Thursday 18 June 2020

Merge and Computation

Is There a Weaker Computation than Merge?

Merge is an elementary syntactic operation formulated as,

Merge (x,y) =df {x,y}, where x,y are syntactic objects.

We are beginning to understand two significant aspects of Merge. First, from the content and formulation of Merge, it appears that Merge itself is not tied to any specific operating domain; the specificities in the operations of Merge are tied to specific lexical workspaces. As noted, it does not follow from this conceptual point alone that Merge operates in domains other than the lexicon of human languages. Thus, second, we are beginning to find evidence that Merge operates in domains which are closely-related to, but somewhat different from, the domain of language. Two of these domains are the systems of numbers and melodic stress, both of which have ‘featureless’ lexicon.
      Can we think of Merge as operating in domains beyond these two? Indeed, does Merge operate in non-human domains? As noted, I will address these questions with some empirical details on different cognitive domains across organisms in the next chapter. For now, let me try to get conceptually clear about the prospects for a theory of mind, as narrowly envisaged in this work. In the previous chapters, I expressed the hope that perhaps the notions of computation and mind can be so narrowly construed that the conception of mind exclusively falls under the computational theory of mind: mimicking John McDowell’s famous quip on meaning, we could say that mind is what the computational theory of mind is a theory of. Is it the case that, for such a theory to emerge, all we need is Merge?
    At a number of places, Chomsky thinks of a computational system in terms of availability of Merge. Thus, Chomsky (2015, 16) writes: ‘The simplest computational operation, embedded in some manner in every relevant computational procedure, takes objects X, Y already constructed and forms a new object Z. Call it Merge’, emphasis added. Notice, there is no mention of the (linguistic) interfaces here; Chomsky is not talking of SMT or even of sound-meaning correlation in language. He is talking just about Merge as a combinatorial operation. Elsewhere, Chomsky views Merge as the minimal computational operation. Indeed, it is difficult to think of an operation ‘below’ Merge if two (symbolic) objects have to be combined at all. Since a computational system is at least a combinatorial system, it is difficult to conceive of a computational system without Merge. However, a conception of such a notion of computation is not inconceivable as we will presently see; there could be weaker notions of computation as combinatorial system that are ‘flatter’ in character.
   This issue is different from the incredible demand that Merge itself be viewed as composed of simpler non-Merge components for preferred ‘evolutionary explanation’ in which Merge gradually falls in place.[i] As we noted in Chapter Five, every theory of language origin—Darwininan or non-Darwininan—requires at least one saltational step; Merge is that step. So, it is rather surprising for Martin and Boeckx (2019) to suggest that External Merge (EM) and Internal Merge (IM) first evolved separately for generating nested and overlapping dependencies respectively; Merge simpliciter, they suggest, somehow evolved from these ‘simpler’ operations.
   As Berwick and Chomsky (2019) immediately point out, all the steps for this speculation are incredible. For one, EM and IM are individually costlier than Merge simpliciter since not only do they need Merge for their basic set-forming operation, they need additional conditions as well: EM requires the condition that the entire workspace be searched, while IM requires searching within the existing domain. For another, it is simply false that EM and IM evolved separately for generating different dependencies since IM itself typically generates both. For the sequence where are you going, the associated structure is {where, {are{you, {are, {goingwhere}}}}}; once EM forms the ‘basic structure’ {you, {are, {goingwhere}}}, IM forms further nested dependencies by merging where and are at the edges. It follows that Merge is the simplest general operation which creates conditions for both form of dependencies depending on the workspace.
    Returning to Chomsky’s remark on Merge and computation, and setting the qualifier relevant aside for the moment, it follows that Merge is a conceptually necessary property of a computational system; if there is no Merge, there is no computation. Let us recall also the crucial feature that Merge is a symbolic operation; if there are no symbols, there is no Merge and hence no computation. Moreover, recall that Chomsky views Merge as a Great Leap forward that happened recently in hominid evolution, perhaps as recently as 1,00,000 years ago. It follows that Merge can only be human-specific, and so are computational procedures. In effect, a computational theory of mind covers exactly the human species, as Alan Turing anticipated in my view (see Chapter 3).
   It is of much concern therefore that Chomsky also maintains that ‘some other organism might, in principle, have the same I-language (=brain state) as Peter, but embedded in performance systems that use it for locomotion’ (Chomsky 2000, 27). Peter’s ‘I-language’ no doubt implements a computational procedure with Merge. Chomsky seems to be suggesting, or at least not denying the possibility, that (such) computational procedures may be found in non-human species. I suppose the issue arises even if we view Chomsky’s suggestion as a ‘thought-experiment’ to exhibit the generality of Merge since a thought-experiment needs to be coherent. We are asking whether the notion of computation coheres with our conception of non-human cognitive systems.
  To pursue the speculation, Hauser et al. (2002, 1578) suggest in their famous paper that ‘comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (e.g., number, navigation, social relations).’ Elaborating, the authors observe that ‘elegant studies of insects, birds and primates reveal that individuals often search for food using an optimal strategy, one involving minimal distances, recall of locations searched and kinds of objects retrieved.’[ii] Given that the very idea of a computational procedure is human-specific, what does it mean for some other organism to implement computational procedures for locomotion while they search for food?
    Earlier at 6.3.1, on similar grounds, we cast doubt on the idea that the operation External Merge may be involved in various nonhuman activities; as we know, External Merge is just Merge. Therefore, in so far as the notion of computation involves Merge, there cannot be computation in nonhuman species. As far as I can see, the only option available here is to make sense of some notion of computation which continues to be computation without involving Merge. Recall that Chomsky thought of Merge as involved in any relevant notion of computation; so the alternative notion under speculation here can only be irrelevant for language-like human computation, but it could be relevant for insect computation, if at all.
     For a conceptual feel of what issues may be involved here, consider some interesting suggestions by Watumull et al. (2014) on insect navigation. A species of desert ants display the remarkable phenomenon of ‘dead reckoning’; these ants appear to find a direct path to their nest after a fairly random foraging for food. Earlier, a range of authors (Wehner and Srinivasan, Gallistel etc.) viewed the phenomenon in terms of the standard notion of symbolic computation. In contrast, Watumull et al. (2014) offer an alternative ‘recursive’ explanation of such ‘path integration’ by these ants. We will examine the phenomenon in some detail in the next chapter to inquire if it requires a computational explanation at all. For now, I wish to focus on the character of the ‘computational’ explanation suggested by these authors. To refresh, the relevant explanation in this domain needs to be such that it qualifies as a genuine computational explanation without involving Merge.
     After working through the complex history of ideas—due to Emile Post, Kurt Godel, Alan Turing, Alonzo Church and others—in the mathematical theory of computation, the authors reach a certain notion of computation involving recursive functions. As we saw, recursive functions are computable functions that take the previous output as an input, forming hierarchies thereby. After explaining the standard notion of computation in terms of recursive functions and mathematical induction, the authors show that linguistic recursion—basically, Merge—satisfies the condition of mathematical induction.
    As an aside, for what it may be worth, personally I do not find much interest in the historical exercise since it seems to me that ideas of mathematical induction and recursive functions presuppose some intuitive underlying notion of Merge as a basic human endowment. In other words, only an organism endowed with Merge may form some intuition about ‘infinite in finite means’ etc. to be able to formulate functions with recursive clauses as in mathematical induction. To put the intuition somewhat differently, it is unclear how to conceptualize some general notion of recursion without the notion of Merge creeping in from the backdoor. For example, if we think of elementary logical operations as recursive, we already know they are all instances of Merge with a structure. In that sense, the concept of Merge precedes the mathematical concept of recursion.[iii]
   Merge is what it is, a primitive, elementary operation of the human mind. Merge is a necessary feature of language; whatever Merge does is therefore a necessary feature of language and other relevant computational systems that the human mind, endowed with Merge, may construct for a variety of purposes, including systems without Merge such as ‘tail recursion’ discussed below. In any case, as Berwick and Chomsky (2019) have argued recently, much of the history of mathematical linguistics, that was based on fragments of formal languages developed by logicians in terms of rewriting rules, may be viewed as irrelevant once we have the primitive operation Merge in hand (Mukherji 2010, Chapter Two).
     Returning to Watumull et al., they seem to be suggesting that computational systems may differ in richness in that some computational systems may fail to achieve the rich notion of computation involved in linguistic recursion. For example, according to them, ‘animal navigation by path integration (dead reckoning) requires the carrying forward of vector values: displacements are summed to plot a path’. However, the authors note that ‘just summing of vectors’ to ‘generate another vector’ does not amount to linguistic recursion since such recursion ‘would need its outputs to be not only returned as inputs but also represented hierarchically’, as we saw with Merge. According to the authors, this case of path integration involves at best a much weaker notion of computation as in ‘tail recursion’ which is more of an iterative operation than a genuinely recursive one.
       Setting technical details aside for our limited purposes here, I assume that the notion of summing as in ‘summing of vectors’ in this case does not amount to arithmetical sum; if it did, then according to Chomsky, arithmetic sum is a product of Merge when it is applied in the domain of numbers. I also assume that the notion of ‘carrying forward’ of vector values does not amount to standard recursive recall. Assuming all this, tail recursion in desert ants is thus just the right example of irrelevant computation we were looking for; whether to call this form of recursion ‘computation’ at all appears to be a verbal issue.           
     From the preceding survey on the nature of Merge, we may identify three results: (a) Merge is essential for any relevant notion of computation; (b) Merge is possibly available in an array of human domains beyond language proper; (c) Merge is probably not available outside human domains. If these results become established, then the FLN hypothesis will collapse due to (b). Moreover, on the basis of these results, it will not be unreasonable to form the expectation that the availability of Merge suggests the (exact) scope of the computational theory of mind. However, the survey so far has been mostly conceptual in character. We need to know more about cognitive domains across organisms to justify the expectation.

