By Adil Bhat
The Valley floats on a sea of pellets. The massive landscape is scarred with wounded faces. And the air is filled with chants of Azadi – Freedom from oppression, from years of occupation, from the state brutalities that ebb and flow from time to time. The voices are louder and bold, once again. All that one hears is “Freedom from Indian Occupation.” With the seizing of newspapers and shutting down of television cable channels in the Valley, on July 16, the ongoing military onslaught has transformed into political fascism. This is the new low. The unprecedented gagging of press in Kashmir demonstrates the fascist oppression of the Modi-led Government in New Delhi.
A distraught newspaper employee narrated his harrowing experience at the hands of the Police, on condition of anonymity. In a conversation with this scribe over phone he lamented,
The Police on the midnight of July 16th gagged media by raiding Newspaper offices in the city. Showing their most brutal face, the Police unlawfully arrested people who resisted this clampdown on media. Thousands of printed newspaper copies were seized and printing presses were arbitrarily closed down. Some 20 Policemen barged into printing offices directing employees to stop printing newspapers. The cops misbehaved and beat up the employees in the vicinity of their newspaper offices and also snatched their cell phones. This action is unreasonable, not that pellet guns on innocent and angry teens is reasonable. There is justified and legitimate anger in Kashmir. India has always been ruthless in dealing with Kashmir but this time it is beyond plain ruthlessness. I would urge the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to broadcast Kashmiri journalist’s suffering and suppression.
“The beyond ruthlessness” narrative from this victim of gagging delineates Modi’s fascism, which is part of the thoroughgoing militarization of Kashmir that has been living under the most brutal and deceptive occupations of modern times. In these long tumultuous years of occupation, Kashmiris have painfully discovered India’s cultural and political fascism that is both reactionary and repressive – naively branding us as Pakistan-backed Islamists, raiding newspaper offices, and detaining employees. Compromising the liberty of Kashmiri press, all this rhetoric on “Islam and Islamism in Kashmir”, and “pro-separatist sympathetic media” has been willfully staged by India to divert and underplay the long-pending political demand of Kashmiris – the Plebiscite.
Owing to the massive infringement of human rights and extension of Police powers, the Valley has lost 41 people, mostly youngsters, and 3,100 others have been wounded, post-July 8 killing of Burhan Wani. Burhan was Kashmir’s freedom fighter against brutal Indian forces. This pre-meditated killing of Burhan flared up tensions across the Valley with attempts at suppressing and silencing the Voice of Freedom in Kashmir. Nevertheless, the high-spirited youth came out on the streets in overwhelming numbers and angrily hurled stones on the ubiquitous army personnel, who sat protected in their fortified patrolling vehicles. This outburst has not been limited to one particular place. It has travelled from Tral, the native town of Burhan, to the rest of South Kashmir and later moving up to the North.
As the streets swarm with protesters, we see unarmed angry crowds standing fearless against the heavily armed Indian forces. Generating decades of hatred, it is the army that had enjoyed lasting unchecked seizure of power in Kashmir, with humiliation, disappearance, torture and rape becoming instruments of war with a non-combatant civilian population. Thus this hatred is not born in vacuum; it has a history – a political history of deceitful occupation. The scars on the body of Kashmir bear witness to the uncontrolled, despicable violence.
With state institutionalization of fascism, the risk of further unrest threatens the Valley. The irate expressions from the Kashmiri youth is in response to the unnerving tale of how New Delhi’s politics, intertwined with militarization, empowers political bigotry, where symbols of liberalism – free media – is persecuted and shut down, and where the local religious culture of a people is stereotyped, misrepresented, and circulated cashing in on the public ignorance.
As Kashmir seethes under the insufferable political Puritanism of ‘democratic’ India, the ongoing uprising, too, will become an important Chapter in the long historical struggle for freedom that has bred and nurtured several martyrs from within the land of Kashmir. With such cold-blooded killings of Burhan, India gives birth to a new generation of Burhans with similar aspirations of Azadi.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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