By M Ashraf
Recently, an Indian army commander, in a press statement, declared that infiltration across the LoC has dropped almost to zero. But that is just a half statement. He did not mention that in spite of zero infiltration militancy is on the rise and there have been a number of serious encounters. He did not say that a number of police personnel, including a head constable and a number of constables, have run away with their weapons and joined militant ranks. Most of the “new” militants are highly motivated and educated persons. Secondly, apart from huge crowds attending the funerals of militants, youth have been coming out at encounter sites to create disturbances, allowing militants to escape. This is a big change which is not being admitted to by the authorities. They have only warned people to stay away from encounter sites for their own safety. Probably, they do not want this trend to become a part of the new wave of militancy. However, no one can arrest the trend because it is a natural reaction to continuous oppression which has reached a crescendo in recent times.
In the early nineties, when Kashmiri youth started an armed resistance movement, the motive was more sentimental and emotional. Moreover, the sentiment had been hijacked and exploited by external supporters. The youth, even though physically strong and sentimental, were not mentally prepared and motivated for a long militant struggle. In fact, the sentiment was exploited by external agencies to introduce their own thought-stream. Guns were put in the hands of young men who had not yet reached the motivation level of armed resistance. It was because of this that a number of youth were turned around and many surrendered. Some of the militants had even become blackmailers. The turmoil of the nineties, which resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, started building up the motivation. A new generation of Kashmiri youth came of age during that period of conflict and in the following years. These people had seen nothing but the high-handedness of the security personnel. They were witnesses to the massacres, fires, and rapes. A desire for revenge slowly started building up in their psyche. There arose a very strong wave of alienation, which is now again on the increase. The level of alienation can be judged from the fact that during the recent encounter in Pampore, women were singing songs for the militants fighting the Indian forces!
Incidentally, as an interim new development, there was a calming down of the situation at the start of the present century and militancy appeared to be declining. However, with the continued wave of suppression and the events of 2008 and 2010, when young boys replied to the bullets of Indian forces with stones, alienation again started rising. The main cause of this renewed upheaval was the total suppression of freedom of expression. There were many other factors including the frustration of highly educated youth. Unemployment rose to an all-time high of almost a million educated youth being jobless. Kashmiri students studying or working in different parts of India were always on their toes because of local threats of the Hindutva brigade as well as extreme harassment of security agencies. After every untoward incident, the first suspects are Kashmiris. The recent upheaval in JNU has again made Kashmiri students the first target of the security agencies and many students are returning to Kashmir. The so-called mainstream politicians even though giving lip-service to the sufferings of the people, have totally failed to get any tangible relaxation from the grip of the security forces. Their failure to even soften or repeal AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) which gives total impunity to soldiers to kill anyone or destroy property, has worsened the situation further. It is a well-known fact that guerrilla war is the weapon of the weak against the strong. Universally, it has not been possible even for superpowers to win such a war. Be it the French in Algeria, the Italians in Libya, the Americans in Vietnam or, in recent times, both the Russians and the Americans in Afghanistan. In the long run, they had to bow before the will of the people.
It is time for the Indian government to realise the truth that it is impossible in the long run to suppress the feelings and aspirations of the people. It must also be mentioned that keeping an entire population against its will is a costly affair. ‘Security’ itself costs billions of rupees. For a developing country like India it is a big drain. The money being spent on the security grid could very well be utilised for the well-being of millions living under the poverty line. The recent upheaval in JNU related to the Kashmir situation indicates that the new generation of Indians does not accept the oppression of people simply for their views. It is a bold first step for engaging the people in a dialogue rather than suppressing them by showering bullets. The youth of Kashmir too have welcomed the move and extended support to the JNU initiative. It has been easy for the Indian government to unleash violence on Kashmiris, but they will not be able to do the same on the students of JNU and some other institutions where the youth are realising the truth of the Kashmir story.
It could be the nemesis of pseudo-nationalists and could open up the way to fulfill the long-pending aspirations of the Kashmiri people. But, only time will tell. Incidentally, the first wave of militancy had come after the hanging of Maqbool Butt, and this wave has come after the hanging of Afzal Guru!
—The writer is former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir