Five Kashmiris, mostly youngsters, have been murdered; a few days of strikes have passed, and we are set to resume ‘normal’ life. What did these kids, and an old lady, die for? Why have we had an incredibly unstrategic response from the pro-freedom leadership? Indeed, save for the routine condemnations, and calls for a strike, not repeated on days when there are, almost accidentally, no more killings, one would even begin to doubt the existence of something called a pro-freedom leadership in Kashmir. The cynic, not yet removed from people’s aspirations, might be pressed to ask: “Is the Azadi camp aligned with the regime in seeking to normalise deaths?” What explains the abysmal lack of a regimented response to the slaughter if the basic premise of a leadership is to guide people out of a seeming morass, to seek and invent new ways to take a struggle forward, to not seem supinely confined all the time, even in the face of a shamefacedly authoritarian regime seeking to erase an entire history and superimpose an invented one? What is the way out, after all?
One simple answer would be to not seek guidance from the ‘leadership’. Often, Kashmiris have not, and those times, when the people’s will and impetus prevailed, have yielded the most visible results in terms of, at least, a ‘breaking out’ of the freedom struggle. The answer might be found in the persona of each individual, in how each person, for themselves, in accordance with the larger will of the people, lives a political life; in how each person acts in accordance with the reality of an oppressive system and the individual desire to be free of that oppression. This means, in simple terms, the same thing as not accepting oppression, not yielding to its terms and opposing the regimes of power within; not looking to the next individual to ‘do something’ but to try and act and speak like one can, oneself; to be, in sum, a free person, individually.
Not all can, of course, in Kashmir. The militarisation is such, the structure of oppressive power so deep, that very many people are forced to accept a state of apparent acquiescence. But, then again, silence is not agreement. And Kashmiri history is testimony to the reality that people, regardless of real or invented fragmentations in society, can and do speak with one voice. But the impetus towards resistance, it must be remembered, begins within. And to contribute to the larger echo, one must first raise one’s own voice, not thinking of if it will be echoed.