Any hope? Choices are limited but not diminished yet

The defining images from Kashmir today are horrifying: 14-year old Insha Malik, blinded and her face pock marked by pellets, of children between ages 5 and 17, recuperating in hospital, with bandaged eyes or wearing sunglasses, of ATM guard’s coffin who received 300 pellets on his body. These images are chilling testimonies of how unprecedented brutalities by the Indian state’s security agencies are shaping the narratives of human lives. Lives, that matter. The brutality is covered with impunity. The only FIR lodged in the Tengpora killing, after court intervention, has been lodged not against the cops who pressed the trigger but against the slain youth. It’s been a month but instead of calming tempers, the government has done everything to fan the fires and add to the restlessness and anguish of the common masses in Kashmir. Curfews. Fresh military reinforcements and only brutal military action. Two more civilians were killed on Friday and 300 more injured as security forces and police heavily pumped pellets and bullets like firecrackers on a festive occasion.

Other than physical and psychological repression, the government uses the art of propaganda to invoke lies or at least obfuscate the picture of Kashmir. Officially, there is denial and added to that is the use of the uninitiated or the over enthusiastic hyper nationalist loyalist media for demonising Kashmiris or at least balancing the tragedy with discourse of rabid, violent mobs, posing a threat to a military apparatus of 7 lakh strong force. How does one equate 57 deaths, hundreds of youth and children losing their eye-sights and limbs with 2 dead cops and few broken jaws? How does one expect the same amount of onus for peace on State’s law keeping forces and militarized and battered people?

No amount of invoking the national interest theory or the uncontrollable mobs theory can justify this picture of tyranny, barbaric and haunting as it is. Not all protests are violent; even peaceful marchers are dispersed with not just tear-gas shells but also bullets and pellets. The gory stories of people being dragged out of their homes and shot at mock at the shoddy defence the government uses of such brutal action. Civilians do not deserve such brutal actions in the name of control, howsoever violent their actions may have been. Besides, such measures have not helped control the situation but accelerated the propellers of rebellion, which builds itself on anger, humiliation and even hatred.

Not only is the inferno unending, perpetuation of this situation is leading to greater chaos and more dangerous trends that are a natural fallout of strangulating and stifling a population that is already battered by a history and memory of abuse. That is why we now see some disturbing images of frustrated youth and children, who cannot understand the reason of their conditions and who find that years of atrocities have robbed them off any fear or love for their lives. They are ready to take to the streets in a do or die mission. They have had enough of the humiliation that has been imposed on them. Many are inspired by ‘Azadi’ but most among them wouldn’t be able to explain what ‘Azadi’ means. And all this leaderless chaos that they find themselves in, they have tasted a sense of power that stems largely from grief, anger and rage, making eight year olds stand on the streets as moral police and question anybody moving on the road. The fact that teenagers and youth have transcended their fears and prefer death over humiliation should have chilled us to the bone. It hasn’t in the way it should have been. It hasn’t even aroused the pressing concerns of the likelihood of the dangerous fallout of the unleashing of this genie of youth power, often frenzied, un-arrestable and unmanageable as it is at the moment.

Kashmir, for long has been desperately craving for attention which it never got. In the present situation is there a word greater than desperate, if at all there is possibility of sensible actions having an impact. With military jackboots and violent repression, no calm can be expected and any calm achieved otherwise, unless accompanied with the intended purpose of ultimately allowing people of Kashmir to decide their own future, would be deceptive, punctuated by the memory of unprecedented and unforgettable scale of atrocities that the Valley has witnessed in the past one month. But who cares? At least not the people who should be expected to deal with the situation sensitively.

The state government has locked itself in its ivory tower. New Delhi ruled by BJP, which wishes to impose its fascism across the country, is ideologically inspired to crush the people of Kashmir far more than its predecessors ever have. More forces are being deployed and more ruthless actions are conceived and implemented with the state government not even making a feeble effort to counter such an obnoxious design, if such actions are not simply driven by stupidity and lack of understanding. The gleeful rhetoric of Islamabad for scoring brownie points over India further adds to the rigidness of the Indian government’s actions. For both sides, Kashmir continues to be a tool for calling names and blame-game; a piñata at a gala party which can be hit and lashed at to get petty treats. It is about territory, not people on either side of the divide. Both sides have turned Kashmir’s tragedy into a merry festive bonfire. Such attitudes betray a lack of seriousness and reveal the misplaced belief that calm may eventually return one way or the other.

