Kashmir over the years has been presented as an internal issue to the international forums by Indian state or merely a “law and order” situation. Historically whenever people in Kashmir have demanded their rights, the state has responded by trampling more rights. The latest developing trend is that the pop-up war rooms, The big Indian media houses, their paid analysts at a distant bay, declare people on streets as gullible individuals who are just puppets and work on Pakistan’s whim.
These experts on Kashmir have forgotten their history. They have forgotten the fact that before the existence of nations’ status to India and Pakistan, Kashmiris were resisting for their rights, be it the first labor protest of Shawl weavers in 1865 or 2016 civil uprising. Between these two dates there are number of civilian and political movements to have in the Jammu Kashmir against the authoritarian rule. Silk factory unrest 1924, the 1931 uprising against Dogra Rule, Plebiscite movement 1953, the rising of MUF, the armed struggle in 1989 or the civilian uprisings of 2008, 2010 and the most recent one 2016.
One cannot commentate on the ground situation relaxing behind the AC-ed walls of some cozy room with pre-conceived notions. In war-torn Kashmir, the anger against the state terror has taken the form of a gigantic undercurrent, which needed a reason to erupt, and Burhan’s killing was just that one reason. One has to understand when peaceful struggles are provided no space; a more violent form of struggle is inevitable. Kashmir has always been a dangerous place for those who dissent, those who contest or are perceived to contest the legal sovereignty of India over their lives, minds and ideas. The dissent may be in the form of highlighting the violent measures that the state uses to maintain it’s unconstitutional occupation of streets and lands or in the form of throwing stones at these troopers, or people mourning the death of a local militant, who in the modern Nagpur-ic nomenclature are termed as Upper-Ground Workers or as collateral damage.
The successive uprisings of 2008 and 2010 and the direct confrontations with Police, Army have detached the element of fear and changed the dynamics of the politics surrounding the area. It has created a sense of solidarity with the local armed struggle among the new generation. The unarmed youth are even willing to put their lives at stake to give the escape route to fighters trapped in encounters. It is a norm now particularly in southern Kashmir whenever these armed rebels are trapped anywhere people risk their ownlives to help the fighters flee from the anti-militant operations conducted by Indian forces. There are number of events since 2010 when Indian forces opened fire on civilians, there is a trend developing in Southern Kashmir and has led to the death of at least 4 civilians in the past month during encounters. There is a sense of deep alienation and a disbelief in the credibility of a political process, which faces non-serious players on the state level and on the local level.
The civilian uprisings of 2008 and 2010 saw a shift of the conflict to a new generation.The demonstrations saw the participation of millions of unarmed civilians. The civilian uprisings though were responded by an intense crackdown against the people who were leading or actively participating in these rallies. They used draconian laws to book people and even juveniles. Conflicting Reports suggest that more than 700 minors have been booked under PSA since 2008. The state killed and maimed people, irrespective of age and gender, choked all the voices of dissent crushing thespace for the political solution. The denial of a space and an ear to political aspirations usingimmense force has given rise to a parallel violent uprising and young men in their late 20’s, or early 30’s took the lead this time.
The problem gets more worsened with the shift of nationalistic policies and meeting dissent with Modi’s ‘iron fist’. The rise of nationalistic politics in India and the decline of liberal policies can only lead to a path of direct confrontation, which is dangerous in any social civilized setup. Moreover, the local “unholy alliance”, people believe has no ‘agenda of alliance’ at all. They failed to release political prisoners; they failed to preserve Article 370 by setting up secluded colonies and providing base to West Pakistan refugees much against the promises promised prior to the election. The “unholy alliance” also warned the Muslims displaced in Rohingya, Myanmar and Bangladesh to vacate from Jammu in name of “Safeguarding culture and traditions”. The denial of space to political peaceful struggle has made a violent struggle inevitable.
The alternate modes of resistance that have been a result of disbelief in the political system and the continuous failures of the political system to deliver must concern every individual. The belief here has been pinned against the wallcreating more and more victims of the conflict. The sequence of the events that has unfolded post- 2010 Uprising has created a violent discourse and more and more local youth have joined militancy.
In 2016, the civilian uprising that was the most widely responded to political call was again met with a similar response. Post the killing of Burhan Wani, more than 80 youth have officially taken up arms, which includes a new breed of educated youth. The new age militancy has created a romantic discourse and militancy is now glorified through videos and messages circulated through the social media. These new age militants use the social networking to circulate their aspirations and political message.
When the distrust amongst the civilian population against all the institutions of a system is mounting, it just erodes the credibility of that system. The propaganda media, the highhandedness of armed forces over courts, the refusal to release political detunes even after the court orders at the hands of those who claim to be representing the system has created a system of “No Exit” and has created a sense of lawlessness amongst the local populace. There is a high level of consensus among intelligentsia of India, Pakistan and Kashmir that the Indian State has mishandled the political imbroglio of Kashmir. The elusive notion of peace cannot be termed as concrete and a long lasting peace, but it’s based on weak foundations, does not take a long time to disband. The Indian State has to ear the genuine plea of the Kashmir public and get involved in threadbare political discussions with not only the enforced stakeholders but should take cross sections of people including the resistance forces to stop the situation from drifting into a state of complete anarchy.
Rayees Rasool is a political writer Activist