On the 8th of July, 2016, the collective (un)conscious of Kashmir was rent asunder: the vale erupted in a frenzy of anger and indignation. The proximate catalyst of what gripped Kashmir after this day was the killing of popular militant commander, Burhan Wani. Massive protests that engulfed Kashmir post Wani’s killing lasted for months and the collective energy that underpinned these took months to frazzle away and recede. Scores died and were injured during these protests. But as indicated, Wani’s killing was the proximate catalyst for these deep and wide protests; the real reasons pertained to the nature of politics- superimposed on Kashmir rather inorganically- amidst a truculent denial by powers that be on the nature of the conflict in and over Kashmir. Now almost a year after Wani’s killing, where does Kashmir stand?
On the edge of a precipice is the answer.
What accounts for this rather grim and bleak condition is that the conflict in Kashmir is sought to be contained and the conflict over Kashmir frozen. This is a management technique that aims at mere pacification of the conflict. Pacification, by its very nature, entails, recidivism of the conflict in all its dimensions. That is, the conditions in Kashmir carry a potential of backsliding. The conflict in and over Kashmir can transform into a deadly zero sum game wherein there will be neither clear “winners” or “losers” in a more expansive sense of the terms. Where , how and what the attendant uncertain stalemate will morph into remains in the realm of the “unknown unknown”. This condition assumes a poignant edge given the nuclearization of South Asia and the conflict over Kashmir.
Shorn of accretions, the conflict in and over Kashmir emanates from an admixture of competing sovereignties , territorial nationalisms and peoples’ aspirations. The mélange that emerges makes state parties to the conflict view it through a refracted prism of their own interests- territory, security, ego(s) and the nature of their nationalisms. The conflict then becomes a zero sum game wherein each party views its gain or loss as the other’s loss or gain. The politico- strategic paradigm that emerges renders conflict resolution a distant or even improbable prospect. Containment and management of the conflict then becomes a surrogate for conflict resolution. But, both entail and beget a condition which has psychical and psychological implications.
If I may venture into the domain amateur psycho-analysis, the impact of containment and management has an impact on the Kashmiri psyche. The conflict in and over Kashmir forms the psychological super and sub structure of the Kashmiri collective (un)conscious and the sub conscious. It always lurks somewhere between these. This unconscious becomes conscious and comes to the fore after a critical mass of frustration and anger is reached at .All it takes is a catalytic event bring about the condition of latent conflict to over conflict. The case of Burhan Wani’s killing and its aftermath constitutes a case in point here.
Wani, it may be pertinent to note, was apparently not involved in overt acts of militancy. He, however, made deft and dexterous use of social media. The thrust and gravamen of his social media techniques was to “cock a snook” at powers that be, so to speak, from the forests and mountains of Kashmir. This resonated with the people of Kashmir because Wani was touching the subconscious chords of the Kashmiri psyche. By doing what he was doing, Wani captured the imagination of Kashmir’s Gen Next. Yet again, after Wani’s death, the response of powers that be has been containment and management of the conflict in and over Kashmir- albeit with a more feverish and intense pitch. Given Kashmir’s modern history and the contemporary condition which bears the ingress of this history, it should be clear that containment and management might keep Kashmir under a certain dispensation but it will do nothing to alter the underlying reality(ies). In fact, for a variety of reasons, these may accord the conflict a more intense hue.
Can this condition and the potential of conflict transformation into something more truculent be remedied? Yes is the answer. Sagacious and prudent leadership and statecraft whose premise is not the state but the people might yield the desired result. The specific components of this approach would mean a multi stakeholder conflict resolution paradigm with people central to it; it would also entail a review of the respective ideas of state nationalisms and egos thereof. Would, the question is, this paradigm be forthcoming? The current drift of nationalisms and the rise of populism, globally and regionally , do not yield a sanguine answer. This can only mean conflict intensification and more bellicosity and belligerence. Alas!
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