By Qazi Shibli
On 8 July a photograph of a young man started doing rounds on the social media. The man in the photo was 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who had been killed along with two other colleagues.
His martyrdom set in motion something unprecedented. I could sense the signs of that ferment near near a butcher’s shop, where dozens of youngsters declared in unison: this is the dawn of a war like no other.
Mobile telephony was suspended but not before a mass movement had taken root. There was a crystallization of despair at the system, of the disaster confronting Kashmir today. Angry youth, who had found a spokesperson in Burhan, rode trucks, bikes and cars and set off to the hospital where their idol lay cold.
Entire towns kept vigil all through the night, agitating, sloganeering, weeping and fighting for freedom from an unfair and oppressive system plagued by arrogance and lust for power.
I cannot explain it in words how we besieged slaves have been feeling for the past 78 days. We feel as if we are in a haze, guided only by a single melody, ‘Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha, woh Kashmir hamara hai’ (The Kashmir that we irrigated with blood belongs to us only).”
We are humans. But why are we being treated like animals? We feel as if we have been sold to those who trade in politics, and our fate is to be passed on to their children, generation after generation. Yet, we refuse to surrender. And what is the sin of these young protesters? It is that they cling to an idea that if they fight long and strongly enough, they can find an alternative to fascism, jingoism and the murder of human rights. They are trying to wage a systematic struggle against the belief that tries to make everything subservient to so-called national interest. Thousands of citizens have been murdered for their political convictions in decades-long Indian occupation; their words have been twisted by this country’s top commentators, creating gargantuan undercurrents of hostility against the Kashmiri people.
Guiding some journalists along the routes of Southern Kashmir, once considered as the bastion of People’s Democratic Party, I experienced, intimately, the magnitude of the current uprising. The language of resistance speaks from the graffiti, it echoes from the loudspeakers of mosques.
One day on way to the residence of Junaid Matoo, a militant commander, people were moving towards rally venues shouting pro-freedom slogans. At a distance, the mother of the slain commander and civilian Asif Ahmad, shot dead by the government forces last year, were struggling hard to raise a green crescent flag near the martyrs’ graveyard.
Rouf Ahmad (name changed), a protester is being hailed as a “hero” in south Kashmir. In addition to resisting Indian rule, he is fighting constant battle by fulfilling his responsibilities as a son and as a father to two children.
He was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) after the 2010 anti-India uprising and has been constantly harassed by the state since then. His arrest explains how the protests bring one’s personal experiences of “elimination” into straight conflict/discussion with existing narratives of patriotism.
It is a search for solutions that is met only by suppression. In the ongoing uprising, Rouf has been hit by teargas shells and pellets twice yet he avoided treatment to escape the police.
Indeed, the police is patrolling hospitals to arrest those who are seeking medical help after being injured by them.
The irony is that Rouf, like most protestors, is a product of the state. Even after a court quashed his PSA, the cops repeatedly harassed him. He was repeatedly called by the police and was beaten without provocation. This expresses his helplessness.
The ongoing situation has shown no signs dying despite Indian media’s blackout of Kashmir uprising.
Those who are claiming or believing that the majority of protestors are “foreign-funded” or “instigators” need to only spend a minute on the ground.
The “peace” purportedly sought by the Indian state is a delusion. How can peace be premised on the existence of puppet governments and laws that work against the people? The state has declined to listen to the dissenting people’s perennial cry against what people here believe is a forcible marriage.
The only alternative people are left with is protest that is not limited by scale.
A stable Kashmir at harmony with itself and with its neighbours will be an embankment of stability in the South Asian region, a belief only Kashmiris seem to cherish.
—Views expressed by the author are personal