The Democratic Drama in Kashmir
By Rouf Dar
How do you fight an enemy that wears a beneficiary’s mask, a wolf in a lamb’s cloth? How do you face a belligerent that is sustained by the largest military force in the world? How do you weed out a genocidal monster that is hell-bent upon destroying your existence? How do you free yourself from a military state masquerading as a democracy? How do you get rid of a dushman that pits your own brethren against you? How do you rebel against a despot that considers dragging you by your balls? How do you save yourself when all the occupier is concerned with is your land and not people?
These are questions that have got doubtful answers, or no answers at all, or answers that don’t explain the dilemma but nevertheless exist. People who are up against such a state know not much about what hits them and when. Sometimes, and this happens every other day in Kashmir, the state uses direct force to quell the rebellious population. Other times, it co-opts a section amongst the people to fight the war on its behalf. The exploitation of legal and democratic lofty ideals accompanies every form of force. And each time the forces work in tandem to hold the population under siege contrary to their will. This has been the story so far in Kashmir.
PDP won the assembly elections in 2014, observed keenly, but ridiculously, by all in neighboring India as yet another sample of plebiscite. The turnout has never mattered to Kashmiris as every non-zero percentage suffices for the democratic claims of the state in question here. As PDP entered into a coalition with the right wing BJP, political analysts termed it a blunder as they predicted possible saffronisation of the valley and a subsequent undoing for PDP. For the common man, however, it hardly mattered who held the charge of their lives for the next six years. Both the parties were partners in crime that deferred the solution of this conflict by another six years.
Mufti Sayeed and his party have always taken a stand that is referred to as “soft separatism”, an oxymoronic ideology that fools people via patronage. The former’s death left a void. It served the interests of the party though, as Mehbooba Mufti plunged into the scene. Her commercialisation and widespread advertisement as the first female chief minister of the state of J&K worked well in some quarters, because it exploited political sentiments in the name of feminism. But we Kashmiris are immune to forgetfulness. We don’t forget, nor do we forgive. It took just a couple of years to expose the devilish hypocrisy imbibed by her party as had been the case with her predecessor.
Time and again, elections have been used by India to prove that Kashmiris are peace-loving people, who believe in democracy, Indian that is. Until 1975, it brilliantly coaxed Sheikh Abdullah who danced to their tunes. And Sheikh, being a popular figure, managed to perform the role well. People saw in him the liberator, who would do no wrong. The 1975 accord with Indira Gandhi buried all hopes from the man, who had betrayed his people in his insatiable lust for power. That was Sheikh. This is Mehbooba. And Mehbooba can’t, and can, be Sheikh: the former because she cannot match the collaborative pedigree set by Sheikh and the latter because by integrating with the occupational machinery, she is one among Sheikh’s progeny. Now even if Sheikh reincarnates, India cannot fool people using politicians like him.
The sham of democracy works on the base of a well-designed and properly-planned military structure. To substantiate its mighty claims, a swollen figure of 700,000 troops – the number is increasing every day – is stationed in the valley that monitors its working day in and out. India in Kashmir, therefore, is a military rule cloaked in democracy. The jamhooriyat of India has no jamhoor or consent of the people. It is despised on an everyday basis and the present times are a proof of public demand for referendum. Even before testing the political system of democracy, we have come to denounce it because if the system is exploitable, it cannot be an ideal or a revolutionary system. Democracy is nothing but a modern form of perverted aristocracy. And Indian democracy is pure tyranny.
This facade of democracy operates at the superficial level in the valley. The debates over whether democracy exists in Kashmir or not requires a burial once for all. The real Kashmir exists beneath all this superficial political drama. Political parties in the valley, pro-Indian to be accurate, are part of a sugarcoating mission that infantilise the cherished goal of freedom. The working of these parties is laden with filth, contempt, hypocrisy, force, and collaboration. Their presence is all that matters. Their participation in a coercive democratic procession helps India propagate that everything is fine in Kashmir and that the problems, if ever arise, can well be tackled with increased democratisation and political inclusiveness.
The final nail to the coffin of democracy was dealt in 1987, when almost all the armed militant commanders of the future had contested elections that were rigged to the core. The candidates of Muhammad Yusuf-led Muslim United Front were even beaten. Muhammad Yusuf soon became Syed Salahudin. The HAJY group emerged. People crossed the “border” for arms training in droves. Kashmiris ultimately started fighting a battle that they had to. An era of jaddojahad dawned. To eliminate the armed men, the era was turned into zulm for Kashmiris. It extinguished forever any hopes of pro-resistance factions being swayed by elections in near future.
