Seesaw Kashmir

Tariq  Shah, Greater Kashmir July 21, 2010

It is the same song, same dance! It is  a déjà Vu:  the Happy Valley is aflame, again. The  post- election 2008  triumphalism is in shambles with New Delhi bureaucrats and politicians  cluelessly scurrying to douse  an immensely out- of- control forest fire with the firepower of the gun; spraying as they are, bullets into the scalps and chests of Kashmir’s Gen-next- – young boys and girls who have grown up as ‘children of conflict’. Kashmir continues to count its dead. Today’s besieged Kashmiris continue to pour blood on the streets so tomorrow’s Kashmiris may live free!

 Kashmir’s legendary journalist late Khwaja Sanaullah in a  May 1993 interview to The New York Times’  Edward Gargan described Kashmir’s ( and India’s) dilemma in the following words: "We’re in trouble here… I see disaster and continuing disaster. Sometimes it will be big things, sometimes-small things …But it will continue… we are not a revolutionary people, we are peace loving… one thing I can say [Kashmiris] don’t want to remain in India…. people will never be happy [with India].”

In Kashmir, the anti-occupation sentiment is ingrained in the cultural and political DNA of the restive publics. The sentiment has been gainfully nurtured in an environment of entrenched repression.

The  Princeton University academic Atul Kohli has aptly described the rise and fall of some other nationalist movements in India by the symbol of “inverse U’”, implying a sudden eruption followed by sudden death of the separatist demands. The ethano-religious and nationalist demands such a Khalistan and Tamil separatist movement inevitably died due to exhaustion for lack of popular support. While some of their leaders were eliminated through ruthless anti-insurgent campaigns by the Indian State, others co-opted and settled for puny little power-sharing deals. Kohli had predicted a similar fate for the Kashmir freedom struggle. The implication for Kashmir was that the Azadi movement would die due to exhaustion combined with good governance. The lifeline of the Kashmiri unrest, it was proffered, would dry up when the Pakistani interference in the valley dwindled or Pakistan herself came asunder.

Unmistakably, Pakistani interference in Kashmir- – by India’s own admission– has gone down, and the Pakistani state is at the verge of collapsing- -recently at number 10 on the failed states list. The consequential adjunct should have been a prophesied peace in Kashmir and a willy-nilly allegiance to India. What we have seen in the recent years and months is just the opposite– unparalleled disquiet, getting louder by the day. With its no holds barred attitude, India has turned Kashmir into an enemy territory to be subdued into submission at gunpoint; This, by ruthlessly enforcing the tents of its counterinsurgency manual- – Indian army’s ‘holy book’.

Evidently, Kashmir’s freedom struggle has belied Kohli’s, and many others’ predictions. It has followed a ‘WWW’ trajectory– a seesaw journey, going up and down, and up again; but it has refused to die down. India is finding it harder to deal with what they prefer to call ‘agitational ’ and ‘stone age’ terrorism as compared to now-dead gundriven ‘cross border terrorism.’

The reasons are explicable through Nehruvian wisdom. The then PM Nehru  told the Lok Sabha on June 25, 1956:: “Do not think you are dealing with a part of U.P., Bihar, or Gujarat. You are dealing with an area, historically and geographically, and in all manner of things [different]… We have to be men of vision and there has to be broadminded acceptance of facts… real integration comes of the mind and the heart and not of some clause which you may impose on other people… The alternative [to acceptance of facts is] “compulsion and coercion.”

Evidently, Kashmir is not Punjab. Nor is it Tamil Nadu. Here the factors causing the turmoil are vastly different. Kashmir issue, according  to India’s own – -Omer Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti– is not about economics and good governance; it is about the political future of a people. Kashmir dispute has international dimensions, which the two other movements lacked. More importantly, Punjab and Tamil Nadu’s integration with India was consensual regardless of some ephemeral strain in their relations with the federation.

 "For decades now,” admonished Pankaj Mishra in the aftermath of Amarnath land row (Outlook, October 6, 2008), "Kashmir has hosted a bloody stalemate, in which a powerful [India] repeatedly tries, and fails, to impose its will on a small unyielding population. The Indian state uses political means…and financial inducements as well as military force to convince Kashmiris that they should not dream of self-determination. Still, Kashmiri defiance and harsh Indian retaliation exact a terrible human toll: tens of thousands killed, innumerable many disabled, tortured, orphaned and widowed. There is hardly a family in the Valley left untouched by the biggest military occupation in the world.”  

 The people of Kashmir have never reconciled with Indian occupation of their land. The UN resolutions on Kashmir as  mechanisms to resolving the issue may be defunct but the context of those resolutions remains ever so pertinent. Regardless of the mechanism or the nature of dispute resolution process, the fundamentals of the dispute remain intact and must be addressed. The existence or the lack of UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute is not as important as the imperative of resolution of the dispute of Kashmir. Absent this, the deadly roller coaster of Kashmiri resentment will continue to get deadlier– for Kashmir and for India.