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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 42 New Delhi October 8, 2016

Why Unrest Never Dies In Kashmir?

Sunday 9 October 2016

by Fayezah Iqbal

In the once serene and bewitchingly beautiful Kashmir Valley, unrest and wild turbulence has spelt unimaginable horror in the lives of the people. A colossal deal of irreversible damage and destruction to the lives, property and people’s faith in democracy and government has been unleashed ever since the imposition of AFSPA in 1990, implemented to combat insurgency in the region primarily.

For that matter AFSPA has only added fuel to fire in all the regions where it had been implemented to contain separatist tendencies and threat, given the indemnity which safely masks the deluge of atrocities committed by the armed forces on the innocent civillian people as aptly quoted by Human Rights Watch: ‘AFSPA has become a tool of oppression, state abuse and discrimination.’ Even UNHCR raised concern over it in 1991 and in 2012 the UN urged India to repeal this draconian law.

Coming back to our blood-stained Valley, ever since the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, 86 deaths have been reported following the 85th day of shutdown of colleges, universities and offices in the throes of the Army and civilian conflict. The infamous pellet guns, used recklessly to disperse the unarmed crowd, is outrageously ridiculous. It is leaving behind a trail of young disabled and scarred generation.

Now the question that needs to be answered at this juncture is whether all of this will result in any solution. The answer is an unambiguous NO. It’s NO when both the State and Central governments have been inept to even barely ensure the people’s security, dignity, livelihood and inclusion in the mainstream. It’s NO when one after another innocents are being muted aggresively with pellet firing and rapes and unaccounted killing. It’s NO when none of the perpetrators are prosecuted, but are instead awarded court martial to mock the entire gravity of the situation. It’s NO when similar crowd and mob fury in other parts of the country are dissipated by innocuous tear gas, water spray and pepper spray. Not when such intermittent upheavels cripple education, trade and governance for months on. Not when these inconsolable and aggrieved souls of Kashmir are forcibly quietened by unbridled violence. And not obviously when they see their children going blind, limp and shot down by the AFSPA forces.

This is only heightening the distrust of the already alienated Kashmiris. And thus giving way to the violent outlets of the burgeoning forces of youth like the Hizbul Mujahideen who vow thereafter to avenge the insurmounatable suffering by taking up arms to counter the Army and government which they view as their united foe.

And we as a nation are not only losing numerous lives, resources, wealth and peace but also allegiance of our own countrymen. It’s due time that a humane and apolitical vision is taken on the Kashmir issue. Firstly, the conundrum of what the masses in Kasmir actually want should be studied with a just perspective.

 Kashmiris, first and foremost, want peace from the violence, arms and killings. They want liberation from the abnormal civilian life that they have been living amidst the millitary and separatist uprisings on one hand, and, Pakistan’s assertion over the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Kashmir on the other hand, which it claims as Azad Kashmir. They want liberty from the unending saga of crackdowns, intensified surveillance, censored internet and mobile services, intrusion in their private lives, and a slew of dissapeared lives, half-widows and fake encounters.

This accounts for the unceasing unrest and inquietude in the Valley.

If one takes a cursory glance over the other AFSPA-reigned and insurgency-afflicted areas in other parts of the country, then it would be astonishing to assess that Kashmir is by far the most adversely affected area among them in terms of education, infrastructure, political representation and mainstreaming of youths. The North-East States like Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland have their own gory tales of suppression which they faced in their longstanding strife between the Indian Army and separatist forces. But they have fared well educationally and economically after the government gave them their space to live their ethnicity and individuality by safeguarding their interests constitutionally by Schedule V and VI.

Thus it becomes imperative for the government to instil similar security and confidence in Kashmir in order to first pacify the unrest.

In the light of the recent Uri attack, one can dissect prudently through the entire incident where the simmering discontent and agitation in Kashmir has been exploited to India’s disadvantage by the terrorists to further aggravate the fragile condition on the Pak-Kashmir border. Thus it is expedient that the groundwork of analysing the real issues and woes of the people is dealt with in a compassionate and gentle way.

The present uproar and such imminent outbreaks can be deintensified and dismantled only by immediate halting of the ongoing firing on civilians, fostering a one-on-one level approach, allaying the fears of the people by communicating directly to them through various government bodies, ensuring unobstructed functioning of educational institutes, livelihood and official work.

Besides this, proactive measures should be taken to engage the youth from Kashmir in various academic activities in premier schools and colleges of the country, sufficient exposure should be given to them about the life, politics, government nation and the world and thus acquainting them to a more healthy and normal state of affairs in and around the country. Giving employment opportunities will turn the tide in both Kashmir and the government’s favour and dissuade them from extremist steps.

Lastly, by discarding the old sceptical and isolationist view of seeing them as an internal ‘threat to the country’ and treating them at par with other citizens as valuable assets, the intrinsic healing process of their unattended wounds will be generated drawing them closer to India and identifying them as Indians.

Thus necessary pathos, political will, and homely warmth are the only ingredients to alleviate the trauma and turmoil plaguing Kashmir since decades of exclusionary violent politics. It’s time that they are embraced and integrated seamlessly with fellow countrymen as our long-forsaken brethren.

Fayezah Iqbal did her Masters in Spanish from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Writing being her passion, she has been writing for various blogs since the last three years. She can be contacted at e-mail: fayezah.iqbal[at]gmail.com