The last few days have, again, been particularly bloody in Kashmir with a number of militants killed, and some policemen as well. The fact that scores of thousands have been killed in Kashmir, among other horrors, should still not desensitise us, and make us accept deaths, incarcerations, torture, all forms of violence, including the application of black laws and the flouting of even ‘normal’ laws, as something within the purview of acceptability. Yet, the starkly terrible state of affairs is such that vast sections within Kashmir are driven to view these deaths as part of a series of victories, revenge or setbacks. This is the simplest, most acute demonstration of how prolonged conflict, amidst widespread repression, splits even a close knit, not-so-large community as Kashmiris. People either somewhat voluntarily take sides or are forced to do so, or actively turn oppressors against their own, and thus become complete ‘others’ to each other.
This isn’t, simply, restricted to Kashmir. An article reproduced in these pages, some weeks ago, detailed how many Palestinians opposing Israel aver that Israeli interrogators seem to be better human beings compared to the security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank, since they seem particularly barbaric in how they torture their own. But what is again overarching is that a state insists on military solutions, denies any real attempt at a political solution — which is the sole way forward in any conflict – and thus perpetrates a situation of strife and violence in which sections from among the oppressed turn, for various reasons, into de facto agents of that state. This often happens, across history, in situations of prolonged conflict, until, finally, better sense prevails or events determine a radical change in the status quo.
In Kashmir, the problem is that the state feels, as of now, that it is so much in control, so much in a comfort zone, that it needs to change nothing, make no ‘concessions’, leave alone address the basic dispute that generates all the strife and violence in the first place. In this sort of militarised cynicism, it doesn’t matter how many foot soldiers die or what excesses are committed. Indeed, it is even denied that there is a dispute. This, finally, is where the blame for all killings, and all the other horrors perpetrated in maintaining the status quo, must lie.