Kashmir can be pacified by sincere and honest efforts for sorting out the basic political problem through dialogue and not by sending more and more soldiers to brutalize the people!
According to a report in the Citizen, New Delhi had been planning to unleash a special program in Kashmir. It has been reported that the intention was to handover the Valley to the Army after the conclusion of the Amarnath Yatra. They are still thinking of suppressing the total revolt with the help of the soldiers! The new dispensation in New Delhi has been trying its best to resurrect the Hindu past of Kashmir. However, they seem to have forgotten what Kashmir’s illustrious son, the historian Kalhana has said, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” However, in spite of so many upheavals put down with brute force, New Delhi has refused to learn the historical lesson. Every time Kashmiris rise to claim their rights, the Government increases the number of soldiers and the brutality of suppression intensifies.
For more than a month now, the entire Valley has been converted into a huge prison. People have been confined to their homes by a continuous curfew probably longest in the recent history of Kashmir. More than 60 persons have been killed. Thousands have been injured. Hundreds, including young children, have been blinded by pellets. People are caught between the shutdown calls and the continuous official curfews. It is a total siege. Everything is shut. Even the Central Government offices, banks, post offices, schools and Colleges are all shut. There appears to be total absence of any administrative machinery. The situation has been compounded by total communications breakdown. The Internet has been shut, so are the mobile phones and, for some days, even the local newspapers failed to appear due to undeclared and unacknowledged official media gag. One can only imagine the inconvenience caused to patients especially those requiring continuous chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments. Hospitals are overwhelmed and the staff highly over worked while treating the casualties of extreme brutality. As the Panthers Party Chief, Bhim Singh, observed in the Supreme Court of India, ‘Kashmiris are being shot like pigeons’. To sprinkle salt on the wounds of Kashmiris, the Solicitor General of India informed the Apex Court that the situation is fast returning to normal. There cannot be anything more misleading or hypocritical than this.
Incidentally, the killing of the militant leader, Burhan Wani, did not immediately give rise to a militant wave but generated a mass upheaval which was peaceful. People were mourning the loss and venting the pent up anger which had accumulated by the most brutal oppression of decades. It turned violent only when the forces disallowed peaceful protests. It is reported that at many places violent crowds attacked police camps and burnt down government properties. However, the most of the violence was pelting of stones on the paramilitaries preventing peaceful marches which were answered with bullets, pellet guns and sometimes with pepper as well as tear gas and chilly grenades. If the peaceful protests had been allowed it may have grown into a mass movement and thrown up a new leadership for negotiations. The existing leadership had become irrelevant for the new generation. In fact, this leadership instead of leading is being led! Moreover, the Government instead of giving this leadership a free hand to be with the masses, totally confined them, thereby unleashing leaderless mobs everywhere. Another important factor in the vehemence of the protests has been the somersault of the PDP. In contrast to their pre-election commitment of keeping the Hindutva parties out of Kashmir, they embraced these simply to get the Chief Minister’s chair! This was taken by most people in the Valley as a stab in the back! In fact, PDP has journeyed from self-rule to self-destruction!
Here, it would be interesting to take a parallel of a similar revolt of the sixties of previous century. In 1963, the theft of the holy relic from the Hazratbal shrine gave rise to a mass uprising. In the initial stages, due to intervention of a politician namely Bakshi Rashid, it turned violent. The Radio Station was burnt down; a large number of properties belonging to Bakshi family including the Regal Cinema were destroyed. However, the then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru immediately ordered withdrawal of Army and directed grant of total freedom to the peaceful mass movement. The uprising which was initially for recovering the relic and punishing the culprits, turned political and demanded release of Sheikh Abdullah and holding of Plebiscite. Lal Bahadur Shastri was sent here by Pandit Nehru to negotiate with the leaders of the movement. Sheikh Abdullah was released after 11 years and negotiations were started for the settlement of the basic political problem. The negotiations remained inconclusive because of the untimely death of Pandit Nehru!
In the present case also, the Government could have allowed the peaceful demonstrations even though for “Azadi”. Even if the entire Kashmir comes on the road demanding “Azadi”, that is not going to take away Kashmir physically out of India with every inch being guarded by more than 7, 00,000 soldiers! However, it seems the present set up in New Delhi only believes in holding Kashmiris against their will with the might of soldiers. With the recent brutality exhibited by the security personnel, it is evident that India wants to retain Kashmir and not Kashmiris. As usual, the entire blame for the upheaval is being put on Pakistan which has become the traditional whipping boy! The excuse for that are some Pakistani flags being raised and slogans chanted at protests. It has been reported by many international surveys that hardly 10 percent people would really opt for Pakistan. The majority of Kashmiris want now total freedom, “Azadi”! Pakistan is being used as something to irritate the Indian government, as a symbol of protest because of the general hatred of the present Delhi government for Pakistan. There are also allegations that Pakistan and India are presently colluding to kill Kashmiri! The top leadership in the two countries has common business interests. If tomorrow, China and Russia sympathise with the cause of Kashmiris, they would be raising slogans favouring them!
The recent all parties meet where most of the blame was put on Pakistan is a laughing matter in the Valley. Everyone knows that the present upheaval is totally indigenous. It is the Burhan Generation grown in the conflict of last two decades which is leading it. They do not want laptops but guns, AK 47s to carry on the fight started by Burhan Wani who is being spoken as the Umar Mukhtar of Kashmir! The present situation appears irreversible. However, if New Delhi sincerely and honestly wants to retrieve it, they will have to walk an extra mile instead of sending more and more troops and unleashing more and more brutalities. The first step would be to initiate sincere and honest confidence- building- measures. Curfews would have to be lifted from all over the Valley; all communications including the Internet will have to be restored; all troops would have to be sent back to barracks; all arrested boys would have to be released unconditionally; all bunkers and camps within the civilian areas would have to be removed; the notorious Task Force would have to be disbanded; AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act would have to be withdrawn and total freedom of expression fully restored. These CBMs would need to be initiated under the direct Central Rule as the present set up in the State has totally lost the confidence of the people. These CBMs would have to be followed by negotiations with the genuine and honest representatives of the people from all sections of the society. It may seem a tall order in view of the unrealistic Indian stance but the alternative is total destruction not only in the state but in the whole sub-continent as Kashmir has already been the basic cause of the three earlier wars.
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir