Since last one decade gun culture has gained new currency as a tool of resistance in Kashmir. Gun as an active mode of resistance has been part of the different anti colonial and anti imperialist struggles. Violence is an indispensable part of the human history. Violence is a basic tool of change in the different ideologies including Marxism. History on the other hand is a witness to the limited success of violence too. Further the nature of state, military and combatants too have changed and state now has assumed the ultimate legitimacy of using violence. Without going into the legal debates of state and non state actors’ legitimacy about the use of violence this fact needs to be acknowledged that violence has now gained an ultimate upper hand as a mode of resistance in Kashmir against Indian militarization.
The gun culture in state of Jammu and Kashmir is not something new. Groups and organizations have been using it to achieve their ends including the state and government. Since 1931, armed insurgent groups were a part of political spectrum of Kashmir. The armed groups of Dogras massacred nearly three hundred thousand Muslims in Jammu during the months of 1947 when the whole Indian subcontinent was burning. Since 1947 many armed groups tried to overthrow the government and achieve their political goals by using violence. Till 1990s these groups were limited to few youth and their each attempt failed to yield the desired results. But since 1990s with the active involvement of Pakistan a generation of youth actively participated in the armed insurgency. The mass armed insurgency was met with brutal repression that led Kashmir to be converted in the highest militarized zone in the world.
The armed insurgency though actively supported by Pakistan materially and monetarily suffered from ideological confusion in the first phase only. The confusion among the insurgent ranks related to the vision of independent Kashmir or being a part of Islamic Pakistan. This confusion resulted in the internecine battles among the insurgents ranks. The insurgency prolonged and state armed renegades (irregulars) to do the dirty work. It resulted in massive human rights violations that further alienated Kashmiris from the state (read India).
The year 2008 proved to be a watershed in contemporary history of Kashmir. Hundreds and thousands of civilians were protesting on the streets against the alleged demographic change and attack on their peculiar and distinct identity as land was transferred to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). This agitation brought to the fore the communal and regional fault lines between the Kashmir and Jammu region. The aftermath of this mass agitation later led to communal flare and economic blockade of Kashmir valley by the fringe Hindutva elements of Jammu. It was much hyped during the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation that the Kashmiri resistance has now transited to non violent one. I surmised, wrote and spoke that there was no transaction because even during the height of militancy, mass non violent civilian protests were carried out that did not mean insurgency and violence has transformed to a non violent struggle. For violence and non violence ideology, training and discourse are needed that can sustain it and render it pragmatic to achieve its sustainable goals.
The rise of Burhan Wani in the aftermath of 2010 agitation that resulted in the killing of 130 youth proved my prediction and surmise factual and correct. But this new spate of armed insurgency that I term as “Post militancy” is different in some aspects because it is indigenous, with little or no role of Pakistan and quite lethal than its predecessors. But the ideological confusion is still prevalent and quite manifest. It can be witnessed from the fact that two factions of militants are fighting for antagonistic ends. Unlike their predecessors when the tussle was between those who were vouching for accession to Pakistan and Independent Kashmir, today the battle of ideas is between those who want accession to Pakistan whereas the other group intends to establish an Islamic State.
The romanticism and tryst for the Islamic state is not new. In 1990s most pro Pakistan militant organizations declared their aim as establishment of Islamic state, once the accession with Pakistan is complete. But the 9/11 events changed the discourse for these organizations and also the official Pakistan policy was responsible for the U turn. The discourse in Kashmir for establishing an Islamic state became vibrant once again with the rise of Pan Islamist insurgent movements like ISIS and Al Qaeda. This discourse is being represented by Ansar Ghazawatul Hind organization headed by Zakir Moosa. It holds Pakistan on the same plank as India when it comes to declaring them as citadels of Kufr (disbelief). They espouse violence against the Indian state as well as the other insurgent groups that are fighting on the behest of Pakistan, though there are no reports of internecine battles against each other except for the press releases demeaning and condemning each other.
The use of social media has been a potent force in inspiring and radicalizing the new generation of youth. Violence, death, martyrdom has been valorised, celebrated and romanticized by the insurgents and their sympathizers, despite the fact that violence as a tool of resistance has achieved very limited success. This celebration and romanticism has to be analyzed factually and pragmatically. Most of the youth have become too emotional to understand the realities. The hyper emotional empathy towards violence has its own causes related to over militarization of public spaces, intolerance towards dissent and armed response to every grievance. To add insult to injury Islamophobia and Othering of Muslims fuels the rage.
The vicious cycle of death and violence needs to be broken and fractured. It starts with the state, which needs to rein in their armed forces that are sometimes responsible for pushing youth towards insurgency. Then resistance leaders and civil society too have a job to make youth understand that besides violence there are hundreds of ways, methods and campaigns through which they can make their voices heard all over the world. These non violent methods are a part of civil resistance that has proved to be successful in variegated contexts and numerous struggles ranging from social to political. But for reaching out to youth with these methods is a process that needs a lot of sweat and double the patience.
Civil resistance is a slow process but it saves the human capital and in the long run proves successful. It starts with the individual transformation and inculcating the spirit of non violence through a constant discipline and training. This discipline starts with reading, then imbibing the principles and later on implementing them on ground. If we as a society are not ready to pay the price of patience, work our fingers to the bone and train hard then surely the path that our youth have chosen will lead us towards collective suicide and annihilation.
M.H.A Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar,
—(First published in New Age Islam)