The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

Struggle and Conformity in Kashmir Valley

By Zaboor Ahmad

Kashmir is once again on the boil. The frozen rage has erupted this time over the killing of a Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen (HM) militant, Burhan Wani, from Tral area of south Kashmir. As the news of his killing spread, the lava prepared by routine humiliations at the hands of civil and security apparatus, subjection to intense frisking at every check point guarded by the military men with barrel of gun, where any deviation from the queue would entail untold fallout, erupted. After every half a kilometer, heavy armored military vehicles keep intense tab on the movement of people.

Villages and towns are often put under siege in the darkness of night. With the break of dawn, people listening to the announcement on loudspeakers move out of their homes and assemble. Security men form a narrow corridor making people to pass through it on their way to the place where their final solution would begin. Having done so, people are then bracketed into categories: women accompanied with children form a separate group; elders and young a separate one; and the guests form a third category. The young and guests are subjected to intense questioning. Unfortunately, if someone musters the courage to argue with the security personnel, he faces humiliation at their hands. People are made to sit at fixed places for hours without food and water. Those who wish to get themselves relieved are more often abashed and scolded.

The regular security check makes daily lives of civilians difficult. Imagine if it happens to be the day of examination or interview, in a place where public sector jobs is the only avenue available. Here most of jobs are sold to the highest bidders. People are virtually forced to make repeated entreaties to the military men, heavily laced with automatic rifles, with finger on the trigger of guns, with face half covered, wearing long black shoes. As they leave the place with a sigh of relief, they are stopped virtually at every nook and corner accompanied by humiliation and abuses. These are the so-called security forces armed with power but without responsibility and accountability.

As the news of the killing of militants came in, shopkeepers pulled down the shutters of the shops, while the young people occupied streets and pelted stones on the corrosive state institutions. They are fighting pitched battles with police and paramilitary forces. The security apparatus of the state receives help from informers and the techno fascist regime covertly keeps a constant tab on e-mails, social networking accounts, and call details of the ‘suspects’. The separatist forces, which are on different ideological wavelengths, forming thirty two factions, deeply divided on their methods, are relegated to the background. They come in the picture only when holding press conferences and if the government calls them to negotiation table. The rest of the movement is carried on spontaneously by the people. Whenever local asymmetrical wars spin out of control like in the case of the killing of Burhan Wani, the instant response is that of protests. This time the protests erupted in a place, a little but mesmerizing valley called Kund, situated along the foothills of middle Himalayas in the southern district of Kulgam, which is about 103 kilometers from the hamlet of Tral. This place has been silent since 1987.

In an attempt to muzzle and stifle the voice of people, the state apparatus first resorts to clamping and shutting down of internet and mobile services. These measures don’t prevent the violence from spilling. Hurled stones are retaliated by the military and police with sophisticated weapons that include weapons purchased from Israel, pepper guns, pellets, tear gases, and bullets. Is this self-defense or retaliation? The degree of lethality indicates that it is retaliation and not self-defense. The filming of the crisis scenes is later uploaded on social networking sites, which becomes the daily diet of the young generation for days.

However, considerable change has taken place in the nature of movement, unlike the past when people used to get browbeaten and intimidated with the terror of guns. Newspapers in Kashmir are full of anecdotes about people challenging the army’s right to put them under military crackdown. Often people from surrounding villages pelt stones on the military to break the military crackdown. This is seen as success against the army in Kashmir. The fear which used to characterize the lives of people in the past has vanished.

Corruption is often allowed to permeate in politically fragmented societies as it engenders vested interests while creating necessary centripetal force by helping to maintaining status quo. A system has been created over the decades based on client-patron relationship. This might help explain why public institutions like hospitals, police stations, courts become special targets during stone pelting. The administrative units have become the epicenters of exploitation where common people are fleeced. The new market is rife with gossips that the Indian establishment is allowing spurious substandard pharmaceutical companies to sell these drugs in Kashmir to make Kashmiri people suffer. This news is given credence in the 2015 report of the comptroller and auditor general of India, S.K. Sharma, to the Indian parliament. The report indicted the Jammu and Kashmir government for selling spurious drugs, which didn’t undergo even basic evaluations. This is not only the handiwork of political bigwigs, who get hefty sums under the table for giving necessary approval, but doctors who write the prescription as they get gifts ranging from high quality  pens, cell phones, books, foreign tours, and other utilitiy requirements.

 As I finish this piece today, more than forty people have been killed, twenty three hundred injured, more than hundred are expected to lose eye-sight permanently. The Press has been gagged. The conflict in Kashmir has assumed the scale of civil war, where the houses of police men, who fight against people on the streets, are identified and raised to ground. The police stations and police posts are set ablaze. The scenes from the Valley are terrifying and spine-chilling.

Zaboor Ahmad is political science lecturer in Kashmir.


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘In the Shadow of the Larger Faiths: The Minor Faiths of South Asia’, edited by Prof. Sipra Mukherjee, West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India.

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