[i] This issue is also different from the more interesting issue of whether recursive Merge found in language could have originated from earlier human non-linguistic domains such as tool making and music. We discuss it in the next chapter.
[ii] To be fair, the authors do suggest these studies to be a testing case for determining uniqueness of human grammar. However, until the case for human uniqueness is made, the suggestion does amount to ascribing minimalist computation to insects.
[iii] In Chomsky (2014, 2), Chomsky remarks that the recursive procedure in generative grammars is a ‘special case’ of the general, Turing-induced idea of recursion. But according to him, recursion in generative grammars involves hierarchic structures that assign ‘symbolic representation at two interfaces’. As we saw, the definition of the recursive operation itself, namely Merge, need not involve the interfaces via SMT. Without SMT, Merge is just (pure) recursion implementing ‘enumeration of a set of discrete objects by a computable finitary procedure’, which is the idea of recursion according to Turing and Chomsky. In this sense, there is no more general idea of recursion than Merge itself.

Thursday 26 December 2019

The Women of Shaheen Bagh: Changing the Narrative

Every repressive, authoritarian regime targets some vulnerable minority as the primary means for its violent control of the entire population. The communal regime of Modi-Shah is no exception. There is no doubt that the primary goal of this regime is to divide the Indian population by attacking the vulnerable muslim community so that the resistance to its authoritarian control does not take a unified form. The attack on the people of Kashmir and the plans to implement the CAA-NRC-NRP schemes are the most recent culmination of the diabolical plan to essentially relegate the entire muslim population as pariahs of the Indian state.

Just as we expect the students, farmers, working people, and women to take to the streets when they are attacked as a community, it is natural to expect the muslim population of nearly 220 million people to fill the streets in India as a mark of protest to the global attack on them. Setting aside the protests against CAA-NRC in Assam, it is no wonder that the first brave public protests emanated from the muslim-dominated campuses of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Milia University (Jamia) in Delhi.

Somewhat unexpectedly for the regime, the protests by AMU and Jamia students spread rapidly to other non-muslim campuses and communities across the country in Kolkata, Bangaluru, Hyderabad and others. The spread of protests showed that the people of the country finally understood that, although the muslims are the primary target of the regime, the regime basically plans to disenfranchise vast sections of the people, especially the poor and the subaltern, to stall any resistance to its abysmal economic failure and to prepare the way for a fundamentalist Hindu Rashtra.

