What ails Kashmir & Kashmiris? Understanding the causes is not so simple to fish out an exact and plausible answer to this question. Kashmir bears a single word tagline – ‘Disputed’. From generations to generations this tagline stands unaltered; not erased even by tsunami of uprisings within the Kashmir Valley.
The current spell of unrest has its roots in 1990 when first time Kashmiri armed separatism surfaced to alter the ‘disputed’ tagline. That time, the kind of uprising witnessed by our generation was too bloody in nature as mass civilian killings coupled with mass protests were witnessed across the Kashmir valley. These mass anti-India sentiment was so strong that every Kashmiri was made to believe that they were just at the brink of achieving ‘freedom’. But it didn’t happen. After 26 years of stiff resistance, ‘freedom’ still eludes. Yes, on couple of occasions India and Pakistan locked themselves into war hysteria. However, it’s continuing with ups and downs.
Who is driving the conflict? It doesn’t need brainstorming sessions to answer this question. However, there are certain interesting observations which suggest that major players of the conflict so far acted more as drivers of the conflict than to see an end to it.
Let me explain. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) during its decade-long rule (2004 to 2014) observed patience vis-à-vis Kashmir affairs, though they were struck by two mass uprising in 2008 and 2010. First they used time as one of the weapons to make the separatist cry hoarse. They allowed the conflict to drive in way of losing impact and then at the same time invested in the future – the power of Kashmiri youth. They tailored rehabilitation and pro youth developmental schemes in such a fashion that Kashmiri youth was lured to move out of the valley to shape careers. Over a period of time the opening of career paths saw a crowd of Kashmiri younger generation coming out of the conflict-ridden home place and getting mingled into the Indian societies/culture to such an extent that they started erasing their own Kashmiri identity from their memory.
Let me take you to a small but significant observation. The Kashmiri youth while pursuing their careers outside their home state had started criticising their own culture. Even, un-precedently, Kashmiri youth had their role models/idols in Indian celebrities. Team India almost in every sports remained their favourite team.
Precisely, on one hand UPA government was engaging separatist cadres locked in gimmicks of various working groups on Kashmir and on the other it was successfully Indianising the young Kashmiri generation. The UPA government even engaged Indian corporate and private sector to sew integration of Kashmiri youth into Indian mainstream.
As the seed of Indianising young Kashmiri generation had started germinating, UPA government lost power at the centre. Though Kashmiri youth (of course not all of them) during the period was ignoring separatist cry, but it all got reversed under the nose of two-years National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule so far. A wave of religious intolerance was spread across the country. The countrywide conversion campaign launched by right wing parties like RSS, dishing out a vision to see India as a ‘total Hindu’ country by 2021 and MP Niranjan Jyoti’s infamous “Ramzada” versus “Haramzada” speech etc.were not ordinary developments. These are enough to malign the secular character of the country permanently.
These developments sent shivers through the spine of Kashmiris who were either working in different parts of the country or were pursuing their studies were targetted to an extent that they were forced to leave and come back to Kashmir. So, the anger in Kashmiri youth against Indian rule has also been equally fuelled at the centre.
As far as separatist cadres are concerned, they are not good learners. Despite some ‘towering leaders’ in their cadres, they have proved only managers of the conflict. Not only this, unity despite having a common agenda has eluded them. People locked in the status quo are not leaders. A leader should have a mental toughness, but not rigidity.
The government at the centre need to recognize that Kashmir is not a law and order problem, but an issue of human aspirations. There is no alternative but to negotiate settlement of the imbroglio peacefully. Let’s remove vice through peace.
(The views are of the author & not of the institution he works for)