Indian state is becoming increasingly intolerant, arrogant in Kashmir

‘Everything in Kashmir is political’

There haven’t been many in India who has been as vocal as Gautam Navlakha, Convener International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights in Kashmir and editorial consultant of Economic and Political weekly, regarding human rights violations in Kashmir. So much so it has landed him in trouble many a times and his entry to the valley was also barred various times for pro-Kashmiri stand. Never has he shied from raising his voice against atrocities in Kashmir.

In an exclusive interview with Kashmir Thoughts’ Javaid Yousuf, Navlakha talks about Afzal Guru’s hanging and repercussions in the Valley. 

KT: Do you see any message in Guru’s hanging for Kashmiris in general and resistance politicians in particular?

G.N: Well, there are two messages in this, one message is for Kashmiris very categorical that any time anybody in India wants to divert the attention of people, rip of passion, then Kashmir could be used as a fodder and Afzal could be offered as a terrorist. Sacrifice for the sake of political parties’ interest or in the name of national interest and Kashmir would continue to be used as sacrificial goat.

Second message is for Indians that anybody whosoever speaks out in India, not in support will be beaten up by with the goons of Bajrangdal and Shiv Sena and with the help of police as well. So the sum total of both the things mean that Indian state is becoming increasingly more intolerant, more arrogant and whatever lessons they learn from military suppression of the Kashmiri movement for ‘AZADI’ they are now trying to scare them in the rest of India. People would be suppressed for even calling slogans of AZADI.

The message is that both Indian state and society don’t give any damn for any democratic set up and peaceful solution instead they do whatever is possible to keep the Kashmiris suppressed.

KT: Many feel that the hanging has pegged Kashmir many years back, in what sense do they say this?

G.N: Those who say it, they are saying it because they know that the Kashmiri political opinion was very clear that Afzal should not be hanged exactly as the Akali- Dal did in Punjab, the Ana – DMK in Tamil Nadu did, they even believe that since N.C and PDP both Indian parties have told the government of India not to carry it out, so these communicators believe because of all these political factors and all that India will not go that far away, now this is the reason why some people say that Kashmir has been taken years back.

But, I beg to differ from them because long before even Afzal’s hanging it was very clear the way mass protests were dealt in 2008, 2009 and 2010, where people were killed who were throwing stones. So this process has been going on for some time, so when people moved away from militancy towards the mass protests, this is the way in which state dealt with them. They did not use it as an opportunity to explore the possibility of a democratic peaceful solution to the major demand of the Kashmiri people, so peoples demand has already been suppressed and even when people moved away from militancy and came out on the streets to protest in a peaceful way of protesting and now if anything is left will be completed with this Police Bill.

There is a big difference between fighting with guns and holding mass protests in which stones could be used and stones were not the only thing that were used, slogans were also used .People came out in large numbers and not everybody was throwing stones, in a way this was a very peaceful way of protesting and see now if peaceful protests are not allowed to and they have not been allowed since 2008.

K.T: Can the demand of mortal remains of Guru be apolitical?

G.N: Everything is political in Kashmir, of course you will call it a normal human requirement but in Kashmir everything is political. Afzal’s hanging was political, the body being handed over is a political question and the Government of India’s refusal is based on an inhuman politics, where they do not give a damn. 

K.T: How do you compare Guru’s hanging with that of Maqbool Bhat giving the verifying political contexts?

G.N: There is a big difference between the 70s and 21st century Kashmir. There was no militancy when Maqbool was hanged secretly and without giving any opportunity, so the context was very different and obviously that is a big difference. Maqbool Bhat was a tall leader who was killed at a time when there was no militancy and Afzal is like many other Kashmiris who was killed at a time when militancy is in decline and the entire Kashmiri people are being suppressed and kept suppressed.

K.T: What do you make of the demand of Guru’s mortal remains coming from separatists and pro-Indian political parties in Kashmir alike?

G.N: Actually everybody realizes in Kashmir that how strong public opinion is in Kashmir .In India also many demanded that the same but handing over does not mean that the matter ends here , whether it is returned or not it will still be a political issue just like every other thing of Kashmir is politicized. 

K.T: What is the single most important message that Guru’s hanging has carried for Kashmir and its political future?

G.N: Here I draw a distinction between Maqbool Bhat’s hanging and Afzal’s hanging, a distinction of 70s and 21st century. We will have to see the life at the present moment, we have to see what shape it will take and how it will go ahead, it has to be seen.

K.T: What does Guru’s hanging mean politically and personally for Omar Abdullah and his party national conference?

G.N: There are many things in it, see what recently the wiki leaks mentioned in one of its cables about the Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. That he was aware about the about Afzal’s hanging. Now it’s one and same for all these people and political parties there to how much they can succeed in gaining the public support and more important thing is public opinion about these people in coming times, that is in which direction public opinion will go and who will gain how much.

K.T: Now when Afzal Guru is hanged, is it possible for mainstream or separatists to bring back his body or it is a futile exercise?

G.N: No, not at all a futile exercise. Despite all suppression imposed by authorities on people, which include media gag, and internet blockade and forcible measures to suppress the common masses, these all things ultimately increased the public anger and forced the political parties to take such measures, to demand the body of Afzal anyhow.

K.T: It is believed that deliberate attempts of discrimination are made when it comes to Kashmir issue?

G.N: Yes it is pretty obvious that a big difference is made when it comes to Kashmir issue. There are Hindutva and Bajrangdal forces which are given arms training for such things as well and for all these things state must be made responsible.

Bajrangdal and Shiv Sena goons are given arms training to deal with such issues. See what recently these goons did with Kashmiri students studying at many places in India. Every time only Kashmiri students were arrested and not a single Bajrangdal or Shiv Sena goon was arrested.

K.T: How do you see the role of Indian media when it comes to any issue related to Kashmir conflict?

G.N: Well, the so called national media is jingoistic, unprofessional and parsimonious with the truth. It has always deviated the general public of India from knowing the real concerns of Kashmiris. It has always feed them wrong information and deviated the people of India from the right cause.

K.T: What about this draft Police Bill?

G.N: Now, this draft police bill which is prepared by the Home ministry and which comes under the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, makes it very clear that that it is not just going to be the military rule with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but there will be a ‘POLICE RAJ’ through this bill.

The bill which talks about village defense committees and special security zones and all that, it would be a complete POLICE RAJ with this kind of a law for the people of Kashmir.