MOHAMMAD ASHRAF | 29 DECEMBER, 2016
Since 2008, Kashmir has seen at least three mass uprisings. Even though the issues which triggered these upheavals were different yet the outburst had similar theme, demanding “Azadi” or freedom.
The question is why have people been driven to this extreme? There are no two opinions that the major cause of alienation is the excessive use of force and an overwhelming security grid all over the Valley.
Kashmir has been converted into a security camp. The civilian side is conspicuous by its absence. The most visible presence everywhere in the urban as well as rural areas of the valley is of security forces of all hues and shades with little accountability. The authorities are still debating and discussing whether there should be some accountability.
The main trigger for the current uprising was the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani. The story about his taking up a gun has been told and retold many times. He was virtually driven to it by excessive use of force by the security forces. Apart from this, the other causes for the present upheaval were the continuous BJP campaign to end the special status of the State. In fact, the betrayal of PDP in regard to keeping BJP out of Kashmir acted like an accelerator for the uprising which was more pronounced in the South, supposed to be the stronghold of the PDP.
Kashmir has most of the time been of unpredictable character. In the middle of an uprising which breaks out like a storm one gets the feeling that the game is over and soon Kashmir will be “free” but then comes a time when one wonders whether the storm was real or just an illusion? A person who visits Kashmir during a political storm and conversely the days of calm would be totally confused.
The reason often given especially by historians is the centuries of oppression which have sharpened the survival instincts of a Kashmiri. He knows when to rise and when to stop but never gives up! As a British author in his book about Kashmir has remarked. “An outsider can never know what is really in the heart of a Kashmiri”! He never genuinely and truly opens up before an outsider. According to the author, a kind word and a joke get the best out of a Kashmiri!
The last three turmoils in the valley (2008, 2010 and 2016) have brought a change in the thinking of a section of the Indian Civil Society and there is appreciable sympathy for the sufferings of the Kashmiris. This has been more so during the current year because of the excessive use of force, especially the use of pellet guns on basically non-violent and peaceful spontaneous outpourings of the people all over the valley which erupted after the killing of Burhan Wani. The violence started only after these marches and protests were disallowed by the authorities through harshest possible means.
The authorities in New Delhi and Srinagar put all the blame on Pakistan notwithstanding the fact that neutral observers from all over the world emphatically stated that the uprising was indigenous. Well, Pakistanis will always try to use any opportunity to make India uncomfortable. It is the same story on both sides! Indians have always tried to overlook the fact that the stone pelting or other violence is a reaction to the suppression of peaceful protests.
People are confused regarding the outcome of the recent 5 month long agitation. Did it achieve anything? There are several views on the subject. Some feel that the greatest achievement has been the revival of the dormant Kashmir dispute. The issue had been put on the back-burner by both the Indian authorities and the world at large. Even though the problem of Kashmir continues somewhat still to be on the back burner for the west and the world at large in view of numerous other hot spots, yet the certain Indian intellectuals seem to be more concerned now about its final resolution. They have been freely airing their views and some have even visited Kashmir in the recent times.
In the past, the tactics being used by New Delhi were ones for conflict management and not for final resolution of the problem. They were able to buy time. One would have thought that they would consider the fact that the traditional leadership itself is confused and are in the dark about the future plans of the new generation. The new generation should have been spoken to. They could use the small window made available by the onset of winter which is usually a time for hibernation in Kashmir. Everything freezes under a blanket of snow but the spring is not far behind!
The so called mainstream politicians presently ruling the state who were slightly singed by the scorching heat of the turmoil have been busy in a disinformation campaign. They are repeatedly taking the line that the 5 month agitation was externally sponsored and has only got misery and disruption for the common people. Probably, they have a feeling that they may lose power if New Delhi decides to act earnestly in resolving the problem. However, as an anti-climax, New Delhi has gone a step beyond them and has, in fact, initiated measures for not only creating a new storm but virtually a tornado which may suck and sweep everything in its path!
Normally, after the abating of the storm one would have expected the Central Government to extend full support to the State Government to ameliorate the storm damages by way of full assistance in day to day problems including the acute shortage of power, dilapidated roads, and general economic loss and so on. They should have been in addition, trying their best to open an unconditional dialogue with all sections of the society including the new “Burhan Generation”. However, for their short term gains in the forthcoming elections, they are creating conditions for a real twister to hit the state soon with the destruction becoming irrevocable! SARFAESI and WPRs may be the first triggers for that!
(The writer is former Director General Tourism of Jammu and Kashmir)