By Tajamul Islam Shah
Proof of alienation is everywhere in Kashmir. Jaundiced policies of successive governments have led to the situation that valley is currently drifting through. Sounds of gun battles, cordon and search operation (CASO), government forces, protests, arrests and killings have become part and parcel of life. The situation is so worse that government has to close the educational hubs as fear of protests largely looms on the horizon. The current round of violence has seriously hampered the prospects of peace returning to the valley. Kashmir may be paradise (heaven) on earth for rest of the world but it is the saddest place on earth for its inhabitants. Every home in Kashmir has such narratives that are unnerving and heart wrenching.
There is no solution in sight, unless tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris take place. But, diplomatic ties between arch geopolitical foes again seems to have hit a low point amid a row about the alleged harassment of each country’s diplomats and their families, allegedly involves ringing someone’s doorbell in the middle of the night and then fleeing, cutting off electric and water supplies and so on. Unfortunately, it is an illusion to hope that India and Pakistan will somehow initiate a peace process. Amidst all this, New Delhi’s continuous outreach attempts to stakeholders of Kashmir seems falling into deaf ears as the resistance trio Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF Chairman, Muhammad Yasin Malik has already refused to meet with Dineshwar Sharma, New Delhi’s special representative for J&K who has been asked to carry a “sustained dialogue” with different stakeholders of the state.
Honestly, there are no easy and homey answers because of the large number of tangled issues. Each move towards Kashmir by New Delhi marks implications on the minds of people of Kashmir particularly “the youth”. The recent case is that of Kamran Yousuf- a photojournalist. The social media brigade of Kashmir wasted no time in highlighting how court blows holes and rejected all arguments of National Investigation Agency (NIA), while granting bail to Yousuf, six months after he was arrested. It has only served and summed the degree of hatred among the people of Kashmir as there was no substantial evidence against him. On a related note, Kashmiri students who go out to study in India get harassed and beaten up. This also adds fuel to the fire, ultimately sprouts the hatred and bitterness in the hearts of Kashmiri youth. To add to this, a vitriolic narrative distant from facts is being promoted through New Delhi based TV channels, making a mountain out of a molehill. They paint Kashmir’s as Islamist radicals who are trying to create their “own Islamic state”.
India, no doubt, is an emerging superpower but how come a brave super nation kills and blinds its own people with pellet guns. That is why, the youth of Kashmir envision India through the prism of enemy. The sentiments of people of Kashmir need to be respected; they need love more than economical packages and their problems need peace rather than flare. Today’s educated youth understand and analyze the situation very well to make better decisions. When the Kashmiri youth get educated outside state and experience the modern Indian society, the freedom of movement and the freedom of expression, they wonder why these do not exist in Kashmir. Why there is no freedom of movement? Why there is no freedom of expression? Why those men in uniform pointing a gun at me, screaming, to come out and lineup along the rest of the village? All these arguments remained unanswered.
Rather than picking the formula of economic packages and development, India needs to show its sincere, far-reaching and unpretentious political outreach. Keeping in view the prevailing situation in the valley, New Delhi must immediately initiate Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) like repealing AFSPA, releasing political prisoners, banning pellet guns and so on in order to establish the atmosphere of unconditional dialogue with all stake-holders for sustainable peace in the region. New Delhi must also ascertain the real cause of the prevailing anger among the youth of the valley. It is the hard reality that alienation among youth cannot not be removed through oppressive means; thus, a humane approach and not military crackdowns should form the core of Kashmir policy.
—The author is a Ph.D Scholar at SKUAST-J. He can be reached at: [email protected]