The only thing that appears changing in Kashmir is the form and intensity public anger takes against the stifling conditions in this world’s most militarized zone. Ironically, the latest cycle of protest and killings (invariably the only consequence of protest here) in the embattled region resulted in New Delhi sending some 3600 more troops to thicken the matrix of militarization, and at the same time, in order to pacify public anger, remove three army bunkers from densely populated semi-urban areas. For the people living or working in the immediate proximity of the bunkers it must be some relief to be able to live a little away from the invasive military gaze. But, the additional paramilitary troops sent in will only go to enhance the military machine’s capability to control – controlling all aspects of civic and public life being the only policy objective here.
Removing a bunker here or there has been going on in Kashmir for a few years now. Some were transformed into more permanent concrete infrastructure for stationing troops inside more secure and beautified military posts. However, reducing the density of bunkers has not resulted in any degree of demilitarization. On the contrary, the military or paramilitary personnel freed from fixed-place duty were transformed into more efficiently lethal ‘quick-reaction squads’. While the politicians and the ‘security establishment’ boast that residents have to deal with a far less number of military bunkers in their day-to-day life as ‘peace returned’, as if it was tourists, the fact is that the evolving dynamic is meant to achieve more flexibility to enforce silence, read absence of street protest.
Kashmir is dotted with hundreds of bunkers and large military encampments. Removing a few bunkers without reducing the personnel strength deployed is a clever PR exercise the politicians sell to small communities of residents, compartmentalized as they are by a massive and intricate grid of military control, as big favors. So, military-police synergy earns the politician some capital by removing an odd bunker while the ‘security establishment’ expands the capacity of its control over the people. A bunker, which is a dot in the complex matrix of military control is not actually removed but just moved to make the web more flexible and thus more stifling for more people. But the people themselves, who have been reeling under this web for decades appear to have begun understanding the structure and the tactic. The politicians will do better to end this game of dot-matrix that goes for ‘democracy’ in Kashmir.