When a small group of people defy the authority of a state, it is called rebellion but if the entire population stands up, it is a revolution!
For last two weeks the entire valley has been converted into a prison and a virtual concentration camp. There is continuous curfew in the entire valley without any relaxation or break. Clashes with protestors are taking place all over the valley. Stones are being answered with bullets and pellets. Over 45 people have been killed and almost 3,000 injured. The newspaper presses and offices were sealed and papers confiscated. The top party functionaries claim that the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani as well as the recent actions of the ban on papers and the use of pellet guns was not in the knowledge of the higher ups! Then, who is in charge here? There can be nothing more naïve than this!One is reminded of the George Orwell’s novel, “1984” which represented the seen inside a totalitarian regime. “The Ministry of Truth”! “The Newspeak”! And the “The Memory Hole”! These are being reincarnated in Kashmir!
In the upheaval of nineties, there was similar situation. However, at that time there were hundreds of fully armed militants attacking security establishments, convoys and even some people labelled as collaborators. There were people from across and there was continuous flow of arms. However, at the present moment it is a purely indigenous upheaval. It is as if a simmering volcano has erupted. Even though the trigger has been the killing of Burhan Wani yet the main cause has been the new ruling dispensation which betrayed the peoples’ sentiment during the elections. In the peak of militancy of the nineties, certain people went round the affected families who had suffered both at the hands of the security forces as well as the militants. They claimed to be administering a “Healing Touch” to the sufferers all over the valley. Banking on the goodwill generated by these gestures, they won the 2002 elections and formed the coalition government with the Congress party. They did start some measures to bring some relief from the high-handedness of the security personnel. They also propagated the theory of “Self-rule” as a viable option of the decades old Kashmir problem. However, before they could go further the coalition government was out of office for planning to transfer state land to Amarnath Shrine Board which had resulted in 2008 upheaval.
In the next election the National Conference came to power but proved worse than the earlier one by being responsible for killing of young boys-as many as 120 in the summer of 2010 alone. They were responsible for creating another upheaval as a result of the economic blockade of Kashmir by Jammu people. The people started a march towards Muzaffarabad to open and run over the traditional Jhelum Valley Road. The result again was killing of dozens of youth including a movement leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz. The government was finally washed away by the flood of the century. In the ensuing elections, the “Healing Touch” party apart from the “Self-rule” slogan started a campaign to keep the extremist Hindutva elements out of the valley. They garnered votes on saving the people of the valley from the Hindutva onslaught.
However, as an anti-climax, they hugged the vicious Hindutva Bear claiming it to be a meeting between the South and the North Pole! Forgetting all their earlier promises, they pleaded that to get funds to rehabilitate the flood victims; they had to keep Delhi on their right side as also they had to respect the mandate of the Jammu people. Thus they came to the “Kneeling Touch”. For personal power, they mortgaged everything. Even they forgot the “Self-rule” and did not get the promised funds to ameliorate the lot of the flood sufferers. On the contrary, they have now been giving people the final “Blinding Touch”! Over a 100 persons have been subjected to eye surgery because of the damage caused by the so called “non-lethal” pellet guns. Most of them may lose their eye-sight. Pellet guns are used for hunting especially flying birds like the geese but in Kashmir, these are being used for hunting innocent unarmed children!
Earlier upheavals were characterized as a rebellion by few misled elements getting inspiration and support from across the border. Yes, if 10% of the people create problems for the authorities, it can be termed a rebellion. However, when almost the entire population rises up, it is a revolution! Rebellions can be crushed but a revolution sweeps away everything in its path! A number of friends from outside have been asking can the alienation of Kashmiris be ended. Is there a possibility of a turn around? On ground it appears that the limit may have been crossed and there may be no turning around!
The only possibility is the Central Government taking over directly; sending all the types of security forces back to barracks; withdrawing all black laws; freeing all political prisoners; allowing free expression of views and initiating an “Unconditional” dialogue with all the stake holders for the final solution of the 70 year old basic political problem. In the alternative, the raging fire may engulf the whole sub-continent sooner than later!
Mohammad Ashraf,I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir