In closing comments, Vivek Katju replies to Partha Chatterjee’s response to his critique of the latter’s original article on the justification the Indian army chief provided for the use of a Kashmiri civilian as a human shield.
Vivek Katju’s comment on Partha Chatterjee’s response
In his response (June 12, 2017) to this writer’s submissions (June 12) on his original article ‘In Kashmir, India is Witnessing Its General Dyer Moment’ (June 2, 2017) Professor Partha Chatterjee has given more glimpses of his thinking on the Indian state’s approaches to the northeastern part of the country as well as the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. In this context he has also commented on how the army has been used in these areas.
Chatterjee again asserts that “the similarities in the language of justification stem not from the act themselves … but from a structural similarity between the two situations of military deployment”. In other words, for Chatterjee, the Indian state has acted as a colonial enterprise in the restive regions of India for only if the Indian state is so construed in these regions can structural similarities in army deployments arise. It is here that this writer fundamentally differs from Chatterjee. It is one thing to draw attention to the inadequacies in the state’s approaches and its policy mistakes in the restive regions and quite another to call it colonial in its disposition in these regions. It is because this writer holds that the structural similarities Chatterjee sees between foreign colonial enterprises and the democratic constitutional order – as the journey of the Indian state shows – do not exist that these basic differences have to be addressed before similarities in language are taken up.
Chatterjee is an authority on colonialism, nationalism and post colonialism. Who would be better placed to focus on the inherent venality and exploitation of colonialism? That essence of it could never be transformed. Thus the only option for a subject people was to throw off its yoke; hence, the validity of the struggles for independence and freedom. Surely that has not been the position in the northeast. Over the decades it is occupying greater space in the national consciousness, though much more needs to be done in this direction. There has been the enlargement of harmony and growth in the northeast through the decades too.
As for the history of the northeast, the Indian national enterprise is not co-terminus with the territorial conceptions of Aryavarta. It seeks to accommodate the aspirations of all within India while maintaining the country’s territorial integrity. Thus the focus has to be also on the validity of the terrorist groups who have continued to operate in the northeast largely as criminal enterprises.
In J&K, the fundamental fact is that till Pakistani intrusive capabilities are eliminated, no aspect or form of the Kashmir valley’s agitation against the Union is without its hand. Thus the enmeshing of the problems in Kashmir which should relate only to Delhi and Srinagar, and the external difficulties of Kashmir, which concern Delhi and Rawalpindi, is the essential cause of the continuing troubles. That was not the situation in the Punjab faced by the British colonialists before Jallianwala, whatever may have the fanciful fears of Whitehall and its minions in India.
On the apolitical relationship between the army and political governance Chatterjee notes, “It has been the unique achievement of Indian democracy to maintain that relation”. This writer, with his diplomatic experience of armies taking control in many Third World countries (including in India’s immediate neighbourhood) can only applaud Chatterjee’s observation. There is no reason to doubt that the army’s apolitical nature will ever change.
Finally, this writer is deeply grateful to Professor Chatterjee for responding to his observations. As fellow travellers on our national journey in these contentious times we all, eminent social scientists of course but retired diplomats too, question and search for answers. That is the abiding core of our Indianness.
Partha Chatterjee’s closing comment
Ambassador Vivek Katju has clearly stated the differences between our positions on, first, the place of the northeastern states within the Indian political formation and, second, the role of Pakistan in influencing popular protests in Kashmir.
I believe these are fair and honest differences that are characteristic of public discussion in a democratic society.
I hope that these views that are held by many others on both sides of the debate can continue to be expressed in the same spirit of reasonableness and civility that Ambassador Katju has shown me.
Vivek Katju is a former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan and Myanmar
Partha Chatterjee is a historian and social scientist
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