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...and Only Kashmiris Die!

By Raouf Rasool

14 March, 2013

Once again our worst fears came true on Monday night when a load-carrier (auto) driver Riyaz Ahmad Khanday died at Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) Soura. 23-year-old Khanday of Mattan Anantnag was not killed in “police action”, but he was left critically wounded when a group of men objected to his defiance of the separatists’ shutdown call in the evening of March 8 and pelted a stone at him. He was carrying three labourers to a neighbouring village in his load-carrier.

What is really pathetic is that nobody from the political class – either from the mainstream or the separatist camps deemed this tragic death worth a comment and condemnation. All they had to share was just a token cliché – “it’s unfortunate”. So despite losing entire generations of Kashmir’s youth to unbridled and mindless violence, the habit of selective condemnations continues. Needless to say that as long as this remains the case, the death of dance will continue; and ordinary mortals will go on falling like lame ducks to the violence committed by visible and invisible hands within and without. By selectively condemning the acts of barbarism on basis of the identity and allegiance of the victims and the perpetrators – ‘who killed whom’ – we have by design or through default condoned a culture of violence which is bound consume us all! Indeed it is this culture of selective condemnations which has pushed Kashmir in self-inflicting-and-perpetuating cycles of violence - repeating and recurring regularly without showing much signs of ending.

Without going into the politics behind any agitation, including of course the current one, let’s try and engage the tactical part – why is it that the violence has become the acceptable way of registering anger. For past few years stone-pelting has seemingly become a popular culture with most of the agitations in Kashmir. While the state too shares blame for having narrowed down the available options for the people to vent out their ire against what they think is unjust and must be protested, those in the adversarial camp are equally blameworthy for instigating people to use such violent means, stone-pelting for instance, excessively and indiscriminately.

State has all along used its machinery to suppress nonviolent tactics through brute force, which obviously contributes to pushing the antagonists towards violent means. State needs to change this mindset vis-à-vis dealing with the popular perceptions about issues and concerns at stake. It too has a choice to make – whether to, and if at all, using the indiscriminate and often disproportionate force is the only means available to it while dealing with the popular unrest.

Those who are pitted against the state and its systems too should come out with a clear articulation and understanding of how what they are doing is going to help “people’s cause”. Slamming blames only on the invisible hands “supported and patronized by the state” has been going on for long now. It has long lost its appeal with the people. Somebody will have to take lead in fixing the responsibility for the repeated cycles of self-inflicting violence that people have been pushed into. The killing of over 120 people during the 2010 agitation, and five people during past few weeks this year are too big a loss to be brushed aside as mundane. Nor would it suffice to blame some unidentifiable or even identified elements “unleashed by the state”. If those instigating people for agitations do not have means to control them, its better they stop flaring up agitations in the first place. Kashmir has already lost too many people to violence, and wisdom lies in not wasting more lives to the instigations by those who have based their political survival and relevance in inciting unrest without ever bothering to articulate how it helps anybody’s “cause”.

Provocations and instigations would always be there; the indications of a fresh agitation too are already here, and hindsight has it that those who thrive on public unrest would do whatever it takes to flare up things. But as a people, we all will have to stop for a while and think – for how long are we going to serve as cannon fodder for someone else’s politics?

The writer is Editor of Kashmir Images, a daily English newspaper published from Srinagar and Jammu simultaneously.





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