The striking feature of the current protests is that the muslim population has finally gathered the courage to emerge from its justified sense of diffidence and isolation to fearlessly launch community-wide public protests. Sensing great setback to its plans, the regime quickly adopted the tested technique of portraying any protest by muslims as laced with terrorist violence. To implement it, they used the other tested technique of first provoking peaceful mass protests with aggressive policeaction. Then they used planted agent provocateurs to attack the police with stones etc. so that the police can now open fire, carry out brutal lathi-charge, and engage in large-scale arrests to (a) break the protests with violence and (b) portray the protests as Islamic terrorism.

This is essentially what happened in the attack on students of Jamia and AMU and the massive attack on vast assembly of protesters from Jama Masjid to Daryagunj. The strategy was used widely in UP where the murderous police of the Bisht govt. attacked demonstrators in the ‘sensitive’ muslim-dominated areas of Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut etc. to provoke large-scale violence and murder. The mixing of violence with muslim-dominated protests changed the earlier narrative of peaceful protests by citizens such that the media was compelled to shift the attention to ‘violence’ and the form of protests associated by it. Amit Shah thought that the situation was falling under control.

Away from this familiar muslim-terrorism-police action scenario carefully nurtured by the Sangh for the large few decades, a large group of women and children from the backward, non-elite areas of Delhi simply occupied a public area, constructed tents, arranged for food and shelter in the biting cold, and sat down on 15 December to an indefinite day-night vigil against the draconian acts. Finally, a wonderful group of women, mostly housewives and low-level workers from the subaltern muslim community, defied the image of the Islamic terrorist and reasserted their citizenship with the rest of the subaltern masses that later gathered on the steps and the streets of the Jama Masjid. Finally, a decisive section of the fearless muslim community sat down to stand up to the pluralist heritage of India.

The ground-breaking resistance at Shaheen Bagh now forms the core of the resistance against the draconian acts. The Modi-Shah regime dare not come near to this wonderful gathering of ‘ordinary’ citizens. The rest of the India, especially elite non-muslim women’s organizations and the secular political parties must now form rings of solidarity around this core group in ever-expanding circles until it surrounds the citadel of power. Hopefully, the ‘housewives’ of the country are listening, watching and preparing to organise hundreds of Shaheen Baghs across the country for the rest of India to join in. The thugs of the state dare not approach these gatherings of subaltern power. Let us take it from there.

Shaheen Bagh is not just an endearing example. It is a change in the narrative for constructing a just India. Perhaps the world.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Response to Kavita Krishnan

The well-known left activist in Delhi circles, Kavita Krishnan, who is a senior leader of CPI-ML (Lib), has strongly objected to my post in Facebook reproduced below. See the earlier blog for all my recent posts on Kashmir, regularly updated.

As I have observed in the said post, and have been saying for years, the entire parliamentary left has not only become electorally irrelevant as the recent elections conclusively proved, it has lost credibility with the masses in its ability to raise people’s causes. In fact, for more turbulent cases such as Dandakaranya, Kashmir, North-East, Niyamgari, Narmada, and a host of other charged struggles, the role of the left verges on being reactionary. In the horrendous Sterlite murders in Tamilnadu recently, in which dozens of unarmed protesting citizens were mowed down by the police, the left failed to generate any viable national and international uproar. So there is no need to respond to the left as such.

However, I have some admiration for Kavita Krishnan as an individual activist herself. Although most of her visible activist work is restricted to the elite urban areas of New Delhi, she, in association with some enthusiastic students mostly from JNU and elsewhere, has developed interesting skills in mobilising mainstream television and social media attention to raise some genuinely democratic causes. The same cannot be said of her ‘party’ CPI-ML (Lib) which has been stuck in a few villages in Bihar for about 4 decades, and doesn’t have the ability to win even a single parliamentary seat even with full support from other secular parties. Elsewhere in the country, all they do is to lose the deposit. Even in metropolitan Delhi where they have their ‘headquarters’, I do not think ML(L) has the ability to win a single municipality seat despite all the colourful social media show put up by the student’s and women’s wings of the party; the main parliamentary left has even less reach with the masses. However, still, Lib is more active than the other farcical ‘naxalite’ groups whose only 'revolutionary' work, with a few exceptions such as Red Star, is to gossip over hot tea and churn their history.

I am getting into this longish introduction to set up the proper perspective for evaluating Krishnan’s loud claims of successful protest in her response to my post. Yet, as noted, Krishnan deserves a longish response because of her singular efforts in making some difference to an otherwise totally moribund left. I will mention in my own response what difference Kavita has made on the Kashmir issue.

My Post of 20/08/2019
Kashmir betrayed.
Over a fortnight has passed since the direct military clampdown on Kashmir, virtually imprisoning nearly 10 million people, double the population of Palestine. Just a few parties--divided Congress, DMK, non-existent CPM, non-existent CPI, reluctant TMC etc.--opposed the move in the parliament.
After the clampdown, only CPIML(LIB)/AISA has held a very small token rally in Delhi. Otherwise, there is deafening silence from the rest of the so-called secular democratic forces: Congress, CPI, CPM etc. except for timid, non-committal TV bytes.
After such a massive attack on the people, Gandhi's land would have expected waves and waves of massive rallies in solidarity. They could march repeatedly for the benign arrest of 3 JNU students. They cannot march when a million people are caged and starving.
The people of Kashmir are watching and thinking, watching and thinking, from behind the bars.

Krishnan’s Response
(1)  Actually you're wrong. The Left parties together held a protest action within two hours of the announcement of the abrogation of 370. And then soon after, Left parties together, as well as NAPM and other groups, held a well-attended rally in Delhi - neither small nor token. The Left parties also held protests in most major cities and many many small towns and rural areas. Representatives of Left parties CPIM and CPIML were also a key part of the first team to visit Kashmir in solidarity. Your vision is extremely selective.
(2)  Help to build the Left you deserve and demand. Not pull down and troll the Left we have.

