MOHAMMAD ASHRAF | 20 OCTOBER, 2016
The mass uprising which was triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani has already crossed 100 days. The uprising had resulted in total shutdown throughout the valley with massive protest marches. To prevent the marches and public meetings for “Azadi”, the government came down harshly on the marchers resulting in clashes all over the valley. Most brutal and harsh methods were used to quell the marches. Pellet guns, tear gas, pepper gas and even straight bullets were used to prevent the assemblies and the marches. Continuous curfew without relaxation was imposed throughout the valley. It was a virtual siege and the valley was converted into a huge prison with the induction of additional troops.
According to press reports, 94 persons were killed; over 15,000 were injured; 780 people were hit with the pellets in the eyes with many losing eyesight permanently. 9000 people have been arrested out of which 500 have been booked under the Public Safety Act. 5,500 youth are reported to be wanted. Scores have gone into hiding to avoid arrest. Nocturnal raids have been conducted all over the valley. Forces vandalized residential places in many parts of the valley, destroying house hold goods, damaging vehicles, breaking window panes, beating up inmates and in some places burning of harvested crops and destruction of apples was indulged in. The theme appeared to be to terrorize the population into submission. However, all these harsh measures did not deter the youth who were using stones against the bullets. The message everywhere was, “We want Freedom” and “Go India, Go Back”!
All activities had come to a standstill. The government has virtually disappeared at least in the valley. Everything was 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. Law and Order, normally a state subject, has been run directly from Delhi! The situation had been compounded by total communications breakdown. The Internet is still shut. The pre-paid mobile phones were “released” after 95 days! Even the local newspapers failed to appear due to undeclared and unacknowledged official media gag for 3 days. One local English newspaper has been totally banned. One cannot imagine such a situation in any part of India. Kashmir is taken by one and all as the virtual “Enemy Territory” and anything goes here for the sake of the so called “National Interest”! According to some estimates, the trade loss runs into rupees 10,000 crore or more. The loss in Tourism alone is estimated to be around rupees 4,000 crore. It is only in Kashmir that in spite of such harsh measures and massive economic losses, the majority of the people are still surviving and itching to go on and on!
This uprising after a long time woke up the world which had virtually given up Kashmir as a problem. There was a clear cut message to the world from Kashmir that everything was not alright here. The United Nations Human Rights Council wanted to send an observer team but the Indian Government did not allow it. The Chairman went to the extent of saying that if India does not allow observers, there are other means including satellites to monitor the violations of human rights. To divert the attention from these gravest violations of human rights, war hysteria was engineered. The prospects of a destructive war still hang over the sub-continent. Pentagon and NATO had to express concern over the developing situation in the sub-continent and called for restraint. One and all are persuading the two nuclear armed neighbours to sort out their differences including the Kashmir problem through dialogue. Thus after a long time Kashmir is once again on the international radar notwithstanding the fact that the international organisations are not exerting the maximum possible pressure to halt the human rights violations. They could do much more than express their annoyance and anger only!
In contrast, within India there has been a perceptible change among some people in perceiving the real situation in Kashmir. The façade of everything been done by a few pro-Pak elements supported and instigated by Pakistan has been torn away. A large number of people are now accepting the fact that the Kashmiri unrest is something indigenous. Prominent Indian political leaders, top journalists and many social activists of repute are now frankly admitting that the Kashmiris have been grossly wronged. All these people are not only saying that the promises made to Kashmiris have remained unfulfilled but are advocating an open and unconditional dialogue with all the stakeholders to resolve the basic political problem by fulfilling the commitments made to the people. Even the top army commander had admitted in a press conference that peace in Kashmir can only be restored when all stakeholders including the “separatists” are taken on board!
Some people feel that the general masses are getting slowly tired and they will soon give up. Also with all the harshest measures and the use of brute force, the government may be able to bring a lull in the situation and claim the return to superficial normalcy but that will not solve the basic problem. The volcano will continue to simmer underneath for a more destructive eruption next time. For last 70 years Kashmiris are now used and conditioned to these off and on uprisings. They may soon resume normal activities without any credit to the government. However, they refuse to finally give in and call it a day! The resilience and the survival instinct of a Kashmiri are unmatched. They carry on and on as if nothing is wrong. However, once they sense that their existence is threatened, they rise up en masse regardless of the consequences, to the utter surprise of everyone!
On the government side the theory of the problem management has never worked in the past and will not work in future also. The need is for the problem resolution. In the meantime, the brutal suppression of the freedom of expression drives the discontent underground and the resistance takes shape which late Burhan Wani advocated and popularized through social networking. Already it is reported that a 100 weapons have been snatched in these 100 days! This extreme and brutal suppression has given rise to a new wave of indigenous militancy. The “Burhan Generation”, brought up in the conflict of nineties of the last century is running the show. These people are very determined, highly motivated and bold. In nineties, motivation and guns came from across the border. Still the youth were not emotionally charged and mentally prepared to go to the extremes. However, now a revolution has taken place in their minds. They are throwing stones against bullets and even snatching guns! Moreover, they are supported by masses everywhere that even help them during encounters! It is not a good scenario for the entire sub-continent. There is urgent need for saner people on all sides to take a bold and constructive step for the ultimate resolution of the underlying political problem through an open and unconditional dialogue enabling Kashmiris to lead a life of honour and dignity. The 100 days’ message needs to be heeded and acted upon before it is too late!
(Mohammad Ashraf, retired IAS officer was the Director General Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir.)
(Cover photo by BASIT ZARGAR)