Hope versus Hype

By Syed Suhail Yaqoob

Is something missing? Something is odd with this, exclaimed my friend when he checked out the Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s new calendar for 2017. It featured twelve persons who brought laurels for the state. Undoubtedly, the valley has an abundance of talent which if harnessed efficiently will turn JK into a knowledge society. This is underscored by our history: we have produced poets of immense repute and Kashmiris have distinguished themselves in various spheres.
But, alas, the conflict in Kashmir has consumed the lives of your youth. The year 2016 stands testimony to this. 2016 will be written in red ink in history books. There was massive damage to people’s psyche due to stubborn attitude of state government and its politics plus policies. People were showered with pellets which caused permanent eye damage to most. In terms of negative psychological dimensions, the impact of this crisis will not ebb in the near future.
Post 2016, an aura of pessimism has now set in Kashmir. The future looks bleak and it will have serious consequences. From an increase in drug consumption to radicalisation, all can occur in our “Reshi Vear” (the valley of saints).
The reasons for all this emanates from the killing of Burhan Wani. His killing caused a tilt in the equation between people of state and the centre. Most people, including politicians believe that a ‘Dead Burhan” would be more dangerous than a “Burhan alive”. And quite amazingly, as events post Burhan’s killing testify, they turned out to be right.
Government crumbled under massive pressure from the protestors and the state’s default option or even reflex was to contain them. That is, resort to more tactics of control and coercion. But the effect was the converse. Little was achieved and more damage was caused. The present government like the past ones has suffered a dent in its reputation and profile –especially when the aspirations of the people of Kashmir valley are considered. The PDP government that rules in coalition with the BJP has lost its ground in Kashmir valley–especially in South Kashmir which where the intensity of conflict was greater. The PDP’s was struck by a troika of factors in Kashmir: one, its alliance with BJP at the centre, two ‘martyred’ Burhan and three, the death of Mufti Syed.
The valley has always resented the pact of PDP with BJP because of the latter’s insistence on a communal agenda. The demise of Mufti Syed almost resulted in breakdown of party and with the killing of Burhan Wani, the alliance almost crumbled. The perception that gained traction was New Delhi was working to keep the alliance intact in order to prevent Governor’s rule in Kashmir valley.
In combination, all these factors have resulted in political radicalisation of the youth. The governments of the past and present cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility of radicalisation of valley’s youth. With lack of space and platforms to make themselves heard, and the unresolved conflict, peoples’ choices get constrained. This has happened in Kashmir. In a nutshell, the governments have played an important role for the obtaining state of affairs.
Kashmir valley now appears like a throwback to 1990’s. Violence has found a new justification in the valley as it was justified after the rigged elections of 1987. Anyone attuned to trends in Kashmir can perceive society’s acceptance of violence has changed over time. The reasons hark back to stonewalling the peoples’ genuine political aspirations by the State.
But, like the proverbial Ostrich’s head in the sand, powers that be and institutions of the state refuse to see these trends and the ground situation in the valley. The year of 2016 represents a watershed moment. There is more anger than optimism in valley. The present condition of so-called normalcy is illusory. Kashmiri people have gone through various kinds of humiliations in the past and this has caused a tendency in them to adjust only to erupt again in future.
The refusal to see reality as it is reflected in the ill-conceived statements in the nature of protest calls alone further aggravated the people. Today the gap between the government and people has so widened and deepened that even the Himalayas cannot fill it.
In all this, ‘peace’ has become the causality in Kashmir along with our culture.
As things stand now, our culture stands at a cross roads. Constant violence has resulted in some questioning of Sufi thoughts – which historically constituted our consciousness and inner worlds. The valley that used to thrive on the humanistic and peaceful ideals has seen constant violence over the years. This has brought change in the thinking and attitude towards life. Sociologists term this as “socialisation’. That is, a child will learn what his environment will allow him to learn. Today’s children are not radicalised or brain washed by some type of literature but socialised into something which promotes and even justifies violence. In contemporary Kashmir, violence is justified. This constitutes a complete break from our past. It will not change underlying realities unless and until concrete steps are taken to resolve the Kashmir conflict at the soonest.

—The writer is pursuing PhD at Aligarh Muslim University in the Department of Economics and can be contacted at suhail029@gmail.com