Kashmir In Grief

Aug 9th, 2016 | Category: Articles

By Amitava Kar

The turbulence following the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani by Indian security forces is a blow to peace in the long-troubled region claimed by both India and Pakistan, where an insurgency movement peaked in the 1990s, then dwindled, but never completely melted away. Can deep loss, once it finds utterance, be silenced through the barrel of a gun?

More than fifty people have been killed and thousands injured while protesting. More than a hundred young people are threatened with blindness by pellets lodged in their eyes. Meanwhile, many others are living in a state of siege, with access to basic communication cut off. State authorities banned publication of newspapers for three days.

Disturbing questions about the timing and the circumstances of Wani’s death remain unanswered. So too are questions about the apparently random use of pellet guns.  “Was it necessary to neutralise Burhan at a time when all triggers attempted by the separatists had failed to instigate a return to the situation in 2008-10?” asks Syed Ata Hasnain, a former three-star General of the Indian Army, in an article titled An old new militancy published in The Indian Express on July 14. “Could it have awaited the termination of the Amarnath Yatra, the implications being obvious?”

Is the use of force including censorship and communications blackout, allowed by AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) worthy of democracy? “The killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet,” according to Pankaj Mishra, eminent Indian novelist and writer. “In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the valley’s four million Muslims are exposed to extra-judicial execution, rape and torture…”

The Indian government usually blames the neighbouring country for the mess. At a recent press conference at the end of his visit to Srinagar and Anantnag, the Indian home minister warned that the neighbouring country should not to interfere in India’s internal affairs and that it should change its attitude and approach towards Kashmir. The view, surprisingly, is shared by many experts on both sides who believe that the crimes committed by armed groups based on the other side of the border have severely undermined the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom movement and deprived it of its most potent weapon—the moral high ground.

Trapped between these two big guns of the subcontinent, where will the Kashmiri people look?  There isn’t much going their way at the international level. In the UN, the Kashmir dispute is today on the back burner. Even at the level of passing resolutions, the response from the OIC has been lukewarm. More importantly, China is extremely cautious about liberating Kashmir through violence.

The Central government is often accused of not having a clear strategy.  The anguish and alienation many Kashmiris feel come from the sheer lack of communication, the inability of the political community to shed the fears of the prolonged proxy war, the lack of grass-root politics and the mistaken belief that polls make up for all that. In the absence of this engagement, a wide space has been opened to the religious ideologues. The policies of India’s ruling coalition have also created controversy in Jammu and Kashmir. Modi’s BJP is angling to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants Kashmir its autonomous status.

What about the state government of Jammu and Kashmir and the new Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti? Her Peoples Democratic Party, which she played an important part in founding, has not spoken of its earlier lofty ideal of self-rule, demilitarisation and return of dignity ever since it allied in March last year with the BJP. Her government, reportedly, continues to use the Public Safety Act to silence opponents.

No one knows what the solution is. But whatever it is, can it be reached without giving Kashmiris a voice?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment