Kashmir: State of siege …violence pervades the air

State of siege is a stark reality, as violence cast its lengthening shadow in the wailing vale of Kashmir. The preceding weekend witnessed the mayhem in what is called anti-militancy operation. Whilst Saturday confirmed the urban spread of militancy, as three militants were gunned down in downtown Chattabal, Sunday witnessed the bloodbath in Shopian. South Kashmir continues to be on boil, as the four districts it encompasses bear the brunt of what is called operation all-out. It is indeed, what it is named to be, as no distinction is made out between a militant and a civilian.

The state of violence casts its shadow far and wide. The state has chosen it to be its only option, as it continues to stay short of exploring other options for coming out the whirlpool of violence. What has in fact resulted in the violent state of affairs is the refusal of the state to provide political space to the voices of dissent. The choked political spaces breed militancy, which the state answers with disproportionate violence. Violence exercised by the state tramples the political discourse, obliterating it to an extent, where sanity is divorced, and sane voices suppressed. In a situation, where voices of dissidence remain in contention with the state narrative, the only sane course remains political engagement, which as it stands is totally missing in Kashmir.

The state has chosen a masculine militaristic approach as the means of suppressing dissent. The approach remains a state investment with no returns. The men in charge of guiding the state’s chosen policy have spoken in clear terms on the bankruptcy of this approach. CNC Gen Rawat has stated explicitly that the violent conflict has no winners. Rawat’s statement implied that neither the forces of the state are capable of supressing militancy, not could militancy be expected to overcome state forces. Gen. Rawat’s statement found resonance in what the Director General of JK Police—SP Vaid said on desirability of political engagement. In spite of prominent voices in the security forces preferring an option other than the pervading violence, the state continues to drift towards a course without a positive dividend.

The preferred course of the state is taking a heavy toll of lives. Apart from combatants, non-combatants pay with their lives, as standard operating procedure (SOP) of dealing with protests seems to have taken the back seat.

Whether it is the case of a teenager run over by a vehicle of security forces in the downtown Srinagar on Saturday of the preceding week or the multiple firearm injuries sustained by protesters in Shopian and other southern districts on Sunday, it had the same imprint. The missing SOP is evident, as we get to witness protestors sustaining firearm injuries in upper parts of the body—the head, the trunk. These injuries are meant to kill, rather than incapacitate a protestor temporarily by aiming at the lower parts of the body. Discretion, as SOP manuals dictate is barely practiced. Instead, fire to maim permanently or take the life seems to be the dominant trait. It could be inferred from any medical study taken up to evaluate the cases admitted in various hospitals in Sunday’s blood bath. 2016 was designated by ‘New York Times’ as the year of dead eyes. As pellets continue to shower in 2018, dead eyes show no evidence of abating. In fact 2017/18 saw many an addition.

The question remains—is there at all an end to the spiral of violence? Kashmir conflict has an external dimension apart from gruesome happenings inside the conflict ridden state. GOI has appointed an interlocutor of sorts in the state—Dineshwar Sharma, without formally designating him as one, to address the internal dimension. He stays short of noticeable mandate, hence his engagement remains restricted to engaging non-descript persons without a political standing. Failure is written large on his largely undefined mission. In the external dimension, GoI refuses to engage with Pakistan, a party to the dispute, citing different reasons. One, Indian administered Kashmir is taken to be an integral part, while claim is laid on Kashmir administered by Pakistan. Two, the resistance movement in Indian administered Kashmir is taken to be Pak-inspired. Three, even locally bred militancy is branded as cross-border terrorism. It is said the terrorism and talks cannot coincide.

The pleas are multiple; the net result is no political engagement. In the past, Indian establishment, the think tanks, strategists of various hues would talk of deep state in Pakistan derailing peaceful engagement. The deep state meant the Pak-army. In a recent news-report making rounds, UK-based Royal Unites Services Institute (RUSI) relates that the Pakistani military leadership is reaching out to India because it believes that the way to peace and prosperity is through military cooperation with India. The report notes that “in a historic first last month,” Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa invited Sanjay Vishwasrao, the Indian military attaché, and his team to the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad. The report adds that, Gen Bajwa followed this two weeks later by saying that the Pakistan military wanted peace and dialogue with India. India and Pakistan armies are slated to take part in joint military drills in Russia in September, with Chinese participation. India would do well to take the so called deep state in Pakistan on board and seek to end the state of siege in Kashmir by resolving the conflict bedevilling relations between subcontinental neighbours.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]