A month has passed and peace seems to be an unimaginable thing in the valley of Kashmir. Burning in the political inferno, only the people of Kashmir are at the suffering end while the Indian state seems to be busy in drafting the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amendments. With hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, brutalities and torture, the valley of Kashmir still bleeds as the normalcy seems to be a mirage. Children chasing away the police vehicles with stones in their hands, police retaliating by hitting them with pellet guns, blood soaked streets, siren of emergency vehicles, over-occupied hospitals are some of the bits and pieces of the present collage of the valley of Kashmir.
While the Indian PM wants to address the youths of the valley and the struggle in Kashmir through Twitter and Facebook, authorities have blocked the internet supply in many regions of the valley. No matter who rules the Indian state, policy for Kashmir never changes, whether it is the right or the rest. Every time some influential figure is killed in Kashmir, violence erupts in the valley and our Parliament sits, discusses the issue and forgets everything.
Between the Mountains and the Plains
A Muslim majority geographical setting ruled by Hindu kings was the most harmonious thing that was once witnessed on the footprints of globe during the colonial times in the lap of Himalayas. But the decision to merge the kingdom of Kashmir with the Indian state in 1947 when India got independence against the will of the people of Kashmir inevitably questioned the autonomy of the regime.
It also led to the surfacing of rebuttals and contestations in the most beautiful landscape features of the sub-continent. Thus, the historical decision to merge Kashmir with the Indian Territory by the dogra king of Kashmir Maharaj Hari Singh, has been contested since then by the people of Kashmir.
Kashmir is subjected as a disputed territory which has Pakistan and India as claimed stakeholders along with the people of Kashmir. Though the majority of Kashmiri people want a referendum, as per the UN directives, to their claim of an independent state, India and Pakistan both claim their part of the beautiful landform.
Wars have been fought between India and Pakistan to strengthen their respective claim over Kashmir, making it an international issue with the United Nations. Surrounded by the nuclear powers of south Asia, Kashmir is thus the most militarized region of the world.
Once a lawmaker of the state assembly of Uttar Pradesh (a province within Indian territory), Fazlul Bari said that the Kashmir valley is not just the most militarized region but also the most sensitive spatial arrangement in the world which has active cells of global intelligence agencies, including MOSSAD, CIA and BND operating from its surface.
Polarization in India and the rise of Hindu nationalism has directly affected the social fabric of Kashmir. The rise of the right wing Hindu party, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and its present political dispensation at the national stage has given a strong message to the people of Kashmir that for them hot days are here. That’s why the separatists’ didn’t call for a boycott to the assembly elections in the state of J & K, thus, a high voting percentage was seen in the Muslim majority Kashmir with minimal events of violence.
Like in plains, Muslims in the valley too were struggling to keep away the BJP from coming to power. And this high voting percentage in the Muslim majority Kashmir region worked inevitably in the favor of the BJP to get votes in the Hindu majority Jammu region. Thus, BJP emerged as the largest party from the Jammu region, PDP from the Muslim majority Kashmir. And when PDP formed a coalition government with the BJP, the interactive space succumbed and the mistrust in the electoral process and the administrative authorities rose to the highest.
Abuse of Power
With the increasing presence of the armed forces and the implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), clashes started becoming brutal. Rapes and sexual harassments became a routine. Harassments, torture and illegal detentions in detention camps reminded of the Nazi Germany under the rule of the fascist ruler Adolf Hitler and the Indian state worked on the designed network which was prevalent during the cruel British rule in India. The same can still be traced with the advancement in technology, torture machinery has been redeveloped to meet the brutal standards set by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against the Palestinians.
With Burhan Wani’s death, valley erupted with protests and ‘as usual’ bullets aimed at the protestors killed many. Use of pellet gun as a non-lethal weapon did much damage, targeting innocents in the latest rounds of protests. But the way security forces retaliate is astonishing as it reveals the saga of brutalities and inhumanities chosen for the people of the valley.
Protests happened in Gujarat under Hardik Patel’s call never saw even a tear gas or a water canon aimed at them. The damage to the properties of the state is itself on record and how the machinery worked. Protests happened in Haryana, in the recent Jat agitation in which not only arms and other weapons were used but as reported, they also raped women in the fields, not even a single bullet was fired at the protesting mob.
Thus it shows that as the landform keeps elevating, the level of torture keeps soaring. When the law enforcing agencies have adopted a dual policy for the protestors in the Indian state including Kashmir (the integral part of India as per the Indian claims), then it can be imagined that how just is the justice itself.