Response to Krishnan
First, I’ll be the first person to be elated if I am proved wrong about the total absence of mass protests. If indeed there has been significant mass protests in solidarity with the Kashmiri people in ‘mainland’ India, I would be very eager to advertise it repeatedly and, physical opportunity permitting, join them. The entire stress obviously is on significant. I need not deny that, say, a few dozen people of sundry political outfit might have gathered somewhere with placards, shouted a few slogans for 10 minutes, and dispersed. That happens all the time in Jantar Mantar, Vivekanand statue in DU, open spaces in JNU etc. If, as a noted activist, you consider them significant, it only proves my point about the abject state of the left. The only token but slightly more visible rally was the one I mentioned in my post, which I duly covered with video link in earlier posts. Hardly 50 student types gathered, shouted some slogans, people like you gave some bytes, that’s all, Typically, the number of press people and police far exceed the number of protesters.

Second, so that we don’t end up debating about which is more significant, 25 people or 60, I suggested a minimal benchmark, namely, the rallies held in February 2016 to protest the arrest of 3 students. Now, it is plainly ridiculous to set as a benchmark the size of a predominantly elite student rally in Central Delhi for the size required for protesting the imprisonment of 10 million people. But under the frustrating circumstances, let us suppose the 2016 size to be the minimum. I have discussed the fraudulent character of the content and form of those 2016 rallies elsewhere, so won’t repeat it here. Still, the fact remains that thousands did march repeatedly within a short time. Supposing that to be a measure of significance, it is alarming that you cite sundry small token sectarian gatherings as counter-examples to my perspective.

Third, numbers aside, how do we measure significant protests? A rule of thumb, advocated by many, is that a meaningful protest raises the cost for the oppressors and, as a result, the mainstream media and the world are forced to take notice. That was achieved for, say, the Jyoti Singh case in which you played a salutary role. May the people of Kashmir expect something at least similar from people offering solidarity?

Fourth, just for records, let me state my own reactions since you complained about my role. Even with the abject failure of the left democratic forces, I made sure to announce and vigorously applaud even the smallest significant effort to challenge the state. Let me explain. The highest form of solidarity, of course, is to organize resistance in Kashmir itself. The next higher form is to organize resistance—raise the cost of the state—outside Kashmir by developing massive struggles such as the recent farmer’s rallies. Unfortunately, given the pathetic, diabolical and statist condition of the left with regard to the Kashmir issue, the first two options are ruled out. The last and the least costly form of the resistance is to expose the lies of the state. This is exactly what Jean, you, and two others did in your pretty brave trip to Kashmir. I saluted and covered this act for days, uploaded whatever was available, highlighted the exemplary role played by the team etc. Therefore, it is at least puzzling that I have been viewed as ‘trolling’ the left. The preceding observations prove the contrary.

Lastly, the accusation that a single ageing cantankerous ‘contrarian’ is capable of pulling down and trolling the glorious left composed of commanding leaders like Yechury, Raja, Karat, Bhattacharya and the like, can only be viewed as another confirmation of the basic point of my post. No wonder, the blinkered, hypocritical, statist, and almost non-existent left is unable to see that a sustained criticism is the only route for ‘developing the left’, as you demand. Even the Congress is doing precisely that, but the Stalinist commanders never learned the humility to resign.

In conclusion, therefore, I am once again deeply disappointed with your cliched words defending the left. Perhaps the only hope is that your words do not match some of your brave acts.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Kashmir Diary

I have been uploading posts in Facebook on moral and political issues related to Kashmir several times a day ever since Kashmir was brought under total military occupation by the Indian state. Here are those posts in chronological order, just for records. I have listed only my posts; for the rich set of responses, the Facebook page needs to be accessed. Facebook Mukherji

5 August 2019

Apparently, another massive betrayal of the Kashmiri people by the Indian state is in the offing, dubiously supported by the elite left liberal forces.
There'll be some oohs and ahs, crocodile tears, twitter agitations, seminars and talk shows, fiery write ups in Wire, Hindu, etc., shouting matches on NDTV. That's all.

They'll all conceal a huge sigh of relief that the 'festering' Kashmir problem is finally resolved by force.

Modi-Shah know this, RSS has been preparing for this for decades with I'll-concealed support from the left.

5 August 2019

So, what happened in Kashmir? Almost a farce just like Balakot and "Star Wars".

The people of Kashmir do not want any association with the Indian state anyway. So, it doesn't matter who gets to form a fake regime with less than 10% vote either in a state or a UT.

The only people to be upset inside Kashmir are the unpopular feudal managers like the Abdullahs and Muftis. What'll they do next? Nothing, after a few days of hue and cry, mostly cry. Then, Mufti begum will attend to the orchards, papa Farooq will return to golf, sonny Omar will go on a long vacation abroad before he returns to Delhi for more frequent appearances in Nidhi Razdan's show to lecture on democracy.

Outside Kashmir, it'll upset elite JNU-type left-liberals whose notions of democracy, federalism etc. are exhausted by petty administrative divisions into states, districts and municipalities. And yes, tourism and business will increase.
People of Kashmir will continue with their lonely struggle.

5 August 2019

Watching some of the TV shows with rising anger and a complete sense of deja vu. While pompous lawyers, politicians and a variety of 'experts' are going through the silly nitty-gritty of the Constitution, special laws, history of article 370 etc., there is a monstrous military clampdown over the entire valley.

While some of these fat cats are complaining about the arrest of Mufti and Omar, NO ONE is complaining about not taking the people into confidence. This corporate lawyer Harish Salve actually said that consulting the people is a bad idea.

The people--whose integration, aspiration, prosperity etc. are being talked about by experts in TV studios--are completely muzzled by brute power. And there is a good reason for it.
The Indian state knows very well that the moment the people of Kashmir are allowed to leave their prisons/homes, thousands will gather on the streets to reject both statehood and union territory status. All they want is to see the back of the Indian state which, according to them, has destroyed two generations of Kashmiris, killing over a hundred thousand people in the process, maiming even more.

Let's see how Modi-Shah 'integrate' the entire population of the valley who detest the very idea of India.

6 August 2019

Angry with the govt's decision, some left intellectuals are characterising Kashmir as Palestine. This is partly wrong. Parts of Palestine after all are free with their own land, politics and leaders.

