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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 31 New Delhi July 21, 2018

The Crisis in Jammu and Kashmir: Who reset the clock to 1993?

Saturday 21 July 2018

by Mustafa Khan

What blunder has brought such a crisis in J&K that many perceive that India is killing its own people rather than the terrorists or the armed militants fighting the Army? The long promised plebiscite has simply become an illusion. Instead there is the shackle of abolition of the kind of limited autonomy that was promised decades ago. The Kashmiris of this new generation have not lost the relevance of history. They do not need to read the Irish history and the plight of the people there. The protagonist in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man muses thus: “Do you know what Ireland is? Asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow? He claims that Ireland metaphorically devours its own children. All this on account of Ireland’s thwarted sense of nationhood.” The Kashmiris in the Valley have a distinct culture. That does not match with that of different groups of Muslims in the rest of the country. They have different aspirations, too.

Their movement is for freedom, called azadi. In the rest of the country there is no such thing. Hence when they are killed by the security forces they want their dead bodies buried in the graveyard meant for freedom fighters, their martyrs. When Kashmiris are hanged like Maqbool Bhatt or Afzal Guru, their burial into the Indian soil is a moment of anguish. On the mainland India there is no such ground for those who laid down their life for building a temple or a graveyard of Muslims killed in riots and pogroms.

With the return of Governor’s Rule in Kashmir after the Ramzan ceasefire 2018 there is recrudescence of more killings and threat to civilian life. The new dispensation under N.N. Vohra is also contemplating not returning the bodies of the locals killed in police action. The reason: more charged atmosphere would make people more prone to violence, and protest. It is strange that the PM of India way back on February 28, 2002 was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. He had allowed the bodies of those killed in the Sabarmati Express fire incident at Godhra to be displayed after handing them over to the virulent RSS wing, Vishwa Hindu Parishad. That was done deliberately to turn the people against the Muslims and that started the pogrom. It lasted full three days and killed more than a thousand innocent Muslims.

The earlier times when such pogroms visited India were in 1992 and 1993. Indian politics had a watershed in 1993. The clock was reset then and there thanks to the BJP leaders A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani in the Narasimha Rao era. In the massacre of more than 50 Kashmiris at Bijbehara during the siege of Hazratbal on October 22, 1993 only one BSF jawan was injured. Human Rights Watch had thus rejected the Indian explanation of this ambush. Many know that the massacre was the offshoot of former Governor Jagmohan’s insistence for more repressive measures he voiced on July 15, 1993 even after his two terms as the Governor in Kashmir—from 1984 to 1989, and then from January to May 1990. The government inquiry in 1994 indicted 14 BSF jawans for firing into the crowd. However, the Vajpayee Government later acquitted all the accused. It was this that led to US Assistant Secretary of State Department Robin Raphel rejecting India’s Instrument of Accession of Kashmir. Her statement in the background briefing was: “As I said, we view Kashmir as a disputed territory. We do not recognise...(pause)...that instrument of accession as meaning that Kashmir is forevermore an integral part of India. And there are many issues at play in that timeframe, as we all here know.”1 There is no permanent enemy as far as foreign affairs are concerned. PM Nehru took the issue of Kashmir to the UNO when the relations between the neighbours were not of the nature as of today. Comparing them in terms of a popular movie is less in significance than a masterpiece of frustrated nationalism.

The situation on the ground in Kashmir is at a flash-point. There is imminent danger to the civilians despite the reported claim that the National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval and not the Governor is on watch in the State. And he advocates peace in the Valley on the second anniversary of Burhan Wani’s killing. The agitated people and not the militant leaders, on the other hand, are issuing ultimatums. In Lonepora village pictures of those who laid down their live in their struggle for freedom were displayed. A native invited the media: “Take a picture of this. Show India that we are not afraid. Shake them up.”2 Such a sense of finality was never seen before. If that was on the eve of the death anniversary of Burhan Wani, in fast motion was on in the village of Hawoora an encounter and in cheek by jowl attack on protesters in which 21-year-old Shakir Khanday and 14-year-old Andlee Jan lost their lives in firing by the security personnel. The killing instinct was manifest in action. This was buttressed by soldiers entering lanes and by-lanes and throwing stones at the tin-shed houses forcing the inmates to come out and be shot. “We have orders to kill you whenever we have to.”

ENDNOTES 

1. https://www.firstpost.com/world/the-robin-raphel-saga-what-happened-in-washington-that-soured-indo-us-ties-1798123.html

2. https://scroll.in/article/885756/once-again-a-south-kashmir-village-mourns-its-dead-including-a-14-year-old-girl

The author belongs to Malegaon, Maharashtra. He can be contacted at mustafakhan1948[at]gmail.com

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