Bashir Manzar on Current Situation in Kashmir

Posted: November 1, 2016 in Arrest, Draconian Laws, Human Rights, Right to Dissent, State Violence, Women Rights

By Sai Bourothu

Mr. Bashir Manzar, Editor of the Kashmir daily Kashmir Images,
condemned the Indian Government for betraying the trust and goodwill
of the Kashmiri population and the use of brutal authoritarian force
to thwart peaceful democratic dissent in the valley. Mr. Manzar spoke
on the “Current Situation in Kashmir” in a study circle event
organised by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

The politics of Kashmir cannot be looked at in isolation from that of
Jammu and Ladakh. Jammu is a predominantly Hindu region, Kashmir is
predominantly Muslim and Ladakh is home to a majority Buddhist
population. With different demographics and political situations, the
aspirations and needs of all three regions are also diverse and often
contradictory to each other.

Though the current political unrest in the valley is seen as a
reaction to the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant of Hizbul
Mujahedeen, it would be oversimplifying the distress of Kashmiris.
Kashmir is reacting to communal politics of right wing Hindutva
forces, be it the controversy over beef, ghar wapsi or love jihad
which have instilled a fear and insecurity across the country. The
valley never faced any instances of tensions over these issues, but
recently, a Kashmiri truck driver in Udhampur was murdered by cow
vigilantes for allegedly transporting cows for slaughter.

The elections of 2014 unified the valley to give a mandate to PDP
which fought the election under the slogan of keeping the BJP out of
Kashmir. However, the coalition that formed after the elections in the
form of the PDP-BJP alliance that presently holds power in Kashmir led
to great dissatisfaction in the valley. At present, the most affected
areas of the valley are from South Kashmir, which gave an unanimous
mandate to PDP, and hence feels most betrayed. This alliance of
convenience did not fool anyone as the BJP had been strongly
campaigning for the removal of Article 370 in mainland India, while
simultaneously joining hand with PDP that stood solidly for the
Article to remain. The agenda of alliance that was drafted by the two
parties tried to resolve the differences by majorly two points:
1.      There will be no debate or discussion on section 370.
2.      Laws applicable in the valley such as the Armed Forces Special
Provisions Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act will be reconsidered.

The pro-active targeting of Kashmiri sentiments in the form of
anti-Article 370 campaigns, proposed plans for Sainik colonies and
separate colonies for Kashmiri pandits has simmered to reach this
point of outburst. Apart from the fact that Kashmir valley has been
highly militarised, the proposed Sainik colonies seem to be an
indirect way of attacking Article 370. The attempts to rehabilitate
Kashmiri pandits are also targeted towards a form of segregation which
will never be able to mitigate communal tensions but instead add fuel
to it. The use of pellet guns to counter “violence” caused by Kashmiri
stone pelting can never justify 95 deaths and more than 3000 people
injured. Mr. Manzar also pointed to the violence that was resulted by
the Jat and Patel agitations. Despite massive loss of property and
violent crimes of sexual assault against women, we did not see the use
of pellet guns by the government to maintain law and order. The use of
brutal force to suppress agitations in Kashmir is not solely an issue
of maintaining law and order but is aimed at instilling the feeling of
subjugation within the valley. Another distressing situation is the
attitude of the Government of India which holds no regret for the
plight of Kashmiris that they have caused.

The attitude of the Government of India towards the Kashmiri people
also becomes evident with an example of 2010, which saw the killing of
four innocent Kashmiris by the armed forces on allegations of being
terrorists followed by a series of protests, rallies and gathering
condemning the murders. The violence that pursued saw the death of
almost 123 people by the close of it. As a response to this, the
Government of India appointed a committee under the Ministry of Home
Affairs headed by Mr. P Chidambaram. After an expansive study of the
region for two years which covered various cross sections of people, a
report was submitted. The report was however, shelfed and forgotten.
This is the attitude and extent of willingness the GOI is ready to
commit to peace in the valley. There were many committees that were
assigned similar tasks in the years to come, but ended in the same
fate as its predecessors. Moreover, the only time GOI responds to the
plight of Kashmir in the otherwise numbing silence around the issue is
when Kashmir erupts in protests and violence.

While on one hand Kashmir faces the brunt of Indian Government’s brute
force and apathy, the Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir have crippled the
economy of the valley completely.  The weekly calendars of strikes and
bandhs that have been announced have halted the valley for four months
till now. Schools, trade and local businesses, transport etc. have
been come to a still. With winter knocking at the door and the
examinations for schools just across the corner, the situation in
Kashmir seems bleak for the coming months as well. The valley has been
paralyzed through coercion by Hurriyat and the Government of India in
an orchestrated and meticulously planned manner, leaving Kashmiris
helpless and unable to cope.

The portrayal of Kashmir in mainstream Indian journalism is disturbing
and enraging. The lived experience of being a Kashmiri is being
appropriated continuously while the voices of Kashmir are being
stifled by local leadership and the GOI. There are also widespread
notions of the Azadi movement being orchestrated by Pakistan, but I
would strongly disagree with the same. The Azadi movement dates back
to pre-independence. The Azadi sentiments existed while the popular
leadership in Kashmir led by Mr. Shaikh Abdullah decided to recede to
India, the Azadi sentiments existed while the same popular leadership
which offered Kashmir to India on a silver platter was jailed for 14
years, and the Azadi sentiments exists now when the unarmed citizens
of Kashmir are meted with pellet guns in return for stones.
Oversimplifying the Azadi struggle is a propaganda which should be
tackled and challenged with facts. Both India and Pakistan have
contributed to the best of their abilities to maintain uncertainty,
violence and bloodshed in the valley.

While the apathy of the Indian government stays resolute on destroying
the valley with unlikely allies in the cause from the Hurriyat
leadership, there is a possibility that the population of Kashmir is
counter-radicalizing. With no efforts from the Indian Government to
engage with the youth and common citizens of Kashmir, I fear what this
radicalization might lead to, Mr. Manzar concluded.


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