by Sadaat Ahmad
Kashmiri youths continue to suffer because of the perpetual conflict. They are the ultimate victims of the whole scenario of uncertainty, violence and acrimony. Hundreds of them got killed and thousands of o others injured or maimed in the last few years. Violence is not new to Kashmir’s youth as a generation has grown up amidst the roar of guns. Their adolescence has been disrupted with humiliation and harassment.
It is not fanciful heroism or illusory abstractions which drives Kashmiri youth towards the vicious cycle of violence and death. But, there are real time causes and circumstances which are predominantly political. Instead of delving into the homilies and platitudes, one needs to be overt in calling out the problem as it exists.
There is a deep sense of alienation among Kashmiris, especially youth, against the Indian state. It is this deep alienation and anger which is driving young and old towards the deadly encounter sites and also towards the mass funerals of the fallen militants and regular street protests. The youngsters have been pushed to the wall due to the mistakes and mishandling of Kashmir by successive regimes in New Delhi.
However, in the last four years of BJP led Narendra Modi government at the centre, even Kashmiri businessmen, employees and students who are stationed in other parts of the country have been unable to negotiate between their Kashmiri and Indian identity. The hate campaigns against minorities and other weaker sections of the society are continuing and the republican values do not seem to be working on the ground. Such an atmosphere has disillusioned them further.
India is not merely the name of a nation, but of an entire civilization that believes and upholds certain core values. But people in power, particularly those who are upholding the ethos of Hindutva, are now oblivious to this. They have become the ‘authority’ on who is a ‘real Indian’ and who is an ‘outsider.’ This rabid communal atmosphere has affected Kashmir and its youth too.
The recent tragic issue of the Kathua rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl has been shocking, as some BJP leaders came openly in support of the accused. The PDP-BJP coalition government in the state has deepened the communal divide between Jammu and the Valley. The result of the communal polarization was seen in the way the ghastly rape and murder which was responded to by a communal mobilization in support of the accused. A criminal is a criminal irrespective of his caste, colour and creed and must be dealt according to law. By evoking emotions and giving communal colour to rape and murder case, some fringe elements are committing a heinous crime against the humanity.
The other reasons that uphold as the catalysts, that pushes Kashmiri youth to the path of violence, are the failure of the idea of India, to inspire them to believe in the values of pluralism, democracy and dissent. The incumbent government in Delhi, like many previous dispensations, seems to have no other initiative than the use of force which, of course, is not going to yield any solution other than aggravating the current problems. It is again committing the fallacy of looking at Kashmir only through the prism of security. The current coalition government between PDP and BJP, especially with the aggressive and communal overtures of the latter on many issues concerning the state and country, is facing a total disconnect from the masses.
The shelling and firing on both sides of the border which has increased manifold since Modi government came to power has added to the problems of already suffering Kashmiris. The violent approach will neither benefit India, nor Pakistan. And such approach always has a devastating effect on the people of J&K. Violence has not given any solution to the problems in the last seven decades and in future also has the potential to bring only death and destructions.
Silencing of guns along the border is need of the hour as incidents of skirmishes and hostilities can further derail the efforts leading towards the formation of better understanding and amity between the two neighbouring countries. The ceasefire agreement signed between the two armies in 2003, was the biggest gift for the people living on both sides of the Line of Control and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. However, unfortunately, for the past some years, ceasefire violation on the border has become a daily routine giving nightmares to border residents.
Even on the issue of providing livelihood and employment to minimize the relative deprivation, the government has failed miserably. There is an acute sense of anger and mistrust towards this government. All this has resulted in a vacuum in the political scene in the valley which could be exploited by many inimical forces.
Of late, the attempts by RSS and BJP to undermine the special position of the state with respect to its attack on Article 370 and Article 35-A have led to a further estrangement of Kashmiris. The seriousness about the recent appointment of the interlocutor was defeated itself by the union government when it declared that the talks shall revolve around governance and not the essential political question. There were no efforts to meet either the separatists or even the alienated youth who are at the centre of this whole discontentment, and are two important stakeholders. And the terms of engagement in this regard have never been elucidated. You can’t have interlocution and brute force going side by side.
There is also a need for all the stakeholders involved to shun the extreme and rigid positions in favour of some common middle ground which will take into consideration the genuine political aspirations of all the people involved. Any solution to the problem should be a lasting one and should satisfy everyone’s aspirations and also keeping in view the radically altered geopolitical scenario. Any solution, like the much worn out UN Resolutions, which have the potential of creating further problems in terms of communal polarization and consequent violence in the already polarized state need to be abhorred.
But before exploring means for a lasting solution to the conflict, there is a strong and urgent need for the trust-building measures between the Indian state and common Kashmiris. We have seen that dialogues fail in an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. The only way for a dialogue to succeed for a final solution is by taking urgent steps to build an atmosphere of trust and sincerity. The first step must be an immediate cessation of the use of force as a policy. This requires positive response also from the non-state actors as well.
That begins by the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire to pave way for a direct dialogue with both the militants and Hurriyat without any preconditions. Proposals of previous committees of interlocutors should be put before the Parliament for a broad discussion and necessary follow up action. A mere appointing interlocutor, without any mandate, does not serve the purpose.
Meanwhile, steps should be taken to withdraw the draconian laws like AFSPA, PSA, etc and minimize the concentration of forces in civilian areas. There should be no fiddling with the Article 35-A and Article 370 which safeguard the state’s special protection and let the Prime Minister himself assure the country from the floor of Parliament on this issue. In the meantime, the Central Government must file a counter affidavit on the Article 35 A issue in the Supreme Court to give an assurance to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There should be a general amnesty, release and possible rehabilitation of all the Kashmiri prisoners who are lodged in prisons across the country.
A comprehensive surrender and rehab policy must be announced for the local youth who have picked up the arms. Concrete steps must also be taken for a time-bound return and resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits and all other migrants to their original places of living. Armed forces should be made more accountable and a credible judicial enquiry be initiated into all instances of excesses committed by the forces against civilians. There should be adequate compensation to all families who have suffered the loss of lives and rehabilitation of the injured by ensuring their means of livelihood must be undertaken immediately.
With the patronage of the Hindutva forces, the non-stop vilification campaigns run by the corporate media against Kashmiris which portrays them as “extremists”, “terrorists” and “pro-Pakistan” to create a wedge between the people in the rest of the country and Kashmiris must be stopped immediately. Harassment of Kashmiri youth in other parts of the country by the security agencies and also right-wing goons must be immediately investigated and culprits punished. There is also a need for all the political parties especially the current ruling party to delink Kashmir from the domestic politics by not taking petty electoral mileage out of the issue.
All this is urgently required so as the besieged people of this place feel a restoration of dignity in life rather than in death. It is primarily upto those who yield power and resources to create these suitable conditions where people live in peace rather than inculcating a terrible death-wish. After all, enough blood has flown down the Jehlum. Kashmir needs solution and salvation now or never.
(Sadaat Ahmad is a CPI (M) Youth Activist. Ideas expressed in the article are the author’s own.)
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