Presence of Armed Forces and the immunity provided to them by the law in the name of AFSPA is the worst thing valley has ever witnessed. Disappeared, killed, encountered, hanged and custodial deaths are some of the lexical to define how the security forces have neutralized the agitating masses.
The Revolutionary Terrorists
Binayak Sen, Arundhati Roy or Simranjit Mann are some of those names who were booked for their ‘anti-state’ activities, whether for writings or for their speeches. And there are men who’re fighting against the state carrying out an arms movement attacking the army and the police. Naxalites are one such revolutionary who are fighting for their right on their land and its resources. Indian state terms Naxalism as militancy, as any armed struggle within a state is seen as a revolt against the state and its rule. They too are booked under the same law to suppress any resistance against the state rule. But, the irony is that the book of law which is referred to suppress any struggle or movement in independent India was framed by the British India government while ruling the people of India to suppress any anti-government activity at that time.
Bhagat Singh, an Indian revolutionary, hurled bombs at the British Indian Parliament in Delhi in 1929. He was caught in the act and when investigation happened, it was revealed that Bhagat was the man also wanted for the assassination of a British police officer John Saunders. Bhagat claimed that it was an act in revenge as John was claimed to be the officer who killed Lala Lajpat Rai during an agitation. Thus, Bhagat Singh was hanged for his involvement in the assassination of the officer. Whereas, the Indian people protested the hanging of Bhagat Singh, calling him a revolutionary as it was a freedom struggle against the colonial rule of Britain and approved whatever Bhagat did to take out revenge. This is just one of the many examples from the colonial times where vocabularies clashed to differentiate between a terrorist and a revolutionary.
Maqbool Bhat a Kashmiri revolutionary protesting against the Indian rule in Kashmir attacked a local crime branch inspector in 1966, in which the inspector died. Bhat was arrested on the charges of murder and conspiring against the state rule, a death sentence was announced. Years after leading a life of revolutionary, training youths to fight against the oppression of the Indian state and educating them about the Indian colonial footprints on the surface of the valley, Bhat was captured in the valley and hanged in the historic city of Shahjahan. So, Bhat who was a terrorist in prison became a poster boy of freedom struggle in the valley.
Afzal Guru was hanged for a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. His hanging highlighted the injustice which the Kashmiri people face and the verdict proved that India wanted to satisfy the collective conscience of the majoritarian democracy. Protests erupted and many died in those protests while the network lines were blocked to stop anything to come out of the valley. So, a terrorist in the eyes of the Indian agencies, right wing as well as the Indian Congress, Guru became a hero and martyr of the freedom struggle.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani is the saint soul of the freedom movement of Kashmir and a trusted figure of resistance in the valley. The man leading a simple lifestyle remains under house-arrest most of the times in a year because of his influential figure and credence of his efforts for freedom. A former law-maker, Geelani was actively involved in the electoral politics of the valley. But the way Geelani’s thinking got reformed, resistance in Kashmir got strengthened under the leadership of Geelani and today it is said that no matter who governs the state, it’s Geelani whose calendar is accepted among the masses, the calendar of protests and working.
“Sarkar Kisi Ki Bhi Ho, Calendar Geelani Ka Hi Chalta Hai”
Asiya Andrabi is the feminist face of resistance in Kashmir involved in the freedom struggle much before Geelani. She is the leader of Dukhtaran e Millat, an organization used to mobilize women against the Indian oppressions. Protesting the beef ban in the province of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) Asiya slaughtered a cow in the media presence to which she faced action from the J & K authorities. The iron lady of protests Asiya, the celebrated face among the protesting masses, has seen prison, faced interrogations and tried for organizing women towards the direction closer to their faith.
Burhan Wani, the youngest revolutionary commander in the eyes of the people of Kashmir and a militant as per the Indian state, was seen as an inspirational figure among the youths of the valley. In his teenage Burhan joined the armed struggle of the valley against the Indian oppression and within months he gained popularity with his social media activities. Though Article 370 was unable to convict Burhan in any of the cases labeled against him and his activities, yet he was claimed to be the mastermind behind several attacks on the army and the police. Burhan was killed on 8th July during an Indian army raid in the forests of southern Kashmir. Burhan, the leader of resistance was laid to rest in the presence of a huge congregation witnessed ever in the valley.