More accurately, Kashmir should be viewed as Gaza which Chomsky called an open-air prison.

Even more accurately, Kashmir should be viewed as Guantanamo, or perhaps Abu Ghraib.

Explanation in comments: 1. The situation in the much larger West Bank and the associated desert and mountain areas are under an effective jurisdiction of the Palestinian people with its govt. and political parties, especially Fatah and Hamas; they have been a strong source of resistance to the surrounding occupation forces. In contrast, the Gaza strip, being cut off from the mainland, is almost entirely under occupation. This has been the situation in Kashmir for three decades. 2. There is good reason why Israel doesn't allow the corridor approved by UN and most of the world. If Gaza gets the corridor to West Bank, the strategic scene will change drastically BECAUSE West Bank is relatively strong. Apart from its geographical strength, West Bank gets much political strength due to the proximity of Lebanon and Jordan which Hamas skillfully exploited. In contrast Gaza is totally isolated and encircled. But that is not to deny that the situation is terrible throughout.

6 August 2019

Amidst all the darkness, it's most reassuring that the label 'tukre tukre gang' now applies to the other side dominated by Modi-Shah. In contrast to the hapless, innocent JNU students,
Modi-Shah have actually vilified the Constitution, dismembered a state, caused grave threat to the integrity of India, and gave a massive fillip to terrorism of all shades and hues. Logically, therefore,
Modi-Shah are now the paradigmatic anti-nationals. So whatever laws applied to the earlier alleged 'anti-nationals' now apply to Modi-Shah, including the just revised UAPA.
Let law take its due course.

8 August 2019

Words of sanity and solidarity. To be remembered again and again until Kashmir is returned to its people.

9 August 2019
On accounts of honesty and transparency on Kashmir, I have no complaints against BJP-RSS. The far right-wing reactionary force always advocated brute force against Kashmiri people, announced withdrawal of 370 and 35A as part of their election manifesto. They've done what the devil is designed to do.
The full blame for the massive betrayal of Kashmiri people lies on the so-called secular left-liberal forces. Kashmir was doomed when the entire parliament, dominated by these people under a Congress rule, unanimously declared entire Kashmir to be Indian territory in 1994. They summarily over-ruled the right of the Kashmiris for self-determination, throttled every attempt by the people of Kashmir to express their desire for freedom, and crushed Kashmir virtually under a military rule for decades. When Kashmir burned in event after event, and bullets and pellets ruled the land, the left-liberal forces looked the other way. All this while they hypocritically advised peace, negotiation, democracy etc. etc.
They not only paved the way for terrorism to take over the just demand for freedom, they enabled the reactionary forces to gather their arms around electoral success to bring Kashmir under formal military rule.

No wonder the crocodile tears are beginning to dry out in three days flat

9 August 2019

Watching NDTV's Dialogue between Jay Panda and Shashi Tharoor, moderated by Sonia Verma. They are beating about the bush more or less decently, I admit. However, the main problem with Kashmir is that the basic issue simply cannot be discussed in India's jingoistic public platforms.

The basic issue is that Kashmir ka bacca bacca (every child in Kashmir) wants the Indian state to back off and leave Kashmiris alone. That issue has nothing to do with 370, 35A, detentions, divisions, union territories.

That issue concerns the will of the people. And the regime has decided to crush that will with massive militarization.

[Not including posts of 10 August because they were based on video links from BBC etc., now deleted by 'someone']

11 August 2019
Most promising report on Kashmir from Punjab. When people under attack in disjoint areas decide to join hands in solidarity, no one can stop the swelling resistance, except by genocide.
Once again the left is caught on the wrong foot. In a naked statist capitulation, they've always turned away from the struggle of people of Kashmir and Punjab. Naturally, it gives the signal to communalists and jehadists to take over by the rule of the gun. People's rights are trampled twice over.

11 August 2019
As Siddharth Varadrajan reports, Kashmir is indeed returning to 'normalcy'. That is why, following long and cherished tradition of the Indian state, curfew has been imposed again in entire Srinagar after a window of few hours for people to buy snacks from the streets.
As the people affirm, it doesn't matter. Whether curfew is for 6 weeks or 6 months. Whether there are 50,000 military people or 5,00,000.
Actually, we should thank the govt. for bringing clarity to the situation. There is no uncertain, ambiguous middle ground of 'mainstream' politics anymore. It's official bullets versus unofficial freedom and dignity. As clear as the breeze from the mountains.

11 August 2019

According to well-known JNU type scholars from India and abroad, the current regime is fascist because it satisfies Benito Mussolini's law of fascism. For Mussolini, in fascism there is total unity of capital and regime. It is interesting that these scholars base their political judgment on what Mussolini, himself a fascist, says.
In any case, I now think that the Modi regime is not just 'fascist', it is super-fascist. Only a super-fascist regime can make it a law that corporations will be jailed for failing the law of corporate social responsibility. That's some 'unity' indeed!

12 August 2019
Most reassuring that the brutal clampdown on Kashmir is leading to a spurt in research projects for south-asianist lefty intellectuals. Did Ambedkar object to 370? How about Shyama Prasad? Patel? What is the best source for documents on these, British Museum or Bodleian? Is article 370 de facto temporary or de jure? What is the notion of nationality and what are its relations with citizenship? Is the post-colonial project starting to backfire on itself? Does the Modi-rule resemble British rule, Israeli rule or Indira rule? What is the relation between majoritarianism and sub-nationalism? What is the negotiation between dissent and terrorism? Who's view of political authority is confirmed by Modi regime, Habermass or Foucault? And of course Gandhi and Nehru, Nehru and Gandhi.
Speaking invitations are firming up, anthologies are planned, applications for funding conferences and travels abroad are designed, and contacts with the free liberal west is growing. Some are redesigning the courses to be taught next semester. While CII is organising an investors meet in scenic Gulmarg, south asianists will most likely meet in LSE or Columbia or New School for reflections on the occupation. Harvard with Amartya Sen?
While Kashmir starves and succumbs to illness as the curfew continues across the valley.

