The hype in Kashmir resistance over last two months is being presented in shades, hardly in sync with the essence of resistance. While as the resistance is a people’s movement for realization of long denied political rights—in essence the right of self-determination, it is being painted in fake colours of religious extremism by Delhi establishment, aided and abetted by an obliging media. The exercise is meant to justify the disproportionate use of force, given that there is an international consensus on combating religious extremism. Al-Qaeda and lately ISIS have turned out to be much detested. Hence, to link any regional conflict for rights to such organizations or their ilk evokes concern instead of empathy. There is thus a design involved in linking Kashmir’s struggle for political rights to extremist organizations.
Kashmir’s struggle for political rights predates the growth of extremist religious organizations, such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. The resistance started way back in 1931, when the long suppressed soul of Kashmir found a voice. The resistance thus predates the subcontinental dawn of freedom and division in 1947 into two dominions–India and Pakistan. The division instead of spelling freedom of erstwhile JK State complicated its political fate. Kashmir became subcontinental bone of contention. The state got divided into Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir. The division continues and the conflict persists with mounting loss in life and limb in Indian administered Kashmir.
With more or less 80 deaths, 12,000 plus injuries, scores blinded over last two months, the escalating conflict has set the Delhi establishment on a similar path that it tread in 1990’s—the path of painting the resistance in a different hue. This was a period when United States led western alliance had started facing a backlash from religious extremism it had fostered in countering Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden—the blue eyed boy of the days when eviction of the Soviet invader was the top priority was fast becoming a declared offender.
As onset of militancy in Kashmir in 1989/90 followed the Afghan war and rise of religious extremism, it suited the establishment in Delhi to link Kashmir resistance with what was happening in Afghanistan.
Mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits, part of the design to paint the uprising in different hue, provided an additional handle to Delhi to assign the label of religious extremism. It was called ethnic cleansing and labelled as and an exodus in terms of Old Testament—meant to appeal to the western audience. It has remained a constant refrain during nineties and initial years of 21st century, a device to put the resistance on the back foot. In spite of such machinations, the resistance continued in one form or the other, with its highs and lows. Time and again it was stated by majority community in Kashmir across the board that Pandits are welcome back to live in the state as it existed in the years before the onset of militancy in 1989/90. However, for reasons not difficult to decipher, it has not happened, with the idea of cluster colonies being floated, yet again a part of the design to paint the majority community as intolerant of composite living and cosmopolitan approach.
Onset of militancy and the violence associated with it was linked to global Islamic militancy in order to gain brawny points to crush it with disproportionate use of force. Peaceful struggle turning militant was largely due to denial of rights over a long period. It might be politically right to say that nothing justifies militancy, though it is a fact the world lives with due to shrinkage of political space for diverse groups campaigning for rights. Kashmir has seen mass killings, over 100,000 in two and a half decades, disappearances in thousands, unidentified graves, and arrests of political activists expressing dissent as democratic right. The string of measures by the state revolved around denying the right of self-determination as enshrined in United Nations resolutions. Even alternate ways of settling the dispute by institutionalizing dialogue involving the parties to the dispute was not taken to logical conclusion. Now and then the state makes pretence of engaging in dialogue and more and more the conclusion dawns of consuming time and evading a solution.
The state accusing the populace of militancy and violent protests persisted in spite of long phases of peaceful struggle with many a militant group foreswearing militancy and opting for peaceful struggle. The nefarious designs of the state could be gauged from the fact that it did not opt for a settlement, by making use of peaceful phases of struggle. Instead, shrinking of space for peaceful dissent continued to be the state policy with incarcerations and house arrests of political activists, denial of right of peaceful assembly. The cosmetic measures though continue of exploring solutions through working groups as assigned in 2006 with Manmohan Singh at the helm and in 2010 by appointing a team of interlocutors.
And even earlier with Narshima Rao talking of sky being the limit, or, by floating solutions like Independence minus and autonomy plus in alternate tracks of engagement. Yet again, the conclusion dawns of consuming time and evading a solution. And, the state trying its best to paint the uprising of rights in extremist religious colours, even though the resistance has made it clear time and again that it has nothing to do with extremists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS hue.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
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(Author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist)