“The biggest blunder of the Centre and the State government has been the failure to handle law and order situations. It’s a chain reaction where one person dies and it leads to the deaths of hundreds of people.”
“There was a time above, a time before
there were perfect things, diamond absolutes…
But things fall, things on Earth.
And what falls, is fallen”
These lines from ‘The Dawn of Justice’ best reflect Kashmir’s bygone era of peaceful days and its present day situation. What we see today is a fallen Kashmir, devoid of its Kashmiriyat.
My father often tells me stories of his younger days, the time before the insurgency started when he along with his friend would often walk under moonlight without the fear of getting killed or jump in the river Jehlum without the dread of finding a human body in its depths. Our generation; we, the children of conflict, will never have what our parents had: Peace.
The Article 370 which has so many times been the topic of primetime discussions is a mirage. It has been reduced to nothingness through a series of presidential orders; 260 out of the 395 articles of the Indian Constitution, 94 out of the 97 entries in Union list and 26 of the 47 entries in the concurrent list were extended from 1954 to 1994 to Jammu and Kashmir. The ‘special status’ doesn’t exist.
Today, politicians use the Article 370 to extend their political mileage, fooling the people into believing that it’s under some sort of threat, while in reality, it is almost non-existent. The media uses the Article 370 to boost their ratings, creating a further divide between Kashmir and India. We always fall into this trap. To be blunt, the Article 370 has done nothing but kept Kashmir economically backward.
The slogans of Azadi reverberate in the mosques, on the streets, and in many hearts; Kashmiri people are promised that Azadi is possible, but in reality, it’s difficult to attain. The Kashmir we see on the map does not exist. Today, a referendum is impossible and, even if executed, will fetch no results.
The part of Kashmir that belongs to Pakistan is divided into Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan has seen its demography change over the years and the people there are Pakistanis now. Azad Kashmir has also suffered the same fate and remains mostly under Pakistan’s control. Then there is Aksai Chin, the Chinese occupied Kashmir which now belongs to China. Sane people will agree that China will never secede Aksai Chin.
Finally, we have Jammu and Kashmir, a state with a Muslim majority which has been under the spotlight since 1989. Both the Jammu and the Kashmir province have seen major demography shifts post 1931: the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Jammu in 1947 when over 250,000 Muslims were killed and the Pandit exodus post-1989 which saw over 200,000 Pandits migrate from the valley.
Today, the Jammu region where a majority 66% of the population is Hindu and 30% is Muslim, is mostly pro-India (the Muslims in Jammu being Shia are bitterly anti-Pakistan because of the atrocities on Shias in Pakistan) and would choose India over independence and Pakistan any day. The second province, Ladakh, is also indifferent to the independence struggle and will choose India without any doubt.
So, we are left with Kashmir, where a small percentage of Sunni Muslims are pro-India and a small but vocal percent are staunchly pro-independence. A vast silent majority just wishes to live in peace but wants greater autonomy. However, the anti-India sentiment has been on the rise in J&K since the agitation of 2008 and continues to grow exponentially.
When Kashmiri people are promised independence, know that it’s nigh impossible as neither India, Pakistan nor China will secede from their parts of Kashmir, and even if they did allow a referendum to take place, the result would be inconclusive or catastrophic as many people will suffer due to the conflict of ideologies and identities in the demographically diverse state.
Now, while the intricacies of the conflict are up for debate, one thing is not: removal of life and liberty are not democratic means to solve any conflict. What Kashmir has seen over the years is disproportionate use of force against civilians by armed forces. The biggest blunder of the Centre and the State government has been the failure to handle law and order situations. It’s a chain reaction where one person dies and it leads to the deaths of hundreds of people. The forces shoot bullets and metallic pellets indiscriminately at protesters and many times innocent children are caught in the crossfire.
The government needs to use better alternatives like rubber bullets, rubber pellets, water cannons, tasers and other non-lethal means to quell mob violence. Only in Kashmir, we see bullets being fired in response to stones “In Haryana, Jats were protesting violently, blocking the road, and destroying railway tracks, raping women. Not even lathi charge was used. Any protest in Kashmir is dealt with bullets.” said Ish Mishra, Professor Delhi University.
In Kashmir, civilians are treated like militants. Bullets have been fired on children, women and elder people during the current civilian uprising.
There are extraordinary legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Section 144 which provide impunity to the forces personnel. These articles violate the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, equality, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly and protection against arbitrary arrest.
To my Indian friends, how would it feel if the army just barges in your house at 2 in the night without an arrest or search warrant and beat you up, and you can’t do a single darn thing in response? That’s the power of AFSPA! The Indian government has to repeal this draconian law or at least reduce its power and institute a broad-based inquiry into extrajudicial killings in Kashmir in order to restore the faith of the Kashmiri people in India’s democracy.
Media too has played a negative role. The Pakistani media fuels the anti-India sentiment in Kashmir by portraying a sympathetic image of Pakistan and demonizing India. The Indian media, on the other hand, does a far greater job of radicalizing and isolating Kashmiri youth than separatists or militant groups could ever dream of.
There are newsroom debates, primetime shouting matches which demonize Kashmiris and further isolate the Kashmiri people from the rest of India. The media tells the public about the subsidies that Kashmir receives, yet fails to mention that more than 75 percent money of these packages is spent on projects like those of NHPC (which hardly benefits Kashmiris because of the Indus water treaty), India’s defense projects, etc. and very little on the things that actually matter like education, health, and infrastructure (around 25%).
Any good news emerging from the Valley is seldom discussed and more often than not ignored. The situation has reached a point where a lot of Kashmiris tend to regard the primetime TV debates as instruments of hate. The media has radicalized both the Indian and Kashmiri public. Any debate about human rights violations in Kashmir is opposed on the basis of religious lines. Kashmiri Pandits have been made political scapegoats whenever Kashmir issue is brought up; nothing has actually been done for them besides using them to avoid questions on Kashmir killings.
“What about the Kashmiri Pandits who were killed?” they say when asked about the killings by armed forces in Kashmir. The truth is that instead of holding sensible debates and bringing the Muslim and Pandit communities together, the Indian media has only isolated them further.
In a country where a woman is raped every 30 minutes, why is it difficult for the public to entertain the possibility that Indian Army commits rape in states like J&K and Manipur?
Why is it a problem if we want to hold the forces personnel accountable in a democratic country? Why does it become a problem when Kashmiri people demand that the army should be investigated for their human rights violations in Kashmir? One word: Media.
Today, Kashmir burns in the flames ignited by its own people, fuelled by the failure of governance and communal divide created by the media and pro-Pakistan leadership. As I write this article, 45 people have already died, over 3000 have been injured and 132 eye surgeries (due to pellet injuries) have been performed. Even the paradise can burn, that’s for sure, but we all knew that, didn’t we?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Kashmir Scan.
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