12 August 2019
It's over a week of monstrous military crackdown, people are hungry, falling ill, desperate for fresh air -- yet Kashmir is not relenting.
“At any point day or night,” said Ravi Kant, a soldier based in the town of Baramulla, “whenever they get a chance, mobs of a dozen, two dozen, even more, sometimes with a lot of women, come out, throw stones at us and run away.”
Modi-Shah must be beginning to fidget. Their mercenary politics of guns and investment is not working. Their Nagpur-promoted confidence is now confronting the groundswell of history.

13 August 2019
Given the opportune moment, I can see that various JNU type 'activists' like Brinda Karat, Sheila Rashid and others have resurfaced in support of Kashmiri people to grab TV time. Nice, but there is an issue.
The Kashmiri people demand azadi, secession from the Indian state. The ONLY democratic response to this demand is to hold a free and fair referendum of people in the valley to decide on what the people desire. No matter what the Constitution and the resolutions of Indian parliament say. Are Karat and Rashid prepared to fight in support of the referendum? JNU left at large have always betrayed the Kashmiri people on this issue.
Fighting for statehood, article 370 and 35A etc. is meaningful only in the context of paving the way for a peaceful, democratic referendum. BJP-RSS know this, that's why the latest attack for blocking that route. If people pretending to oppose BJP-RSS are not prepared to support the legitimate demand for referendum, just shouting for the restoration of status quo ante is farcical.

13 August 2019
When we demand referendum in Kashmir, there is a persistent demand from Indian elites for similar response in the other Kashmir. This is a totally false political perception.
If there is demand for azadi/referendum in the other Kashmir by its people, it's for the Pak regime to implement. If they don't, we can only protest from the outside as we do for Gaza, Iraq etc. Referendum is necessary in Indian occupied Kashmir because people demand so, period. That's what Nehru meant in his very democratic commitment cited in an earlier post.
To tie it with the relevance of some obscure international resolution or as a quid pro quo with Pakistan is sheer betrayal of Kashmiri people. That's exactly what the Indian occupation forces want.
The demand for referendum stands on its own.

14 August 2019
A very comprehensive report on Kashmir by Jean Dreze and others after their extensive five day tour. SEE BELOW.
As expected, entire Kashmir is totally gagged, shutdown, hungry, falling ill, in prison.
Fortunately, the military rule has not changed anything. Every Kashmiri, from children to pundits, rejects the Indian govt. A Kashmiri will starve but keep protesting.

REPORT By Jean Dreze
Kashmir Caged
(13 August 2019)
We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops - and all police stations - were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.
We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.
Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this. 
Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done. 
Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.
Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.
A summary of our observations 
• There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.
• To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.
• The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.
• People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.
• The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.
• As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.
Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K
• When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say - since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August! 
• As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’. 
• The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.” 
• In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below) 
• There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?” 
Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A
• A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.” 
• Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity. 
• Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi" (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.” 
• “Modi has destroyed India's own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own. 
• A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It's first step towards Hindu Rashtra.” 
• In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won't have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”
“Normalcy” - Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”? 
Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.
• One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).” 
• The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions! 
• Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.
• The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about. 
• All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid. 
• In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?” 
• On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.” 
• “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn't well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris - on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people. 
• Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice. 
• A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold. 
• An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more - but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals - but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler - when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.
Protests, Repression, and Brutality 
• Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road. 
• We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting. 
• On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets. 
• At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held. 
• A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest - it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami - but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest. 
• In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages. 
• Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” - i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” - i.e is killed in custody - the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.” 
• But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”
The Gag On Media 
• A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?” 
• Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function. 
• Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities. 
• Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices. 
• When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi. 
• As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF
Does Kashmir Lack Development? 
In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.” 
We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all. 
• It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand. 
• The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand. 
• There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir. 
• We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here - that is three or four times what we earn in other states.” 
• We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man. 
• The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”
The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning” 
We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share - that’s a license”, he said. 
He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country. 
Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy. 
Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”
The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal. 
• We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.
• We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.
• We demand that communications - including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.
• We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished - and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.
• We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.
Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

14 August 2019
A short "anonymous" video of survey of Kashmir by Jean Dreze, Kavita Krishnan and others. I understand the compulsions under which it was filmed. I hope they'll publish more in due course. The video fully supports their comprehensive statement posted below in the earlier post.

14 August 2019
Kavita Krishnan is a well-known political activist, leader of a political party. It is no wonder she is often seen in solidarity with struggling people.
Jean Dreze in contrast is that extremely rare top class academic who is fully immersed in real, no-profit, relentless grassroots activism. There used to be some like him many decades ago.
Those days are gone. Setting aside fake tall claims by JNU, CSDS, TISS, CSSS, and Jadavpur types, Jean Dreze is about the only surviving member of a near-extinct species. That is why the lean, ascetic, ever-smiling Jean is so dangerous. And so precious.

15 August 2019
Most promising. UN will discuss the other side of the Kashmir issue, as the people of Kashmir on this side continue in prison.
"In view of China’s letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the Kashmir issue, experts and veteran diplomats are indicating that irrespective of the outcome, the discussion is a diplomatic landmark".
"the letter from Beijing was sent a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar returned from Beijing where he had met his counterpart Wang Yi and explained India’s official stance on the Kashmir issue".
"China had expressed unhappiness over the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir which led to the creation of a new Union Territory of Ladakh which hints at Indian claims over Aksai Chin that is part of the discussion on India-China Boundary Question".

16 August 2019
The most reflective, erudite, sensitive (and the saddest) piece on Kashmir so far by someone who is engaged with all dimensions of the Kashmir issue from the inside. Most importantly, Shah Faesal represents the prominent new disarming and civil face of Kashmir that was trying to replace decades of bloodshed, shrillness, corruption, opportunism and betrayal by virtually everyone else. He forms the most promising bridge between the anguished India and the strife-torn Kashmir.
By gagging and arresting him, Modi-Shah have offered the most helpful hand to the terrorist.
“real consequences of this step will be known when the curfew is lifted. Once it starts sinking in and people start to face the consequences of these drastic steps, day to day incidents of indignation start happening and people feel their land, their identity have actually been taken away from them, I think it is then when the real consequences of this government’s decision would be known. I am scared that Kashmir might enter a new phase of conflict, which we have never imagined.”

