“What are the benefits of removing Article 370?”
Three men lined up against a shop in Delhi smile broadly into the camera.
“The tricolour will be waved in Kashmir, bhai your turn,” Ankit Jatav tells his friend. The friend, a young man in a black tee, thumps his chest and says, “Doosra, Jammu Kashmir ki lugai milegi humein” [Second, we will get a wife from Jammu Kashmir].”
The third man declares Kashmir will now be called Kashi, and all three shout ‘Vande Mataram’ in unison.
The video, posted on TikTok with hearts and flexed bicep emojis, was uploaded shortly after the Indian government invoked the Article 370 to scrap Kashmir’s special status. Jatav, who has over 12,000 followers on TikTok has posted 10 more videos on Article 370 since then.
In another video, one of his friends, a young man with coiffed hair, said, “Main toh chala Kashmir, mujhe Delhi main ladki nahin mil rahi hai (I am going to Kashmir, I am not getting women in Delhi).”
While a total communications blackout in Kashmir has made it impossible to ascertain the repercussions of the Modi government’s decision to abrogate Kashmir’s special status, social media platforms in mainland India are inundated with videos asserting Hindu supremacy.
TikTok in particular is full of slightly desperate Hindu men asserting “victory” by claiming they can now “get girls” from Kashmir. Similar content has started surfacing on Facebook and Twitter.
Prior to the government’s decision on Monday, there was no bar on marrying Kashmiri men or women. However, the children of women who married non-Kashmiris would not inherit property in Kashmir under its old laws.
In India, men have long used so-called “muscular nationalism” to channel a deep misogyny directed at women who dared to critique a dominant political narrative. Women who have criticised the majoritarian politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have faced rape threats, obscene messages and even fake porn videos.
Senior BJP ministers, including the Prime Minister, have followed these trolls online, and invited them for social media summits while insisting the government should not be held responsible for encouraging hate directed at women online.
However, in the case of Kashmir and Article 370, the rush of misogynistic content seems oddly in line with the government’s own approach to Kashmir’s people. Like the government treated Kashmir as a people whose opinion wasn’t worth considering, young men on TikTok are celebrating the idea of ‘getting’ a Kashmiri woman like she is an object with no agency. Ironically, a bunch of these videos end with men chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ or Vande Mataram, completely dismissive of absurdity of looking at Kashmiri women as subjects of their ‘patriotic’ project.
“The mockery made out of Kashmiri women is reiteration of the fact that the human race has always made women the battle ground of their fragile brittle egos,” human rights lawyer Tahmina Lashkar told HuffPost India.
EVERYONE WANTS TO ‘MARRY’ KASHMIRIS
A user called Amit Modak, whose feed is loaded with paeans to Narendra Modi, the Indian Army and ‘bhagwa’ (saffron), posted a video which contained the message: “Now I can marry a Kashmiri girl”. The text is followed by a dozen laughter emojis and on the background, a track with the sound of a man laughing hysterically played.
His other posts include one that said Amit Shah is cooking ‘Kashmiri Pulao’ and that when the government did not listen to 25 crore people on the issue of triple talaq, fat chance they’d listen to 1.5 crore Kashmiris on anything. In another video, Modak sports a sleeveless tee, slicked back hair and a fade, and declares: “Jai Shree Ram. The people who are thinking of buying land in Kashmir, wait for a bit. Don’t be in such a hurry, wait for a bit. Who knows, maybe you can buy land in Lahore.”
Another man who identifies himself as Sunil Kavi and claims to be an actor, model and social activist among other things, shot a video of himself exulting at the news of ‘Article 370 being removed’. He said in the video, with a wink and jumping with glee: “Ab toh main shaadi Kashmir main karoonga. (Now, I will marry in Kashmir.)” Other men commented on his post ‘yes, bhai, yes’ and ‘bilkul sahi hai (that’s absolutely right).’
We reached out to him on his profile and asked what the implication of his video is. He replied, “Whatever you think it is.”
Amar, who only has four posts on his profile, but nearly 3500 followers, posted a text only video in Hindi which said the following:
“My bachelor friends, start preparing, because after 15th August, in Kashmir, you can find in-laws.” The last text slide is accompanied by a picture of a group of young Muslim girls in hijab.
The text also is accompanied by the laughter emojis. This seems to be a favoured line of conversation on TikTok, with smiling men almost saying this is a threat to Kashmiri men. Some other videos shot by men in Haryana claimed that prior to Monday, Kashmiris used to visit the state to sell shawls, but now they will visit with ‘kothali’ for their sisters — a tradition in Haryana to gift clothes, sindoor etc to married women by their brothers and maternal family.
A man who goes by the user name Jitendra Verma, has shot a video of himself saying, “Get ready unmarried friends, now your in-laws house will be in Kashmir. Kashmiris, become ready to be our brother-in-laws.” A man laughed loudly in the background as Verma finished his video, which is tagged is ‘Jai Hind’ and “Jai Shri Ram’.
The tags and the assertion of ‘patriotism’ makes it clear that these videos about Kashmiri women are not in anyway meant to be an appreciation of Kashmiri women, but like in patriarchal societies, very casually delivered threats to own women as a means to claim ownership of land and a political narrative.
One of the first videos to have landed on TikTok after the Article 370 announcement was a video of saffron-clan men celebrating in the streets on an Indian city while a song which claimed ‘ab Ayodhya main, Ram Mandir ka nirmaan chahiye’ played in the background. The hashtag #Article370 registered around 870,000 views since yesterday and almost all the content is pro-Hindutva. With the ban on internet in Kashmir, no Kashmiri voice could be amplified on the platform, though there are old videos of Kashmiri men and women demanding that Article 35A be protected and demands of ‘azaad Kashmir’ be heard.
A host of other videos resonated with sounds of ‘ghus ke marenge’ and made the government’s decision sound, quite unwittingly of course, like an invasion.
Most of the videos on ground reflected how pro-Hindutva groups found the issue as an appropriate time to indulge in chest-beating about Hindu supremacy.
Rajeev Mittal of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal sent an invite to celebrate the government’s ‘win’ in Gurgaon where men gathered with drums to garland photos of Bharat Mata. Asked what they were actually celebrating, he said, “The resolution to protect Bharat Mata.”