Breaking the vicious cycle of violence

The vicious cycle of strike, curfew, clashes and violence appears unending. Signs of disarray and anarchy have set in, anger fuelled and propelled by shocking brutal methods of crowd control being employed. The government in Jammu and Kashmir in a state of mindless confusion and an insensitive and complacent government in New Delhi (probably by design) further exacerbate the situation. So does the loyalist media as it blares round the clock untruths about Kashmir and happily performs the duty of promoting state propaganda. A prolonged crisis is not just elongating the list of casualties, it is causing complete anarchy. The security forces enjoy unbridled power and face no accountability for killing or maiming people, using bullets or pellets, despite the lip assurances of “restraint”. This restraint is not only exercised in breach, it is further violated through additional methods like nocturnal raids and random arrests of youth, picked up and detained without a shred of evidence, interrogated and even beaten up. All this further enrages the masses, already horrified and shocked by the scale of killings, injuries and blindings. The agitated mobs on streets, outraged and leaderless, remain beyond control. More ominous signs emerge with stray reports of media persons heckled up by both security men and agitated crowds – a dangerous sign of how people are likely to be caught between the security apparatus that treats them like an enemy and the crowd’s new avatar as ‘moral police’ where accumulated anger and stimulus to fight back gives it the power to question and suspect everybody else’s politics and ideas.

There should be no surprises. This is the natural fallout when collective anger and impatience accumulated over the years has gone beyond the tipping point and spilled over; and the anger instead of being allowed to cool down is being tamed through repressive ways. Whether the state government is helpless, powerless, lying, inefficient or kept in the dark (in any of the five cases, it is culpable one way or the other), the cards on Kashmir are in the hands of New Delhi. It calls the shots and remains far more responsible, its power exercised through brute military methods, not political intervention which it shies from and makes the greatest blunder. This time, it is not just buying time in response to a crisis, as it often does. It is hastening the chaos by fuelling the anger and psychologically inflicted injuries, through methods that are appalling and just will not work. Besides, they also have the potential to further aggravate the crisis.

The more Kashmir Valley gasps for breath, the more Indian government is making attempts to throttle it. Choking a place with a huge population can kill, maim people, not wish away a crisis; much less solve a problem. Instead, it will only inspire a backlash, angry outbursts and promote more violence and chaos that will eventually have a spill-over effect.

The dangerous abyss that Kashmir is fast slipping into is indeed a making of over six decades of bad politics of New Delhi and Islamabad, of successive regimes on either side, of New Delhi’s high handed means of controlling people and their lives including the political set-up. But now that it has crossed that tipping point, as dreaded by analysts and human rights activists working in Kashmir for long, there is no time for luxury of inventing villains elsewhere or complacency of copy pasting the prescriptions from the available official manual on Kashmir and enforcing them with greater strictness. Rather it is time to do just the reverse. It is time to give a little leverage. No hell will break loose if the security apparatus is stopped from using liberal doses of lethal and so-called non-lethal or less-lethal ammunition on civilians in a bid to tame them.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh in Srinagar last week spoke about talking to all sections of people of Kashmir after the ‘calm’ which remains evasive as long as brutal methods of crowd control applied by forces continue to act as a stimulant for mob outrage. It is a vicious cycle but somebody has to break it. The expectations are more from the rulers, not the enraged and leaderless masses frustrated by years of oppression.

Is the Centre’s assessment about Kashmir wrong? Or, are the moves stupidly deliberate? Looking at the past seven decades, one can safely assume that New Delhi is inspired by the pure ambition of controlling Kashmir, whose people it has always mistrusted. Either, it doesn’t bother about the impact such actions have on people or does not understand the sentiments of the people. The BJP that now rules the Centre has always looked at Kashmiris far more contemptuously and its abject refusal to make efforts to mend fences, even in times of humanitarian crisis like the 2014 floods, stem from its ideology which it is viciously applying in rest of the country as well. A party whose MPs and ministers are recorded to have made hate speeches, which shockingly was part of the Babri demolition and which has blood on its hands in Gujarat and Kandhamal would not be inspired by any noble intentions when it comes to Kashmiris. There is little to expect from a government that remains silent to increasing attacks on Dalits, Muslims and Christians across the country. Hopes are diminishing with horrifying trends of a man lynched by a right wing mob for allegations of eating beef, of going easy on the mob and instead registering cases against the lynched man’s family charting a new path for this country.

The BJP may have inherited the mess of Kashmir, which is certainly not of their making. But they have inherited it at a time when Kashmir was just about ready to explode. Ideologically, it may suit the BJP. But where does that leave India or South Asia because when anarchy of Kashmir will resonate with a spill-over effect, whichever form this rage and violence takes. The Centre can use all its jackboots and military but it will not be able to contain it just there on one side of the Banihal tunnel. It will move ferociously beyond Banihal and beyond Lakhanpur. A presently gloating Pakistan, foolishly using the Kashmir the ongoing violence and chaos to its advantage, will no longer find reason to smile when waves of that chaos would cross the formidable Line of Control and the borders unhindered. Pragmatism, therefore, lies in lowering the rhetoric and for both sides to understand the need of the time – the imperatives of mending fences with each other and of heeding the voices of people of Kashmir, not chaining and certainly not by use of bullets and pellets. The answer ultimately lies in listening to the voices, hearing what they want and understanding why they want it.

News Updated at : Sunday, July 31, 2016