16 August 2019
Just saw another 'timely' and timid petition by the usual bunch of south asian NRI academics and some others requesting the govt. to bring peace, democracy etc. and engage in dialogue. No demand for reinstating article 370, 35A, return to statehood, withdrawal of military, renewed dialogue on autonomy. Modi-Shah will be damn pleased, if they care to scroll down.
If only just 50 of them will emulate Jean Dreze, who is a far better scholar than any of these pompous NRIs, and march in the streets of delhi or assemble at Srinagar airport. But then it's summer time, travel time, lecture time, network time. Where's the time for Jantar Mantar?

17 August 2019

In Kashmir, Modi-Shah are implementing the logical culmination of a project that was initiated by Congress 30 years ago, and refined by 'leftist' JNU professors and students in February 2016.
JNU left must be grateful to Modi-Shah for picking up the right signals on how to treat the people of Kashmir.

17 August 2019
Three years ago I wrote why Kashmir is a big problem even for the otherwise credible left, not to mention quasi-bhakts like Guha and Mehta. The know-all left-liberals totally ignored it, but Modi-Shah could not have missed the vulnerability of left-liberals on this issue. The rest is history.
"the mainstream left as a whole never gave any definite support either to the Kashmiri freedom struggle or to protest on the ‘great miscarriage of justice’ (as A. G. Noorani put it) regarding Afzal Guru. This is because, within a statist framework, each of these causes tests the idea of democratic dissent at the extremities of the framework. These causes challenge the otherwise progressive left to face two sharp issues:
(a) Do the people of Kashmir have a right to self-determination even if the Indian parliament had unanimously resolved in favour of inclusion of Kashmir within the union of India?
(b) Is it legitimate to protest the judgment of the Supreme Court of India after all legal avenues have been duly exhausted and the President of India had given his seal of approval?
The dilemma is glaring. While affirmative answers to these questions appear to challenge the supremacy of the parliament and the Apex Court, negative answers appear to curtail the fundamental right of democratic dissent. Dilemmas often induce silence."
This brings out the total bankruptcy of the idea of democracy entertained by the left-liberal forces.

17 August 2019
Thus speaks a quasi-bhakt.
As the international pressure on the Kashmir issue mounts and the influential NRI south asianists sign another petition, domestic intellectuals are wriggling in discomfort. How do they keep to statist emoluments while venting 'democratic' frustration? The 'political scientist' Pratap Mehta comes up with the following strategy.
First declare that article 370 is 'debatable'. If it is debatable, then abrogating it becomes one of the valid options. Modi-Shah will be pleased. Having assured safety, he creates a dense word-cloud about democracy: 'alarming casualness', 'lack of empathetic imagination', 'weakening commitment to freedom', 'untrammelled executive power writ large', etc. etc. Each of these apply to every regime across the world, nothing specially sinister about Modi-Shah and Kashmir. Business as usual. No real complaint about Modi-Shah.
Having done his bit on democracy, he shifts attention to the courts of law for about 4/5th of the piece. He complains about 'Indian legal system abdicating its responsibility' in protecting liberty, the record is 'spotty'. It has been happening with 'alarming' regularity. '“liberty” cases' should have been the 'top priority'. He shows his scholarship by citing the Maneka Gandhi case. This is followed by a series of citations from renowned judges and advocates on protection of liberty: justice Chandrachud, Justice A. N. Roy, H M Seervai, historian Rohit De, Sir Maurice Gwyer. The liberal scholarship will be thrilled.
Yes, he agrees, there are some long-pending problems that need to be discussed. The legal system needs to be more sensitive. Modi will agree. But then, "Admittedly, there are security exigencies in Kashmir, and the state has an interest in preventing violence." This time, Shah will applaud.
Abject misery forced on millions of people, rights of Kashmiris, brutal subjugation of a population by an occupation army--do not find a mention.

17 August 2019
NDTV reports from Kashmir that in order to maintain 'law and order', military rulers of Kashmir have come up with four Ms that need to be controlled: Movers (politicians), Monsters (stone pelters), Militants (terrorists), Moulvis (Imams).
Here is an example of the category of Monsters. The one holding a basketball in her left hand is particularly cute. She won't part with it. Children will be children.

18 August 2019

Apparently, Ram Guha has written a piece lamenting that democracy has not taken roots in the country. I hope a look in the mirror started off the reflections.
I also hope that he is enough of a historian to include the entire left liberal fraternity as the object of his lament (with a few, very few, outstanding exceptions like Jean Dreze). Not just the Modi-Shah gang, that'd be easy.
Kashmir always provides a view of the hamaam.

18 August 2019
In Full Solidarity with Kavita Krishnan.
Some Sanghis are trolling the brave activist Ms. Kavita Krishnan for spreading the word about the human rights situation in Kashmir. She has every right to organise distinguished citizen's teams to visit Kashmir and make first-hand eye-witness reports on the condition there.
She herself, along with Prof. Jean Dreze, was part of such a terrific team that has opened the view of Kashmir for the rest of the world. This is an absolutely essential democratic practice in view of the persistent lies by the militaristic state.
All democratic citizen's must stand by Ms. Kavita Krishnan for this salutary effort. And join her in her courageous effort to stand by the people of Kashmir.

18 August 2019
More details from citizen's visit to Kashmir. Children are picked up from their families in the night and kept under indefinite detention. Women are molested during the process. Hospitals are full of people with pellet injuries. There are paramilitary people at every nook and corner.
Young men are picked up and tortured in front of mics so that their screams can be heard over loudspeakers.
I withdraw my earlier ascription of Kashmir as Gaza. With all the violence hanging over it, Gaza still has an active civil life. Kashmir is more like Guantanamo Bay, except that it is a vast region of the Himalayas.

