The language of power is inherently deceitful. So is the politics that affords it, only because coercive state forces like the army, police as well as laws that suspend people’s rights, in the case of Kashmir, back it. We often hear politicians, and those who indulge in politics on behalf of the state, describe instances of armed confrontation between resistance fighters and the state forces as ‘terrorism’ when it is combatants fighting on both the sides. And then, when such acts of combatant resistance is ascribed to the faith of the combatant – Islam in case of Kashmir – it is sought to be pulled out of the realm of politics. The term ‘terrorism’ is most often used by the politicians as a sweeping broad brush to delegitimise acts of armed resistance which is fundamentally political in its objectives.
‘Terrorism’ is a euphemism for absence of justice. There are only acts of terror inflicted on groups of people by other groups of people or individuals. The record of Indian state forces in Kashmir is an uninterrupted campaign of terror the people here have been subjected to for decades on end. This terrorising of a whole nation is well documented as a saga of rape, torture, murder, massacres, displacement, invasive surveillance and the consequent psychological trauma. Add to it the subversion of language in which ‘peace’ means absence of protest or resistance to unacceptable degrees of militarisation. Genuine peace comes about only when justice is prevalent. Peace cannot be achieved by coercive campaigns to turn around the people and make them accept hegemony the average state-aligned politician represents.
Kashmiri people have for long been subjected to collective punishment by the state apparatus. When politics fails, or becomes only an instrument of control rather than seeking and ensuring justice, violent resistance becomes a tool for bringing about processes of political justice and delivery of democratic rights to the people. Kashmir’s tragedy, the failure of politics has brought about phases where in the utter need for a political process has been acknowledged. But as soon as a certain semblance of ‘peace’ is enforced it has always been used to resurrect state hegemony. This explains the renewed popular support for militancy or armed resistance in Kashmir today, despite the important phase of a mass uprising between 2008 and 2010. The ongoing arrest spree of youth following open display of support to militants during their now again frequent gunbattles with government forces and the mass beating of residents in an entire village by soldiers again goes to show that the state and its minions in Kashmir are not ready to leave behind ruling by hegemonic politics and coercion. This is what ‘terrorism’ means in Kashmir.