Italian Jew and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi was deported to Auschwitz, a dreaded death camp, in 1944. Like neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, Levi was also among the lucky ones to survive and to write about the horrors of the violence that he had witnessed at Auschwitz as a captive.
The story of the death camps ought to be understood by every individual who believes in the ideas of justice, freedom and equality as a “sinister alarm-signal”.
Those who have witnessed and survived the horrible situations have written volumes about the art of survival. The importance of the phrase “survive to tell the tale” can never be undervalued in today’s world when themes like “muscular nationalism” are trending.
In Kashmir, the local population believes that it has been meted out a collective punishment for three straight decades now, more so since the Narendra Modi government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy and statehood on August 5, 2019.
No mobile phones ring in Kashmir. Internet continues to remain suspended for two months now. Kids have not been to schools for two months. There have been credible reports by reputed international media outlets about the rampant use of torture of teenagers in various parts of the Kashmir Valley. All of this is described as “normal” by the fidayeen anchors of various television channels based out in Noida and Mumbai.
Besides this, hundreds of political opponents, dissenters, activists and even business leaders from Kashmir are rotting in prison. Mind you, we are not talking about the pro-Pakistan or pro-independent voices like the two factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Jama’at-e-Islami, etc here.
Instead, we are talking about three former chief ministers — Dr Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti. All of them are under arrest without any charge while the senior Abdullah has now been slapped with draconian Public Security/Safety Act.
Yes, we are also talking about the crackdown on Jammu and Kashmir’s oldest political formation, the National Conference, and the pro-India People’s Democratic Party and other such parties like the J&K People’s Movement led by bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal. Often, all these parties are wrongly described by New Delhi as mainstream parties operating in Kashmir’s political landscape. By their own admission these parties are at the precipice of irrelevance while pro-resolution forces represent the mainstream voice while being outside the electoral fold.
Be that as it may, all that New Delhi wants is to decimate the major political forces in Kashmir. It does not matter whether such forces are in or outside the electoral fold. The objective is to patronise a new crop of “leadership” of Capos or Kapos. In simple words, the stooges!
Kapos were the prisoners who acted as trustees or collaborators having special privileges during the Holocaust. They were well-known prisoners. More often than not, they were the guards who would beat the fellow Jews more cruelly than the SS men did or could. In the case of Kashmir, the J&K Police personnel are seen as the modern day Capos!
Worryingly, many Kashmiris are comparing the situation in Kashmir to the one that once existed in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau during the Nazi regime in Germany.
Many Kashmiris feel they have been warned to say nothing, do nothing. They say that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to silence them forever. All that Kashmiris across the ideological spectrum share is fear. And identity. And youth. And religion. They fear that the BJP’s civilisational and ideological view on Kashmir will devastate Kashmir as never before. In their opinion the existential threat is real.
Exactly eight decades ago, which is not a long period in human history; the world witnessed World War II.
Three leaders had emerged at the world scene. The trio had promised to make their countries “great” again. They thought of themselves as strong and enjoyed massive public support in their respective countries.
Adolf Hitler emerged as a “strong” leader in Germany. Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in Italy in 1919. Japan did not lag far behind as Hideko Tojo gained ascendancy to power in the country.
They shared something in common. These men silenced all political opposition, jailed and ridiculed their rivals, used powerful media (radio) for the purpose of propaganda and ruled their countries with an iron fist.
Is history repeating itself?
The world that we live in today believes in silencing opponents and stifling dissent with an iron hand. Some world leaders promise to make their countries “great” again and enjoy popular support in today’s settings.
That said, even in these terrible times most Kashmiris share pain and laughter together and their humour is intact. They say that the BJP may have snatched their freedom of expression, restricted their freedom to movement and freedom to practice religion, but what the BJP can’t control is the freedom of Kashmiris to choose how they will respond to the situation at their time of choosing. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
Most Kashmiris have not given up on hope. Some of them refer to a popular Hindi movie song: Apna Time Aayega (Our moment will arrive)!
The writer is a journalist, author and political commentator...