2016, as I saw it

2016, as I saw it

It is not necessary that a revolutionary uprising always succeeds in overthrowing the state apparatus, though the subconscious aim and objective is always that


By Aaqib Hussain

Some time ago, a friend remarked on Facebook that more than the event, what is important is the response to that particular event. The response to the killing of Commander Burhani Wani was unprecedented and something we had never foreseen.The seeds of the response were perhaps sown in the intervening night of 8/9 July. The night when the entire occupied population readied themselves for a long drawn struggle was different from the usual calm and cool nights of this Himalayan region. There was tragedy in the air, a sense of loss of something very dear, but the loudspeakers were blaring revolution, the young raised their fists to strike the trembling occupation, mothers looked at their sons for one last time, brothers knew coffins have to be shouldered, and revenge seemed obvious. Over 2 lakh people attended Commander Burhan’s funeraldespite a total lockdown by government forces, and since then over 90 people have been killed, thousands injured, hundreds blinded and many others jailed, all in continuity to the idea that Burhan Wani stood and died for.

The period of the long mass uprising snowballed out of daily invisible and unrecorded skirmishes or tussle between the local population and the occupying state. The focus of this agitation, as is the case with most of the revolutionary agitations was to make a single idea, (here end of the illegal occupation), powerfully clear to the occupying state. It is not necessary that a revolutionary uprising always succeeds in overthrowing the state apparatus, though the subconscious aim and objective is always that, sometimes the take-away can be to have exposed the rot or to bring in an urgent sense of responsibility towards a movement or to even create mass awareness, or even to ‘invent’ new or ‘rediscover’ old forgotten tactics of resistance.

Someone wrote that before the first stone was pelted in Kashmir everyone knew its outcome, it is true that people here knew the results beforehand, but sometimes it is important to resist, just resist, to fight, and maybe to go down fighting without even considering the implications and worrying about the outcome or result. That’s exactly what the people did, they resisted, sacrificed everything; their time, their energy, their matter. Resistance is the only thing the occupier dreads, it makes the occupier uneasy, it is the occupation’s waking nightmare and that’s why the response to resistance is always so brutal.

The political understanding of the people on the streets was amazing. The way people immaculately understood the nuances and the subtleties of the uprising makes this uprising more beautiful. It seemed that the streets were the classrooms of understanding humanity and bravery. The youth who fought the monster occupation by pelting stones, shouting slogans, playing revolutionary songs on loudspeakers, or the volunteers in hospitals, seemed to be the most humane people the world ever has seen. It wasn’t just the stones or slogans that the state was afraid of; the mere existence of people had become a rebellion in itself.

The stone that was pelted was just symbolic, more like stoning the Satan ritual in the Hajj pilgrimage, it was more of a political message that was pelted, the message that you don’t belong here, the message that we want to be free, and the message that your days here are numbered.

A revolutionary uprising stirs up society to its depths, releasing feelings and aspirations long pent up within the masses. The emergence of the masses on the scene of politics is the first and the most fundamental element in every revolution. This is particularly true of women. It was no accident that in this agitation a widespread participation of women was seen.

Women have always been the most oppressed layer of the society; they are those who have had to bear the maximum sufferings inflicted by the state. The enormous participation of women made this uprising more militant and courageous than the previous uprisings. It was obvious that apart from fighting against the soldier they were fighting the consistent male gaze of occupation and its patriarchy too. One July evening while returning from my workplace I was stopped by a group of women, who had occupied and blocked the road, some masked and others with open faces, some with stones in their hand and a few carried sticks. After enquiring about my credentials and knowing that I work as a doctor, a middle aged woman came forward and kissed my forehead and made supplications for me.

I felt overwhelmed by the thought of these women ready to combat a highly sexist and misogynist armed force that has perpetrated rape and molestation as a tool of subduing a restive population. My understanding was that these were women highly conscious of their rights, undoubtedly motivated by a revolutionary spirit more important the undying hatred of the occupier.

The uprising of 2016 should reinforce our belief in the fact that a mass public uprising can only be sustained when it’s actively supported by an armed rebellion. It’s the armed rebel who becomes a link and brings in a sense of belonging and emotional attachment for the movement in the general public. As is evident about 2016, the new hotbed of armed struggle, south Kashmir, has set the bar for resistance a notch higher. Srinagar, with no or very less presence of armed movement remained comparatively peaceful, and the same remained true for north Kashmir in 2010 when it had a considerable number of active armed militants.

What we saw in Kashmir in the summer of 2016 wasn’t just anger; it will be wrong to call it anger. It’s more of a political war, it is the people’s aspiration to a right to self-determination, and it gets manifested in various ways from time to time. There aren’t many heroics that we attribute to Burhan’s military skills, but he came as a hope and as the latest symbol of the fight against tyranny. In him, our generation has found a new icon.

Views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.