By Naveed Ul Hassan
The news of deaths has stopped coming in from Kashmir. People are back to the “normal”. Buses are plying. Some schools have also opened for first time in four months. Literally, “nothing” untoward is happening in Kashmir. Presumably, everything in Kashmir is as good as in Delhi (yes, before demonetisation). Although the weekly protest calendars are coming from the Hurriyat camp, they are seen on papers only.
What is the fiasco about Kashmir, then? Why did people protest?
There is this mixed feeling in almost everyone with the return of “normalcy”. Some say that it is a result of wrong strategies put to use by the resistance leadership in the four month long deadlock. Others term it a natural fatigue by continuous stalling of the activities in the region. The “normalcy” itself, however, puts to rest the first two assumptions, proving how hard the state has been trying to enforce it. The tactics vary from demoralising the resistance leadership via the media to jailing thousands of young boys who question their writ. Night raids by the state forces had gained momentum by the middle of the ongoing uprising.
Therefore, calling the “normalcy” as outcome of the fatigue and wrong strategies is just another move to uphold the state proclaimed normalcy. Does it feel like living in peace when a newspaper is banned without giving any specific cause? Are these the “normal” times when the state forces deny you of basic rights in ascertaining the cause of your unlawful arrest? (This is to remind the reader that one can be arrested under India’s Public Safety Act without specifying the cause. The maximum time under this illegal arrest is about two years).
What happens when the news of killings don’t reach the media? Once the media frenzy is over, it leads to slow bureaucratic occupation of the people. In times like these, people arrested under the draconian laws like PSA are made to suffer in silence and the whole international community is oblivious of the persecution. It is one thing, when one is killed by the state; it is quite another, when one is arrested. The whole family is made to suffer. One is burdened with so many cases that if one gets bail in one case, one would be taken into custody in another.
How does the state proclaim that these are “normal” times? By inaugurating some cricket tourneys under the Indian Army banner and overlooking the killing of a cricketer by the same forces. By making the number of tourists visiting the troubled valley as a litmus test for “normalcy” in Kashmir. By celebrating a Kashmiri who has qualified for the Indian civil services.
“Normalcy” is described by the paranoid people like the henchmen of the pro-Indian political parties as that state of being when people are immersed in commodities and forget to ask the deeper questions about our life in Kashmir. This is the exact version of what is put to use in Kashmir, especially after a continued hartal for a good long period. In the summer uprisings of 2010, the same definition was used as propaganda.
While the “normalcy” is achieved officially, what is happening in the valley is a source of serious concern. Away from the cameras, there are thousands rotting in jails, hundreds killed, and thousands injured lethally. This is not the outcome of the happenings this summer but as a policy decision of every dispensation.
The notion of “normalcy”, thus, needs a serious unpacking. This “nothing” happens needs a closer examination. While a campaign to promote how things have been controlled is launched by the PR facilities of state, the “security forces” are busy searching for protestors, who questioned their role in the valley. While the state proclaims that the valley got a relief from hartals, people question the unlawful detention of Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist in Kashmir.
What really happens in this “normalcy” is that people are crushed under the boots. The voice over the public address system of government PR exercise fails to create an impact. People are making rounds of the courts to free their children, while endlessly learning judicial lingo every day. The examinations of students, the opening of cafes, and the plying of buses are not the solution to the problem. On the contrary, it is aggravating the same. If “normalcy” had officially been restored in Kashmir, why would there be a 2016 after the “normalcy” in 2010?
It is time we stopped buying the rhetoric of “normalcy” and started looking for a permanent solution to this problem. This uncertainty of our future, of our life, and of our security needs to be changed for good. While we know that solutions are not found in days, may I remind that the Kashmir conflict has been going on for decades, including three wars.
A sense of “normalcy” would return to Kashmir, when an ordinary Kashmiri would be able to roam the streets without disclosing his/her identity to every man. “Normalcy” would mean a certain future and a guarantee that an armed man is not going to rape your daughter. The day a Kashmiri would be consulted about his future would be his nirvana.
Many perceive the independence from the Indian Occupation as a start for “normalcy”. But that is a serious question and it asks India’s commitment to the UN Security Council Resolutions passed from time to time. Peace is a major casualty of the state version of “normalcy”. Every day we hear of the killings of people across the LoC on both sides. Perhaps it is time for India and Pakistan to introspect about their roles vis-a-vis Kashmir and decide for a peaceful arrangement for Kashmiris, keeping in view political aspirations of the people.
Let us forget “normalcy” in Kashmir for a while and try to focus on the larger issues of peace. This is the best opportunity for everyone to solve it and avert a major crisis in Asia, just by playing their cards right. Let Kashmir not be an issue of pride for anyone, except Kashmiris. We are sick of carrying coffins of our brothers.
We do want peace but not “normalcy”.
Naveed Ul Hassan is a civil engineering student, based in the conflict zone of Kashmir.
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.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘The Idea of the University’, edited by Dr. Debaditya Bhattacharya, University of Calcutta, India.