‘I want Kashmir to be free’

Suno, there are several ways I can answer that question. There’s the liberal-elite-English-speaking-wallah reason that I can access because of my socio-economic privilege. Like, oh I’m fighting for the India I grew up in! The Idea of India! Unity in Diversity, Roses for the police and candle-light marches in Jantar Mantar! But, this Islamaphobic fascist-wadi regime came to power because of the Brahmmanical capitalist patriarcal (I could go on) superstructure that animates ‘Indian’ society. It cannot be effectively countered with reactionary liberal mental gymnastics, and will only be toppled with powerful counter-discourses that are rooted in histories that have been violently suppressed. No amount of money and education is going to make me anything other than a young Dalit-Christian woman. A caste-less free-floating general ‘Indian-ness’ is only possible for the savarna. My rootedness to this physical and cultural landscape is only truly authentic when I acknowledge my Dalit-ness. So yeah, my mere existence because of the privilege I hold is not an act of resistance. But when I assert my identity and dissent through that lens, it is an unassailablly rebellious signifier.

I’m terrified of the Hindutva reality being violently perpetuated right now, and of the Hindu Rashtra that the Modi-Shah-Sangh Parivar are trying to bring into being. Every time I look back at the posts I’ve made online or the videos of me at demonstrations or my decision to go back home hits me, I feel a very real terror and panic. I’ve only protested once in India because I study abroad but I’m absolutely going to hit the streets once I come back home (for good!) in a year.

I’ve also lost so much faith in leaders and in the idea of India. I want Kashmir to be free of India, free of occupation and free to self-determine the future its peoples want. I protest because the lands that are called the ‘North-East’, particularly Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, need to be de-militarised and its indigenous people need to be centered as sovereign. I protest because my heart is broken. I protest because every paranoid thought I’ve had growing up is coming true. I protest because this CAA/NRC chutiyapanti distracts from the failing economy, high rates of unemployment, farmer suicides, entrenched socio-economic injustices and the looming climate crisis that we that we are not equipped to deal with. But this is the reality, and not doing everything I possibly can is denying the gravity of the situation. So, I protest because I don’t want merely a return to the normal status quo as the end result of this movement. I want a clear-eyed blue-dawned sunlit future built by Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, womxn, the queer community and OBCs – we are the Bahujans, the many, the hungry and we built this nation. Our protest is what will tear it down.