18 August 2019
As news fatigue is beginning to bother the audiences of television and social media, Kashmir is disappearing from view. With tall assurances from the govt. and the rains washing down all the sins of the state, Kashmir might look like coming back to normalcy. Since no news is good news, here's the news:
1. Even after two weeks, Kashmir is under near-total military shutdown.
2. Between 4000-6000 persons have been arrested since the clampdown on top of the thousands already in prison.
3. Since local prisons are filled to the brim, prisoners are flown outside Kashmir in military aircraft.
4. The moment curfew was lifted in some parts of Srinagar, dozens of protests broke out. Curfew is back as hospitals are filling up with injuries due to clashes.
5. Only some primary schools are likely to open only in some parts of Srinagar.
Add to this the atrocities already covered in the last post.

19 August 2019
People keep referring to Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel, even Hari Singh and his dogra forefathers, origins of Kashmiri Sufism etc. to deliberate on the current Kashmir issue. These are topics for writing JNU theses; what else can they work on?

However, as I have pointed out many times, all this 'scholarly' reference to history is totally irrelevant. All that matters is what Kashmiris demand NOW. Otherwise, we will still be debating whether India should be a buddhist state because Emperor Ashoka wanted it that way, while he was killing off 18000 ajivika Jains.

20 August 2019
Glass is not even half-full.
First CPM protested about their comrade in Kashmir being detained, then Congress complained about its leaders. Now DMK goes a step further and demands release of political leaders.
For the common people, the entire valley is under virtual curfew. Over 4000 Kashmiris are detained. Prisons are overflowing. Military is firing bullets and pellets at unarmed protesters. Even primary school children are not attending school.
Yet CPM, Congress, DMK etc. are only concerned about the useless leaders in the valley. No wonder Modi-Shah-Bisht are dominating the politics.

20 August 2019
Kashmir betrayed.
Over a fortnight has passed since the direct military clampdown on Kashmir, virtually imprisoning nearly 10 million people, double the population of Palestine. Just a few parties--divided Congress, DMK, non-existent CPM, non-existent CPI, reluctant TMC etc.--opposed the move.
After the clampdown, only CPIML(LIB)/AISA has held a very small token rally in Delhi. Deafening silence from the rest of the so-called secular democratic forces: Congress, CPI, CPM etc. except for timid, non-committal TV bytes.
After such a massive attack on the people, Gandhi's land would have expected waves and waves of massive rallies in solidarity. They could march repeatedly for the benign arrest of 3 JNU students. They cannot march when a million people are caged and starving.
The people of Kashmir are watching and thinking, watching and thinking, from behind the bars.

21 August 2019
As Kashmir disappears from TV and social media, and as the wily Chidambaram hogs the attention of the nation, let us listen to the real voice of the people.

It is amazing to see how the voice of resistance is able to gather strength the moment the monstrous clampdown allows a tiny crack. Nothing beats the wonder of resistance against all odds.

22 August 2019

Kashmir fighting back.
It is becoming clear that, even with all channels of communication blocked, people of Kashmir have devised a two-pronged Gandhian strategy to resist the mighty Indian state.
1. As my earlier post showed, the moment the state is compelled to allow some tiny relaxation of its grip, the people immediately come out onto the streets and start vigorous peaceful protest rallies. For how long can the state enforce the grip as the international concern is widening?

2. From the opposite direction, even if the state tries to 'normalize' things for photo-ops by opening schools, markets, banks, petrol stations etc., people refuse to come out and use the facilities. They deprive themselves with their guts to deprive the state of photo-ups. Let the state 'normalize' things for itself.
These are classic examples of what Gandhi called ASAHAYOG, Non-Cooperation. If the oppressor is even minimally civilized, he will have to retreat, as the British rule found out.

23 August 2019
Kashmir is a chance for the Left.
It is abundantly clear by now that the Indian Left has failed in its 'mainstream' electoral politics. In the process, it has lost touch with its real base in the basic masses. Left simply does not have the resources to reactivate its moribund electoral politics.
Its only chance of revival lies in active, persistent, visible and militant organisation of and support to people's causes which are basically set aside by 'mainstream' politics for fear of losing this vote or that vote, including the backlash by corporate media (Look how even NDTV is now covering Kashmir). It must join people's struggles regardless of whether the reactionary middle classes approve of it, or whether it has the clearance from the parliament etc.
No doubt, it'll be strongly 'trolled' by the state with its poilce etc. egged on by the corporate media under the shrill voice of Goswamis and Chaubeys. The reactionary neoliberal-addicted crowd will also cry wolf in social media.
But the currently rudderless, routeless basic masses will watch and listen. Not only in Kashmir, but also in the rest of the subaltern India. That resolute act of solidarity might win back its power in electoral politics, as in the past.
Yes, the left must join the freedom struggle in Kashmir. The flags of CPM, CPI, CPIML, RSP, FB must be seen in the street protests in Kashmir.

23 August 2019
Tail between the legs?
Correct me if I am wrong, but to my knowledge so far not a single country, except perhaps Bhutan, has supported India's unilateral decision to divide J&K, abrogation of articles 370 and 35A, and demotion to UT status. NO ONE has said that these are India's internal matters. Only India says this. So, Congress' Adhir Chowdhury was right in the parliament.
Everyone, including big beneficiaries of the Modi regime US and France, and 'close friend' Putin's Russia, view this as a bilateral issue to be addressed by India AND Pakistan. Everyone directs India to enter into dialogue with Pakistan and maintain peace. There goes the false boast about POK and re-consideration of no first use policy.
And there is growing concern and pressure about detentions, prolonged curfew, use of violence by the state, and violation of human rights. Last but not the least, Kashmiri people just won't bend.
With economy in doldrums, Kashmir is beginning to backfire.

26 August 2019
Time of the cowards.
So, Yechury and Raja, allegedly leaders of two 'communist' parties, went to Srinagar, not allowed entry, came back. Then Ghulam Navi Azad, a fomer Congress CM of J&K, did the same. Now, Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by 'communists', and other leaders, followed suit.
Rahul is a leader of the party of MK Gandhi, who terrified the world with satyagraha, ahimsa and asahayog,
No one dared to sit down in the Srinagar airport itself on a dharna. Or, if forced into an airplane, sit on dharna in Delhi airport.
Bapu would have started a fast unto death in solidarity with people of Kashmir, and as a penance for the massive sins of the Indian state. On 5 August itself.