2011: Year of Peace?

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Unlike previous three years, this remained relatively peaceful. It was a year when major issues like the official acknowledgement of the existence of unmarked and mass graves and the debate around proposed partial revocation of AFSPA remained in the news. Analysts say it is politically immature to read the surface calm as peace. Majid Maqbool looks back at the what charactised 2011.

“As far as levels of violence is concerned, it has decreased, if one agrees with the state which defines violence in terms of attacks by armed groups on security forces, incidents of blasts and firing and the number of deaths of civilian population,” says political analyst and researcher, Khalid Wasim Hassan.

Various studies have also shown such incidents in decline, he says, but the definition of violence from people’s perspective varies from that of the state.

“The violence which people in Kashmir face on day today basis has not come down. The stories of illegal detention, torture and custodial deaths are still alive in Kashmir. The pro self-determination leaders and the youth supporting the movement have been arrested under Public Safety Act in all these years, including this year,” says Khalid.  

He says the local population is still threatened with impunity the central forces enjoy in Kashmir under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA), where in anyone can be picked-up, tortured or killed on the basis of mere suspicion, thus becoming the sufferer of ‘violence’.

“No doubt the number of people who were killed by security forces was less this year, but those who were killed in past have become part of the public memory as ‘martyrs’. “To read end of militancy or calmness of 2011 as end of the movement for Azadi in Kashmir is immature because the militancy is just a part of this movement,” says Khalid.

“It’s wrong to interpret the uneasy calm that exists in Kashmir as the ‘return of normalcy’,” says Happymon Jacob, Assistant Professor in Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, JNU, and a frequent commentator on Kashmir politics. “There were sporadic protests …and human rights violations in the valley, and excessive force was often used against Kashmiris by the security forces.”

He says the term ‘peaceful’ does not describe today’s Kashmir. “There could be an uprising in Kashmir any time if the security forces continue to violate human rights and if a political solution is not reached in Kashmir,” Jacob says. “Kashmir and Kashmiris constantly live on the edge.”

Pakistan, or the various actors there, is sending fewer numbers of militants into the valley today, says Jacob, which is an obvious indication that Pakistan has changed its Kashmir policy.

“This shows that the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is perhaps reaching its end with the two countries looking at the possibility of reaching a non-zero sum solution to the Kashmir conflict,” he says.

Jacob believes various Kashmiri parties, both dissident and mainstream, have also modified their views about ‘Azadi’ which has thrown up multiple possibilities of resolving the Kashmir conflict without changing the existing borders. “The conflict in Kashmir is between Kashmir and New Delhi and it can only be resolved by a political package from New Delhi,” says Jacob.

Rashid Raina, a PhD scholar in the School of International Studies, JNU says this year no major issue stirred people to come out on the streets in big numbers. “In 2008 it was Amarnath land row and people felt doubtful about the land transfer plans of the Indian government.  That is why they came out enmasse. Similarly, in 2009 it was the Shopian rape case which stirred the social and religious sensibilities of the people at large, and in 2010 it was the killing of the several youth that provided the much needed stimulus.

Dr Sheikh ShowkatHussain, who teaches International Law at University of Kashmir, says this year there were two important controversies – Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution, asking centre to grant amnesty to killers of Rajiv Gandhi, and discovery of unmarked and mass graves.

“The J&K legislators were put in embarrassing position and despite having more powers than Tamil Nadu Assembly, the state legislature could not muster courage to pass a similar resolution about parliament attack convict Afzal Guru,” says Dr Showkat. “Whatever credibility the state legislature had, it lost it for being indifferent to the plight of Afzal Guru.”

Following this, he says, AFSPA and the controversy relating to its proposed revocation from some areas of the valley provided a chance for the state and central government to divert attention from the AfzalGurru issue. “The discovery of mass graves not only got attention from Indian electronic and print media, but it was also picked up by international media and European Parliament,” he says.  “It was an embarrassment for the central and the state government and they were looking to divert attention from these issues, and the debate around AFSPA provided that opportunity.”

He says probably the establishment too was extra-cautious this year. “Also the major players of resistance leadership were kept in detention for most part of the year.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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