By Inamul Haq
Conflicts in South Asia can be ascribed to various reasons. Some conflicts have their roots in British colonial policies such as divide and rule and some have arisen due to the modernization process in the sub-continent which benefits some and marginalizes and excludes others.
Kashmir conflict is a complicated and multidimensional issue and can fit into the first category. The political mobilization of the Kashmiri Muslims, deinstitutionalization of Indian politics, and the intervention of Pakistan sowed the seeds of discontent in Kashmir. India took repressive measures to deal with the insurgency that created the situation of ‘new war’ in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Mary Kaldor (1998) argues that the ‘new wars’ were basically post-cold war conflicts, which differ from the accepted definition of warfare. The main features of these conflicts include human rights abuses, identity issues, and the presence of para-military forces, which lead to the displacement of population. Moreover these conflicts take place in the context of criminality, corruption, and administrative failures. Since the partition of the sub-continent, Kashmir which was a princely state became a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Both the nuclear-armed countries have fought three wars over the territory. In addition to several border skirmishes, both the countries usually focus on everything related to Kashmir. In 1989, Islamic groups in Kashmir began a struggle for independence from Indian rule and India has since then deployed an estimated one million troops in the region. The basic reason for the breakout of the violence was the rigged elections of 1987, followed by an armed revolt after, and had drawn the Kashmir Valley into the conflict zone. The state was put under undeclared emergency from the 1990s, which disrupted the values of rule of law and made possible the violation of human rights and restricted the fundamental freedom of the people of the Valley. The law enforcement agencies suppressed the voice of self-determination by using force and creating alienation towards the Indian state. The popular uprisings in 2008, 2010, and 2016 prove this alienation. The prominent laws like AFSPA and PSA gave a free hand to security forces in propagating cruel and inhuman treatments on the people of Kashmir.
From July 09, 2016, the uprising after the death of Burhan Wani should be a matter of utmost concern not only for India, but the whole world. The approach adopted by the Indian state is the evidence that for India, there is only value of Kashmiri resources and not Kashmiris. What is even more problematic is that our state politicians too don’t seem to be disturbed by the innocent killings that have taken place since the last decade. The thirst of power had made them blind while resorting to the inhuman laws for the maintenance of social order. However, if both the center and the state have failed to learn the lessons from history, then we might be wrong in merely hoping that things will settle down for the good.
Those who are aware of Kashmir history would know that violence in the Kashmir valley has increased a lot since 1989. As Hanna Ardent had perceptively argued, violence becomes a tool and technique of social control among the modern nation states. In Critiques of Violence (1978), Walter Benjamin seeks to relate violence with social relations, ethics as well as justice and law. He states that law itself is a kind of violence that constitutes and maintains social relations by creating a monopoly on force and coercion. Similarly, Giorgio Agamben argues that violence had become a dominant paradigm of Government. The state justifies lethal weapons, killings as a means of law making or law preserving like war against terror, maintenance of law and order, etc. It is because the state wants to establish power through violence.
However, the discourse of Kashmir history changed to a very significant extent after 2008 when people in the Valley openly challenged the rigged Indian democracy. The demand of plebiscite, the slogans of Azaadi (freedom), the rage of stone-pelting and the raising of Pakistani flags showed the isolation people felt from India. There are so many events that clearly show that people in the Valley do not want to remain a part of India. Why are the educated youth in Kashmir, unlike the earlier militancy movements, picking up arms? Who is responsible?
The Kashmir issue became more interesting after the JNU event regarding Afzal Guru last year, which created chaos among the ‘nationalists’, who demanded stern actions against the organizers. Another incident occurred at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar on March 31 last year, which revealed the deep resentment the Indian youth felt towards Kashmir. In contemporary India, the debate, discussion, and research have become so difficult that everyone fears to talk about the Kashmir issue. The recent violence that happened at Ramjas College, Delhi University, created a new discourse in India and in that context the University of Hyderabad, along with Punjab University, cancelled a talk on Kashmir Conflict. On the one hand the world community gave statements on solving the Kashmir dispute: Norway, China, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey demanded that both India and Pakistan must solve the dispute and also asked India to stop human rights violations. On the other hand, the battle between the people of Kashmir and the Indian administration rages on without any solution in sight.
Inamul Haq is a PhD student at the Central University of Gujarat. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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