India has to engage with Kashmiris, else there will be chaos, argues Asim Shah
It has been quite bloody a summer in Kashmir. The colours of sky remind one of 2010, when the skies over the valley turned crimson under one more spell of suppression. As a Kashmir based journalist, I am overwhelmed to see the scale of violence this time — the large scale blinding of boys, and girls, some of them too young to even have beards. I saw how families lost their loved ones, how friends lost each other and how grief tangoed with violence and callousness in the last 40 days of unrest in Kashmir.
Kashmir finds itself exactly at the same crossroads where one can hear the gallop of the popular Ragda song, also described as the valley’s first intifada in 2010. However, six years later, the song and slogan on everyone’s lip is not only for withdrawal of the Indian Army or for the removal of draconian acts like AFSPA or PSA, but a cry, which is in some sense at the core of it all — Azadi, Freedom — the message from Srinagar and the countryside is clear!
Having witnessed the uprising during the last few years from up close, I don’t have any doubts that the present Tehreek is stronger and more ideological in nature. While people look for direction from the pro-freedom leadership, the momentum is entirely spontaneous. The death of Burhan Wani, the charismatic militant commander, has proven to be a spark that uncorked years of yearning for Azadi. Not surprisingly, the north and the south, the city and the village, every part of the valley is hooked to the latest uprising.
The response from India and its administrators in Kashmir has been predictable. What is different however is the response of Kashmiris themselves — inside and outside Kashmir — who have galvanised and reacted very forcefully, both on the street and on the social media, amplifying the voices of the valley. Suddenly Kashmir is in news again and everywhere. Everyone from the UN to international press is talking about the struggle, although New Delhi denied access to UNHRC for a visit to the Kashmir valley while Amnesty International has temporarily closed down its offices, as they are among the ones who have upped the ante.
Some analysts have displayed their shock at the lack of empathy from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Usually very communicative, Modi has maintained silence all the while, even as more than 65 youth were sent into the graveyards; over 6000 were injured, a number of whom have been blinded by the use of the pellet guns by occupying forces; over a thousand more youth have been arrested in nocturnal raids for their participation in protests; and the entire valley has remained caged for more than a month.
It is by now common knowledge that Modi is no more than a “Headline Maker”, but the country’s PM remaining indifferent to the plight of Kashmiris did send out a strong message that this government does not care for Kashmiris or their rights.
The current uprising clearly points to the fact that India has lost its ground in Kashmir completely. No amount of development initiatives is going to help it. There is a serious need for the leadership in India to contemplate this very grave situation and talk to all stake-holders and come to a resolution of the vexed issue in accordance with the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Otherwise stories about protestor after protestor — even after getting hit with hundreds of pellets — reportedly anxious to get out of hospitals and pledging to pick up arms spell bad news. It is a situation which the government of India should never have allowed to unfold, but sadly the government’s rightwing policies and moral blindness towards Kashmir have now exacerbated the situation and pushed it to a point of no return.
What we have witnessed this summer is alarming. When you have a situation when the young and the intelligent start picking up guns, sacrificing luxuries; people come out to protest knowing that they can get shot, and lakhs of people attend funerals of slain militants, then there is no burying your head in the sand. The greatness of a nation is not described in terms the number of pellets its forces can fire on teenagers, but in its wiliness to engage.
Suppression can only work till a point. Beyond every threshold there is a zone of possibility