The grim reality, however, is that Kashmir has moved a long way away from 2010 only because signs of discontent and anger were ignored and wished away. It is unlikely that tempers would be calmed with the short-term remedies, an eye-wash ultimately, prescribed six years ago. Not to forget, they haven’t shown any signs of even starting yet. 2016 carries with it the both the burden of the past and present level of brutality. And, then there is a history of New Delhi machinations of deceit and fraud in the name of peace overtures in the last one and a half decades. Before that is a long history of broken promises, deposed governments, jailed leaders, rigged elections, erosion of autonomy and of remote controlling the politics and economy of Jammu and Kashmir from Delhi. Today, Kashmir has reached a point, where no remedy may be quite effective.

The worse is that the government instead of looking for a remedy is doing everything to prolong the ailment. And, there is little to expect. The best of statesmen that Indi and Pakistan ever had, Nehru and Jinnah, bungled on Kashmir. Jinnah used the attacks by raiders in 1947 and did not live long to make amend. Nehru blundered in subsequent years, not only backtracking on his promise of plebiscite but going the whole yard ahead in deposing and jailing Kashmir’s leaders, and laid the foundations of New Delhi’s policy with respect to Kashmir. We need visionaries far greater than Nehru and Jinnah on both sides to think and act. That is wishful thinking.

Every detail must be recorded, wrote Jean Paul Sartre. “To neglect no nuances or little details, even if they seem unimportant, and above all to classify them,” he wrote. The tricky thing is that the dispute is far too complex. It involves the peoples of all regions of the state on both sides of the Line of Control. Prescriptions of slicing Kashmir are not very easily workable with the dangerous possibility of communal fallout. Any solution cannot be unilaterally thrust which brings us face to face with the fact that a meaningful and purposeful way ahead is for India, Pakistan and the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir to amicably resolve the issue, provided negotiations with respect to Kashmir are people centric and not get overshadowed by mutual interests or petty politics of Islamabad and New Delhi. Another challenge is that no solutions to peace are workable in such conditions of violence and anger. A referendum doesn’t take place in chaos. Neither does a dialogue. Looking at the picture in totality, the future looks bleak.

The only hope of a way forward comes from the intelligentsia and civil society of Kashmir, India and Pakistan, which can effectively help build up public opinion. The good thing is that many Indian and Pakistani intellectuals who have always suffered from their respective myopia of official status quo and opposing terrorism, and never shown much sympathy for Kashmiris, have begun acknowledging both the suffering and the indigenous nature of their struggles. Their suggested remedies may be far off the mark but their empathy cannot be rejected. At the same time, the young Kashmiri intellectuals have evolved with an immensely powerful ability to tell their own story of grief and resistance. The same anger and passion that inspires the youth on the streets to pick up a stone ignites their creativity.

This generation of intellectuals has a tall responsibility to fulfill – to shun the temptation of getting swayed by overwhelming emotions of the monumental tragedy they suffer from, to engage dispassionately with ground realities at the sub-continental and global levels and within those contexts search for imaginative ways in making their stories more powerful for impacting a change in mindsets. The moment needs to be seized by intelligentsia and civil society across the board – Kashmir, India and Pakistan so that public opinion can be built across South Asia about the imperative need to resolve Kashmir by letting its people decide their future. The perspectives and prescriptions of the intellectual elite may differ but solidarities can be built on basic commonalities of understanding why Kashmir burns and how ferociously it burns and how important it is to save it from burning for the sake of humanity and for the sake of South Asia’s future. Building a strong public opinion that can push governments to act sensibly on Kashmir, and that too in the face of time running out, may be our only chance.

News Updated at : Monday, August 8, 2016