Waging a war against ‘integral’ public of Kashmir

Much breath has been wasted in Delhi, both in official circles and outside, to construct an image of Kashmir that may not be in tandem with the level of despair on ground. The latest endeavour came from one ‘Mr Know-All-and-Always Right’ of television news, firm on his belief that Hurriyat has lost grasp over protestors in Kashmir. The lukewarm response to the recent bandh calls by Geelani et al, may have added some flavor to the argument and no one may have reason to doubt that the intensity and frequency of protests in the Valley off late have gone down immensely. And if this is an indication of the declining popularity of the separatists, then why have them arrested or placed under house arrest every second day. It would have served the cause of exposing the separatist leaders and their dwindling followers better had they been left free and without restrictions. Interestingly, on the very day that Arnab Goswami moderated this special discussion on Hurriyat bashing, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was placed under house arrest and handful of separatist leaders including Shabir Shah had been arrested on way to U.N. office. Their crimes – the latter were planning to submit a memorandum to U.N. office in Srinagar and Geelani was organising a seminar over massive killings in 2010.

The separatists are accused of provoking people. At the same time, an argument is being built up that they are becoming powerless. It would be worthwhile to turn the argument the other way round. If someone is so powerless, why does he need to be contained? And yet again, how can anybody so powerless cause any provocation in a vacuum. There has to be a basis for someone to cash in and cause provocation. The 2010 killings are neither a figment of imagination of the separatists, nor do calls for justice fit the bill of provocation. Certainly, the analysts of such theories that tend to see Kashmiris as ‘happy and satisfied with India’ and see separatists as the only trouble makers trying their best to vitiate the atmosphere, have relied on the comparative collective silence in the last two years after anger erupted the way it did in 2010. This is no brief in defence of separatists, who, no doubt, have lost much of their popularity in recent years owing to their own failures including lack of vision, lack of cohesive unity and lack of consistency. As for the collective public silence, it would be naïve to interpret it in terms of ‘us and them’ binary.

The logic ‘if they’re angry, they’re swayed by separatists; if they don’t reveal their anger, they’re with India’ can only be fodder for the gullible as deep down lot of anger, pushed into the inner recesses, still persists. Anger, in any conflict, is known to have its ups and downs, its periods of fatigue, gestation and eruption. Otherwise, why should it have erupted in the first place in 2008, merely at the instance of some separatists, whose popularity and infighting was at its worst and lowest at that time? To overlook these facts, would only condemn us to repeat dark phases of history, perhaps the next time in ways that are more lethal and dangerous.

And yet, if analsysts wish to fool themselves, and whoever they wish to, with their mis-observations of the present situation in Kashmir, one may ask if all is indeed well, let us have an end that is befittingly well, too. In this happy scenario, when it is being assumed that people’s faith in India is being restored, why should then Indian government cling on to unpopular devices like Armed Forces Special Powers Act and huge presence of military; the ceremonial disappearance of one or two odd bunkers at Palladium or elsewhere not in anyway denting the size of the huge security apparatus? Why should it drag its feet over AFSPA revocation?

Why should it freeze when anyone talks about reducing the size of the army and security forces, even in a phased manner? The massive militarization and AFSPA were first legitimised in the name of counter insurgency operations. The official figures of any security agency reveal that there are no more than 300 militants in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, a presence that is far smaller in size than several other parts of the country. However, in recent years, AFSPA has been found handy by the Indian government and its security apparatus in fighting street protests and provocation by separatists. If separatists are no more heeded and if street protests no more exist, then why does the government still continue with AFSPA and this huge size of forces? Why does it take so much trouble in all its paranoia of criticism of its human rights track record, to call to police stations every youth who is using social networking sites and blogs to comment on the same, to detain them or send them back after a session of humiliation and harassment?

The only plausible reason to explain this sense of insecurity from public can be that the government operates with a belief that it is at war with its people but wishes to at the same time sell an image of wooing the public with odds and ends like tourism sans infrastructure or economic packages that may eventually be no boon for the state. And as an NC block president gets killed in cold blood in the Valley, the chief minister of the state betrays well this mindset of being at war with his people by tweeting about within minutes of the murder, “I suppose because Abdul Rehman Ganai was an NC activist his killing today is not worthy of the outrage we often see here in Twitteristan (twitter).” Did he wait for people to hear the news and comment or choose to be silent? No, he simply broke the news and added the comment, provoking anybody who would want to speak out against any killing, into silence.

Many in Delhi, in official circles and outside, are busy constructing an image that people in Kashmir are being wooed in various ways and should be happy to finally settle being an ‘integral part of India’. Let us hypothetically believe such assumptions to be true. But can there be any integration when governments, both at the Centre and in the state, wait for opportunities to take digs at the public with a childish ‘see, I told you, so’ manner? And more importantly, can there be integration without the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, human rights and provision of a legal justice system? Why doesn’t any national hook-up news channel, habitual of standing on their head to see Kashmir upside down, debate this?