In any protest the person on the ground has made a choice to fight it out because one has reached a point where one has nothing to lose. That is the key to the Kashmir problem and the North-east problem and every other problem where resistance takes the form of violence though resistance is never just about that.
The spokespeople can be politely ignored for the present and the future as well.