Every funeral becomes a stage of protest and when Burhan died, protests started happening in the rural as well as urban geographical settings of the valley. Thus, the calm and serene atmosphere became uneasy and Jhelum started flowing red as the security forces retaliated by hitting the protesting mob, including women and children, with bullets and pellets, followed by a series of arrests and detentions. And Indian agencies term any such death which happens because of the protests as the death of a militant, whereas the people of Kashmir remember the dead as a hero of the freedom movement and the deceased is remembered as a martyr.
Risings in the past
Late 1980s saw the emergence of arms struggle in the valley after the end of Soviet War in Afghanistan. Fighters from the adjoining countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan joined the freedom movement along with the Kashmiri inhabitants. Kashmir witnessed one of the largest exoduses of religious minorities from the valley, as they moved out of their own homeland on the assurance of the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir Jagmohan. The ground was created as if for a battle between the people of Kashmir and the armed forces.
2016 is the first unrest of the Modi-led NDA government and one of the major protests of the recent past which has resulted in killings and injuries, rest of the unrests happened during the so-called secular congress and its allies which had resulted in the brutalities of the same order.
Burhan Wani Aftermath
Since July 8th, the valley of Kashmir has been seeing one of the bluntest faces of torture and brutalities on its surface. The young revolutionary commander Burhan was a flamboyant leader who became a pivotal figure in the militant organization and his social media activities charmed many youths from the valley to join him in the cause. A planned activity to neutralize Burhan in a rural setting worked for the security forces and thus, the bullets from the armed forces hit Burhan in which he breathed his last. Curfew, media blackout with blocked communication system brought Kashmir to a standstill. Every death which comes to the valley strengthens the freedom movement.
Pellet guns are the most talked and the most condemned subject during the fresh protests in the valley. Many lost their vision because of the use of this non-lethal weapon. India blames that these protestors are financed and funded by the Pakistan. Children under ten are subjected to brutalities of the armed forces. With stones in their tiny hands and pro-freedom slogans on their tongue, how can someone buy eight years olds’ mind? Thousands in hospitals for treatment, hundreds laid to rest, Kashmir is being tested by untested waters.
Afzal Guru Aftermath
Termed as the judicial killing among the intellectual class of the Indian society, killing of Afzal Guru sparked protests within the rural as well urban demographics of Kashmir. Afzal was hanged in 2013 during the Congress ruled UPA government as he was accused of the attack on the Indian parliament.
“Is Khoon Ka Badla, June Mein Lenge”
We’ll avenge this death in summers
Valley erupted with protests after a staged encounter by the armed forces in which three youths were killed in the name of militancy. With hundreds of deaths in the protests followed including the death of an eleven year old boy, international human rights watch cried the foul play by the Indian administration and separatists in Kashmir demanded for the demilitarization of the valley. Curfew, tear gas and use of live ammunitions are some of the common things which get surfaced in any of the protests, followed by arrests and detentions.
Apart from these events on the timeline, patience of the Kashmiri people has been tested from time to time by the Indian state. Sometimes in the name of land transfer to religious organizations and sometimes in the name of settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in a segregated living taking reference from Jewish settlements in Gaza and West Bank. And every protest is followed by the use of tear gas, pellets and bullets resulting in deaths, injuries and permanent disabilities.
Kill Us, We’ll Rise Even More
Is freedom, the only road ahead?
“Hum Kya Chahte, Azadi
Geelani Dega, Azadi
Burhan Wali, Azadi”
These were the slogans raised during the infamous JNU incident earlier this year in which some students were booked for organizing a cultural evening commemorating the custodial death of Afzal Guru. No matter what the occasion is, these slogans can be heard on the streets of Kashmir whenever there is a congregation. And raising slogans for Geelani shows the confidence people have in his freedom movement leadership and the slogans for Burhan told that he was an accepted leader of resistance among the youths of the valley.
Kashmir wants a referendum to decide its fate, whether to be an independent state or an ally of one of its neighbor, India or Pakistan. That’s why slogans for employment or better living are never heard on the streets of the valley, because employment and better living is still there and can be achieved with time, but what is needed the right to self determination, the right to live life with dignity.
Generations have witnessed that the road which leads to New Delhi is blood-soaked. Under the camouflage of democracy India has done irreparable damage to generations. With its brutal and torturous armed forces, India has wiped away men who resisted against the oppression and atrocities, thus the biggest democracy failed in Kashmir and turned into an anarchist regime for the people of Kashmir.
Jabri Naata Tod Do, Kashmir Hamara Chhod Do
End the accession and leave Kashmir
Urban Planner | Architect | Writer
Columnist @ The Architectural Review (London),
Contributor to The Guardian (UK)
Author: Sustainable Development of Yamuna Floodplain, Delhi