Boiling Kashmir

Amit Ranjan, a Research Scholar in South Asian Studies division of School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi tells us about the situation today in Kashmir. (published in the Rising Kashmir/16th July 2010

Kashmir is boiling and in the midst of extreme violence, erupted due  to intermittent killing of innocent youths and teens by the paramilitary forces present in the valley. This time the level of violence is more than the normal and it seems that 1990 situation has re-emerged, when militancy began to spread its venomous fang in the valley. The difference between then and now is that at that time militants supported by external actors created havoc while at present the common people are leading the protests against the Indian state. As the number of people participating in protest rallies increasing everyday and the situation gets out of control of the security forces deployed in the valley, the policy makers in New Delhi and Srinagar have unanimously decided to hand over the area to the Indian Army.

Now the question arises that why the common people, who have no deep love for either pro-Pakistan groups or the Pakistan state are engaged in anti-India activities. Earlier these same people have supported the Indian state during each Indo-Pak war strating from 1947 to the Kargil misadventure. They did not go with the trouble-makers in 1965; when Pakistan planned to attack India with the help of its mercenaries by internally disturbing Kashmir through Hazratbal, conspirational, incident. They have also showed their disdain against the terrorists and militants by fighting against them to maintain peace in the valley. So now if the same people are raising anti-Indian slogans, courageously pelting stones on police and paramilitary forces without any care for their precious lives then the conclusion is that there is something which has compelled them to do so.

Shopian incident, where two young women were raped and then killed by the security forces, killing of innocents youths and children by the paramilitary forces, commitment of atrocious crimes under the legal hand glove of AFSPA etc are few to mention here are the main reasons behind the present development of state of affairs in the valley. These incidents have not only shattered the faith of common people from the Indian and J&K institutions rather have also compelled them to think that they are not part of India. They feel that they are not treated as a respected citizens and also do not enjoy the rights and liberties, which are guaranteed to every Indian citizen by the Constitution. In every democracy the most important right is the right to freely express dissent. In Srinagar people were expressing their dissent when the first incident, in last one month, of cold blooded murder took place. Since then more than dozen people have been killed by the para-military and the police.

I would like to underline once again, taking a cue from Kautilya, that the modern civilized state should never ever use coercive means against its own citizens. The day they forget this lesson their future as integrated nation-state is in danger. Looking into the series of violent measures against the innocent Kashmiris and spate of cold-blooded murders committed by the paramilitary forces in Kashmir it seems that the Indian state have no interest in keeping itself integrated for long time. They are doing what the terrorist failed to do till now that is making the common people to show their sympathy towards the militants and germinate anti- India feelings among the masses.

In this whole episode the governments of India and J&K are main guilty. Instead of looking for a possible solution they are fomenting the crisis. Both are well aware about the fact that there is a need to find out a political solution of the on- going and other long-lasting problems and complaints of Kashmiri people but they are still relying on coercive means to solve those problems. Military means can provide only a temporary solution to any problem by killing, coercing or intimidating the people. Sometimes this mean backfires and more number of people comes out of their homes against the state. In case the governments want to avoid that situation to happen then they must start political processes to vent up ire of common people by engaging the leadership in a dialogue. Some may find it a wicked or a coward idea to engage them in a dialogue but it’s the utmost need. By engaging Huriyat and other factions’ leadership in constructive dialogue government can find a peaceful solution of Kashmir. As a mature democracy it should not shy away from even compromising on one or two issues, which are not in its sovereign interest. During the NDA government an effort was made to engage them in dialogue but the process was derailed by some hawkish elements, who were part of political and bureaucratic administration at that time.

Omar Abdullah should take this step because he is an elected Chief Minister of the state and has mandate to bring peace and prosperity in Kashmir. He must not commit same mistake as his predecessors. The Union government has also its responsibility. Instead of looking for piecemeal solutions it should address the root of the problem. The best win in any battle or war is to win it without firing a single bullet. In case of Kashmir this on going battle or war can won by winning the people by treating them as citizens, making them enjoy every constitutional  rights, punishing the criminals involved in killing innocents, scrapping AFSPA, no use of weapons against unarmed people etc.

To conclude, better to talk and re-establish faith of government in the heart of common people. It is definitely a daunting task after spate of killings of commoners but steps must be taken towards it. The government must ensure that not a single innocent kashmiri is killed. Reducing the number of security forces from the valley will surely have its effect on people. The victims must be compensated and the both the governments must take the blame for the past incidents. The need of the hour is a courageous leadership which can take these steps. There is an adage that no body is bold, situation makes them so, now the situation has come. If present leadership fails to rise to the occasion, the end result will be devastating for which history will not pardon them.

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