Guest Post by AMYA
What’s happening in Kashmir? Why are the people living in the valley so angry? Why are they mourning at the death of a militant? What is giving them so much courage to shout slogans against the Indian state, even at the cost of their lives? Why do they assemble in large numbers at the funeral processions of the men killed in conflict?
As an Indian have you ever thought about these questions? Have you ever wondered that there must be something seriously turbulent in their reality that they are so resentful? Or, like the majority, you find yourself defending the unity of the country and calling the people living in Kashmir “traitors” or “anti-India.” If each and every person assembled in the funeral processions is a traitor then the best solution for the state is to kill all of them, stay happy with that piece of land and preserve the Indian unity. Has Indian nationalism become so narrow? We are the supposed carriers of the legacy of nationalism that Tagore had envisioned. But it’s now getting distorted into a revengeful and inhuman nationalism. We have lived the ‘unity in diversity’ phenomenon by being accommodative towards different communities. Why are we then so intolerant towards the people of Kashmir? Just because it is a matter of honour and pride for us to possess the land of Kashmir and further to prove our might, we keep eliminating any dissenting voice?
I have also often heard justifications of history. “Look what they did to the Kashmiri pandits, that was wrong. They deserve it.” Well if history is to be used as a justification then I guess nobody deserves to live. Whether it is Burhan Wani or the state armed forces, violence should and cannot be justified on any account. The state is vested with innumerable powers, it can address people’s needs and grievances if it wants to, but why is it that violence is seen as the only way to deal with the Kashmir issue? After Burhan is killed around thirty more have died and many continue to be injured and hospitalised. How long will this go on for? What have we anyway got from this tit for tat ideology?
It was July of last year that I was in Kashmir for my Ph.D research and I was seeing the pictures of the new militant group making the rounds on social media. As an Indian, I was intrigued and curious to know why are young boys again being drawn towards militancy. Why aren’t they happy with my country? What is wrong? Some of the answers to this I found in my interviews with boys from Palhaalan village in Baramulla district who had pelted stones in 2010. When I asked them about the reasons one of them said
When the militancy movement was at its peak in 1990s we lost our loved ones, we saw a lot of bloodshed and like me, many decided never to pick up the gun, because violence could not solve anything. So, when we got angry we would throw stones. Every household has lost somebody in the conflict, some have disappeared, some are disabled due to torture, women do not know if they are widows or not. It is but natural to feel angry. But despite our decision not to take to arms, just for throwing stones once, many of us are regularly picked up for interrogation and locked up on Indian Independence and Republic Day. They think we are terrorists. Where do we go for seeking justice? We have been injured by pellets, some have lost their vision, some still have pellets in their bodies and our lives are ruined. Sometimes I feel it would have been better if we had picked up the gun just like Burhan. It would be better to die than live like this.
I guess those boys must have picked up the gun now. We have landed ourselves in a vicious cycle. More than violence, it was essential to understand the problems. Being a conflict zone, Kashmir needed extra humane care but our negligence, assumptions and violence resulted in many Burhans. We’ve killed a Burhan, hundred more will come and hundred more will be killed and more will come again and so on. What is it that we are getting at by resorting to violence? If we are trying to quell dissenting voices, it’s not helping because thousands and lakh more are resounding back. I have met mothers in the valley who feel proud when their sons die, they sing songs of glory at their sons’ funeral- these are ordinary women from villages- not ISI agents or paid by the media-simple mothers who are so unhappy that their only ray of hope is the son fighting a war because there is no other way that their grievances can be heard.
I so wish that we had adopted a more humane approach with the people. We got so lost in the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ illusion that now it seems impossible to win their faith. Humanity is a language that transcends borders, religion and communities but we never believed in it. During my research, I made a number of friends studying in universities in Kashmir. I was always welcomed as a family member. Despite my different religion and my background, they did everything possible to help me with my field trips and research. But, today as an Indian I feel responsible for their grief. I have no idea how they are. They have no internet connection, no phone connection. I don’t know if they are dead or alive.
The only thing we can do now is cry over spilled milk because Kashmir seems to be a lost battle. Yes, we can very well keep sending more armed forces, killing the civilians and rejoice at the possession of the land, but for generations to come, this will remain a black spot on the the Indian nation.