Denial is a natural psychological defence mechanism, a refuge in the face of unbearable truths, but it can also be a perilous impediment to healing, justice and progress.
Throughout history, we have witnessed horrendous events, acts of terror, and brutal atrocities, and the human tendency to deny or downplay these occurrences has been a recurring theme.
In the last 30 years of life lived in a conflict zone from 1989 as a school kid to eventual peace in my middle age, I have seen denial played out not just about the horrors of terrorism but also about the ideological basis of those brutal acts.
Now with intellectual mental gymnastics being played out about babies being "only" murdered vs "decapitated", the old games of the media, analysts, think-tanks, and experts are making us relive the three-decade proxy war of Kashmir by Pakistan.
Growing up with a natural and instinctive love of reading, and empowering English-medium education exposed me to a lot of Holocaust literature coming in through the Reader's Digest in the 1980s before the Left-liberal cabal took over the editing, distribution, and publication of the ‘Indian’ version from Mumbai (then Bombay).
Every kid from every generation since the 1950s discovers Anne Frank and her diary. I got to teach it briefly when the constantly changing Central Board of Secondary Education made it mandatory reading for teaching of English. All the reading prepared me for the eventual internal displacement as progressive and liberal Muslims became ideological refugees in their own country of India.
Having witnessed the terror pogrom which started in 1989 to cleanse the Kashmiri Pandits and secular Muslims from the Kashmir Valley by Pakistan-backed jihadis, we decided to stand testimony for it despite grave risks.
A Holocaust survivor's moral at the end of his survival story has always kept me grounded and not contribute to the Muslim Oppression Olympics — it is your choice if you want to consider life's events as problems or inconveniences; "if you get to eat only potatoes for the week, that is an inconvenience, but if you do not get to eat for a whole week, now that would be a problem".
Moving on with life's inconveniences because it was just that, an inconvenience not to be allowed to free think about ideas, to express one's doubts about scriptures, to give voice to critical questions for the Hurriyat thugs and where they were planning to take us, of being fired from a job because of these very questions and forced to migrate, fearful of a journalist husband being censored in the terror-sympathising Kashmiri media.
These were inconveniences that could be rectified in the vast country that I call home, as compared to the real problem of Kashmiri Pandits being assassinated, extorted, kidnapped, and executed, both Pandit and Muslim women assaulted by Islamic jihadis, secular Muslims shot dead on the mere suspicion of being informers to the Indian Army.
But we were not prepared for the "Jagmohan canard" that the Intifada factory, operating from the Press Enclave, Srinagar propped up in its disinformation warfare. That the appointed governor Jagmohan facilitated the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits by providing them logistical help so that he could mow down the remaining Kashmiri Muslims in the valley.
The ‘canard’ has made its round to the international forums, university campuses, across the globe, lobby groups and think tanks in European, North American, and Middle Eastern cities. The same kind who are today holding Hamas-supporting rallies and shouting "gas the Jews".
The denial of what happened with the Kashmiri Pandits is not a new thing for rational Muslims, denial is a part of their lives when we ask critical questions regarding the Jews of Medina, the anti-Semitic verses that mullahs scream in Friday sermons, with the accompanying definition of kafir (infidels), easily practising takfiri-terrorism — pronouncing us as not Muslim enough or apostates, hence justified for murder (wajib-ul-qatl).
The denial is so ingrained in the Muslim psyche that decades later in the new millennium as the Internet made inroads and smartphones, apps, and technology started connecting people across cultures at a massive scale, the prevalent casteism, racism, misogyny, communalism in Kashmir society started getting called out but the usual response was/is denial, of course, except for a few brave souls who going against the dominant tribal attitudes, at serious risks of injury, speak out boldly.
We learnt that Holocaust denial was a real thing abroad and that there had been an actual case of a British historian David Irving making a career out of Holocaust denial who had to be challenged in a British court by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, excellently portrayed by Rachel Weisz in the movie Denial. She sued David Irving for libel for denying the Holocaust ever happened.
In the British legal system, the burden of proof in libel cases falls on the defendant, which means that Lipstadt and her legal team had to prove that Irving knowingly lied about the Holocaust. The film takes viewers on a journey through the courtroom drama as Lipstadt and her legal team fight to defend the truth about the Holocaust.
It explores the challenges of presenting historical evidence in a court of law and the importance of confronting Holocaust denial. The case raises profound questions about free speech, historical truth, and the responsibility to challenge those who seek to distort history.
Yasin Malik, the Kashmiri terrorist was finally arrested in connection with various cases related to terrorism and terror funding, three decades late, despite having admitted to killing people in a BBC interview on camera.
Malik has been lodged in Tihar Jail, a high-security prison in New Delhi and has been kept in a high-risk cell. He is called to the Supreme Court of India periodically to argue his case.
This was possible due to the tireless efforts of the second generation Kashmiri Pandits, who were children when they were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley and watched in disbelief as the previous governments of India wheeled, dealed and dined with the terrorists and separatists.
Due to the cultural resurgence of India post-2014, it became impossible to whitewash what Islamists had done in Kashmir and hence the cases of the NIA (National Investigative Agency) cracking down on terror sympathisers are more numerous in the media.
That is not to say denials are not issued frequently by Hurriyat members (separatists) of involvement in atrocities against the Kashmiri people of all ethnicities and linguistic identities. Kashmir whisperers in the corridors of power have brokered deals with the current regime not to be prosecuted in exchange for impunity and solutions within the Constitution of India.
But occasionally, breakthroughs do come as did yesterday with the news of the Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena approving the prosecution of activist and author Arundhati Roy and former University of Kashmir professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain in a case from 2010 over their provocative speeches during a seminar in Delhi in 2010 at a convention titled 'Azadi: The Only Way'. It will remain to be seen what happens since the statute of limitations has expired.
Now with media reports coming in about murdered kibbutz members in Israel after the Hamas unprecedented attacks, where fathers, mothers and babies had been killed, the intellectual mental gymnastics are being performed whether the babies were decapitated or not since nobody is releasing footage or photographs of the gruesome scenes.
It is reminiscent of general George S Patton, a prominent military leader during Second World War. Patton, like many other Allied military leaders, was deeply affected by the discovery of concentration camps and the scale of the Holocaust as Allied forces advanced into Nazi-occupied territories.
He is said to have said, "Get it all on record now — get the films — get the witnesses — because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened." His words serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of documenting and preserving evidence of such atrocities to ensure that the historical truth is not denied or distorted.
Denial is a psychological coping mechanism that individuals and societies often employ when confronted with traumatic or unsettling events. While it may initially shield against emotional distress, denial can become problematic when it transforms into an ongoing stance that distorts or ignores facts.
The institution head who fired me from my job for speaking the truth (incidentally a rich Kashmiri Pandit) denies it today. But what needs to be understood is that the perils of denial are numerous, as it impedes healing, hinders accountability, sustains cycles of violence, and distorts historical narratives.
To break this cycle, it is essential to confront the past honestly by acknowledging the truth, pursuing justice, preserving memory through memorials and education, and promoting empathy among different groups.
The Muslim society desperately and immediately needs this acknowledgement of uncomfortable truths, events, and phases of Islamic history, both medieval and modern as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba like groups wield influence in the volatile region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the resulting geopolitical spill over affecting not just Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh but Indian cities far away from the Eastern and Western borders.
Arshia Malik is a columnist and commentator on social issues with particular emphasis on Islam in the Indian subcontinent.
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