To gain a foothold over the population, India has never shied away from pushing the limits of “Standard Operation Procedures” of its forces. Armed with laws that grant them absolute judicial immunity, the forces are beasts, who indulge in nothing but killing. They are mercenaries drowned in patriotism of an Akhand Bharat, manipulated by swirling nationalism. Killing us has been a part of their larger Hindutva mission. Graveyards have filled at such a pace that Kashmir is a graveyard now. The number of disappeared people runs in thousands. The laapata of Kashmir have died in silence either in an Indian jail or in a fake encounter or lie buried in an unmarked mass grave.
The uncontrollable insurgency that sprang up in the 1990s became a headache for the state. As a result, murky tactics appeared in the devilish Indian mind. Intelligence agencies pitted armed factions against each other and turned them into belligerents. Thus, the most violent form of notoriety ever known to Kashmiris arose – the Special Task Force or Ikhwanis. They are soulless Kashmiri cannibals who feed on the kind of their own nationality. Using money, a vast network of spies, collaborators and informers has been built that reports directly to the military headquarters. A cyber police station that traces calls and watches private chats completes the Orwellian Big B that snoops and controls people’s lives.
A generation born under the curfews of the 1990s attained their maturity in 2010, who played with the tombstones as their wicket, who ran for their lives and not medals, who tried to play football but got caught in a barbed wire, who heard bullets for Mozart. This fearless generation, armed with no more than a stone, gave India countless nightmares and continues to do so. The latter responded with more battalions of uniformed men, a media blackout, complete ban on means of communication and the use of PSA as a countering tool. The message now is heard in different corners of the world with this generation taking the social media route, artistic ways like music, and writing to make their pain felt.
It is 2016. The day the first draft of this write-up takes shape is the 50th of a consecutive shutdown. A protest rally is passing through the village. The participants are draped in green and black flags. There is no noise but intense sloganeering, which comes packed in overwhelming, turbocharged emotions from the heart. They pause in every hamlet square and involve the locals in a breathtaking exercise of Azaadi and Ragdo Ragdo. Water flavoured with sharbat is provided to them all along. Men pour out on roads to watch the hysteria unfold. They know the next day it will be them. Women climb up the windows. They pray for the safety of protesters who have a new Azaadi Burhan waali.
The popular HM commander was killed on July 8, the night that set motion to an incessant wave of protests all across Kashmir. The reaction was spontaneous. And soon Azaadi was on everyone’s lips. Burhan Wani’s sister sung him teary elegies. The fateful summers have arrived yet again. Had Agha Shahid Ali lived to watch this, he would have written about these summers of Kashmir, too. This year is another attempt to achieve what our people have been dying for. Heart, slogans, and stones are our weapons. We are being dealt with pellets, bullets, and teargas shells. We are cut off from each other and the world. We are in a prison. We have been in a prison. We are a prison.
More than 90 bodies have filled our graveyards since all this began on the third Eid. More than 10,000 are injured with around 300 having lost their eyesight, thanks to the “non-lethal” pellets. In a recent statement, the Indian defence minister said that his forces cannot use lathis where a bullet is necessary. He forgot that his forces have no training in lathis. They are professional killers. They are meant to kill, not disperse, an agitating crowd. One day the state cracks down on media houses and prevents publishing of newspapers. Few days later, the advisor to CM says that there was no ban on publishing. Their mechanism has ruptured. India has failed. The search for excuses is on.
A state-run racket is in process nowadays. More than 9,000 youth have been arrested. Every evening, newsreaders reveal the number of persons arrested during the day. Quantifying these arrests has become a routine. It feels like a cricket match score sans any joyous feeling. Jails in the valley, and neighbouring India, must be full of our youth. Some of them are slashed with PSA straightaway. Others accrue them monetary benefits via extortion. The current officers in charge of this racket will soon find medals around their necks and stars on their shoulders. The stars and medals will be bloodstained, though.
After the incoming call facilities of our mobile phones were restored, a friend from Jammu called to say hello and enquire about the situation. I asked him about the gossip in Jammu. “Yahan tum loguun ko gaaliyan padhti hain,“ was the reply. He felt sorry on his inability to lie to me. I claimed to be absolutely fine. As we have been receiving goliyaan since 1947, gaaliyaan konsi badi baat hai. Not only the military occupies us but the collective conscience of the occupier has consented to the occupation. Our fight is against them also.
As I conclude, I am reminded of slogans that might interest sections of the Indian society. Bharat teri maut aayi, shouts the crowd. I remember the recent JNU fiasco when students were booked under sedition laws for similar slogans. Here, sedition is a national habit. We don’t get booked for sedition. We live in extremes. We die and win but don’t live and lose. There is no middle path. This is Kashmir, not India.
Rouf Dar is a researcher-cum-storyteller from Indian occupied Kashmir, involved in documenting occupation and resistance. He is a Post Graduate student of Political Science at Kashmir University. Look up his blog here. Twitter: RoufDar_
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