Kashmir: An Honest Question for the Civil Society
By Iftikhar Gilani
Situation in Kashmir is worsening by the day. Narendra Modi’s Government is dreaming to browbeat and exhaust the masses with the use of brazen force, through security forces and imposition of continuous curfews and engulfing the masses in utter sense of defeat and disappointment.
It is perhaps the government’s naivety not to be aware of how expensive such a bargain can be. The news coming from Kashmir gives the impression that the whole population has gotten so tired and fed up with the continuous upheaval that for the way out of this, it finds itself forced to adopt a ‘do or die’ approach and now feels ready to fight the security forces even with bare hands and is willing to sacrifice anything and everything at its disposal, so much so that youths and even women have attacked many army camps. A Border Force check-post in Bandipora, that had existed there since 1969, has been completely razed to the ground. Furious mobs even vent their anger at and demolished the medical camps set up by the army in remote parts like the Kunj area of Kupwara.
Some of the disquieting news coming about events in different places are such that not even the leaders, who are presently under house arrests in Srinagar, had not even imagined about them. It seems that Burhan Wani’s death has served as a trigger to the explosives laid ready to be detonated. This time round news of strikes and clashes are coming from even places like Kargil and Gurez where populations live completely under army siege.
Like Pakistan, authorities in India as well are stunned by this turn in the situation. They wonder and are in askance, ‘How on earth and on whose behest have the Kashmiris started this campaign?’ I have myself heard a senior minister saying in the central hall of the Parliament, ‘It is now a golden opportunity for India to give a clear message to Kashmiris that no matter what they do, their demand is unacceptable and therefore any other step be taken only after making the Kashmiris accept this fact.’ This minister also said that Kashmiris, as a matter of fact, according to him, are ‘separatists’, who had been spoiled by the previous Governments.
The failure of political process in 1990 had brought Kashmir on a crossroad and showed them the power of bullets but after 2008 this idea got changed into the belief that perhaps stones are heavier than the bullets and this change in thought made the public force its political leadership take control of the campaign. However once again now efforts are under way to make the political leadership ineffective and an atmosphere of disruption is being orchestrated. By pushing the youth into the feeling and belief of hopelessness and helplessness, they are actually being forced to take up arms as the last resort and this way it would be easier for the authorities to deal with them effectively.
Past experiences show that instead of facing and dealing with large public demonstrations, controlling the militancy by force has proved helpful for India and, by linking it with terrorism, sympathy can be gained in world opinion as well. The government had been disorientated through the demonstrations of non-cooperation and show of anger by the public. Immediately after his return from the African tour on 12 July, Narendra Modi’s Foreign Secretary, Jai Shanker, informed the government that situation in Kashmir is a serious threat in the way of their diplomatic efforts. During this meeting, it was also decided that no notice will be taken of the statements emanating from Pakistan about the situation in Kashmir because counter statements can attract international reaction.
Failure of the political activity has put Kashmir onto an inevitable crossroad. If we look at the statements made by our different prime ministers, such as Narasimha Rao, who declared, ‘Ask for anything between this earth and the sky but independence’, it proved to be an illusion. The promises of Vajpaee that ‘Kashmir problem can be solved in a human spirit’ and Dr Manmohan Singh’s famous saying that , ‘we can change friends not neighbours’ have not reached any logical end.
For the solution of Kashmir problem nothing has been done apart from simply maintaining the status quo and providing facilities to the people on both side of the border for travel and trade. Strict monitoring of such basic facilities of travel and trade reduced it to be a worthless claim. After a lapse of a decade, both sides have failed even to reach any agreement on exchange of currency.
The irony is that whenever the situation in Kashmir moves towards peace, Indian and Pakistani leadership fall into a slumber believing everything has become normal, only to be woken up by the crisis like that of 2008 and 20010. And even then after displaying temporary panic and confusion, they go back to sleep again.
It was his own Congress Party that played a key part in sabotaging the political process initiated by Manmohan Singh in 2007 because it were the days of Manmohan Singh’s power in twilight and preparations were underway for the coronation of Rahul as the Gandhi Dynasty’s successor. Congress was not prepared in any way to give the message that any deal with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir to have any effect on Rahul Gandhi’s future political career. It did not want in any way to provide a political weapon to BJP in assembly elections in UP and other states.
More or less Modi is facing a similar predicament now. Although Modi is already known as a hardliner, Congress does not want to miss any opportunity to attack him. Instead of economic and political issues, national and state assembly elections are being contested on the basis of Kashmir and Pakistan.
It could have been more pleasant and welcome if selected members of the civil society approached the leaders of both political parties and the media and tell them, ‘For God’s sake stop cooking your meals on the fire burning in Kashmir so that some fruitful political activity may be started.’ Kashmir’s mainstream political parties, PDP and National Conference are demanding this as well.
Despite the dangerous and unpredictable situation, the Kashmiris have not yet lost their patience and have not said goodbye to their self-restrain. Several attempts have been made to pave the way to win elections by creating sectarian hatred by having Amarnath [Hindu] pilgrims attacked. Last week when Gujarati pilgrims found themselves forced to take refuge in Nageen Club, the locals looked after them with great respect and dignity. When more than 60 elderly, youths, and women reached Delhi, they had lavish praise for Kashmiris.
Similarly locals violated the curfew restrictions to rescue the [Hindu] pilgrims and non-pilgrims who had met with an accident in South Kashmir in Bijbehara. If these pilgrims and non-pilgrims have any sense of fairness left in them, then they would definitely be shocked and amazed at the partisan media and political opportunists, who are leaving no stone unturned and crossing all the limits in character assassination of the Kashmiris.
Those who stayed at Nageen Club, locals and club staff did not only provide them food free of cost but also took care throughout their stay and provided them comfort. These stranded pilgrims said that they asked the army and department of tourism for help but all in vain. ‘If anyone came for our help it were these local Kashmiris.’ Victims of the accident even told the government TV channel, ‘If you want to come and see humanity in the world, then come to Kashmir and see it for yourself.’
Local Muslims Rescue Amarnath Yatra Pilgrims
Photo: The Indian Express
The piece was first published on Urdu Media Monitor. Translated from Jadid Khabar, Delhi, 27 July 2016.
Iftikhar Gilani is a senior Kashmiri journalist based in Delhi. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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