NEW DELHI: While anchors with little sense of even immediate history, and a desire to please the establishment, are talking of money being paid to ‘stone pelters’ Kashmir has moved far beyond this stage. And it is surprising---indeed shocking---to find that instead of grappling with the civil war situation that is confronting the people and the state, television anchors (one goes, another emerges much like the King of England) are busy getting their own eyeballs with a coverage that is irresponsible, just as it is dangerous. Not for them of course cocooned in equally blind appreciation, but for India.

Let us go with the current presumption, taken forward by tweets and posts from these anchors (who have yet to understand,or maybe even read, the Constitution of India), that Kashmir is Muslim, pro-Pakistan, anti- India, terrorist, militant, sub-human et al. If there are any other charges do add them here when you continue to read this. To put it mildly the “Kashmiri” embodies everything that the Indian---oh sorry the “nationalist Indian” hates, and only the ‘traitors’ and ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘pro-Pakistanis’ endorse.

Fine. Accepted. So then what? Kashmir Division---that one presumes is the most offensive part of Jammu and Kashmir, being largely Muslim--- has a population of 6,907,622. All are now terrorists, or getting there, according to the anchors and the establishment they claim to speak for. Except for the handful in state government, even the National Conference is now being described as soft on terrorism. Of course it is, it is also now questioning New Delhi and its decisions.

So given the TV coverage of recent years, and the trolls who come on and attack anyone who tries to counter this ‘view’ with the viciousness that they are so well educated in, it is safer to presume that all the 6.9 million Kashmiris are terrorists, or terrorist supporters. And adding to this figure are of course swathes of people in Jammu, Ladakh etc as we are told, when they step out of line every now and again.

Now how do we subdue (read subjugate) 6.9million people? More so, as they are refusing to be cowed down. Not even by the pellet guns that were used to achieve precisely this in 2016.. Instead more and more people are coming out now, not just at funerals of those killed, but to stop encounters, to “save” their people. And this is not happening in Srinagar but in the districts and villages of the Valley, where they come without stones, without guns even, just in huge numbers, determined to beat back the forces.

This is different from the 1990’s in that it was not the Kashmiri masses who were involved, but Pakistan with its terror machinery that was in charge. Of course the propaganda being unleashed is that it is still Pakistan, but even the Army knows that this is not so, and while the Pakistan hand has always been there in Kashmir, this time the soldiers are confronting the masses in real terms. As thousands emerge from their homes and march down to either stop an ongoing encounter, or to cry over a dead one, the forces often have little choice but to retreat, and even give up search operations “until the situation is calm.”

Why? Well dear anchors even though you insist ‘kill them’ ---your utterings possibly sounding heroic to your ears---the Army knows that this is not easily done. And that if it loses the restraint at your bidding, floodgates will open that will then not be easily closed. Or not closed at all, leading to consequences that might destroy Kashmir but will weaken India irrevocably. And interestingly enough, even push back the agenda of majoritarian rule to a point where it might yet again become little more than an illusion.

How? Well it is clear that in close combat of the kind undertaken right now Kashmir will bleed, but so will the Indian military as unlike the anchors the soldiers are in the field. The government will have to decide for how long this can continue, and for how long the military and the para military can continue this tense vigilance without complete fatigue. Of course it will fuel hate in the Indian mainland against the Kashmiris, and against the Muslims, but this will be only upto a point. Soon, as has happened even during the short Kargil conflict, questions are raised, and governments pressured to answer these.

It is not possible to garrison a state and her people in India, the numbers are too huge, the people too assertive, more so in Kashmir where the population now sees itself under occupation with no exception. The handful in the PDP do not matter, and privately they are perhaps even more critical of this government than the Opposition in the state.

One important fact that the governments of India tend to ignore, perhaps because they do not want to recognise it as it carries in it a history of failure at different levels. The Kashmiri will not be beaten back indoors because in his/her history he/she has nothing more to lose. This explains the crowds of protestors, the youth defying the security forces, and now the masses forming virtual walls in front of fully armed forces. The anger is pent up, the desperation at its zenith, and the signals coming in from central and south Kashmir should make any government worth its name, sit up and take notice. And move to avert a catastrophe.

These columns have been warning of precisely the current situation in Kashmir, urging the governments (Congress and now BJP) to talk. To listen. To act, before it was too late. But politicians aided by bureaucrats in top positions, have been unable to formulate a strategy on Jammu and Kashmir, and instead have been unleashing propaganda through the media in an attempt to keep the pot boiling, without any idea of what to do when it bursts into flames.

This is the first time in decades where the Kashmiri masses are out on the roads. And of course while in our ignorance we can dub them terrorists in our airconditioned studios and put out a couple of videos to claim that the protests are all paid for (how absurd can we get), even the agencies of the government on the ground as well as the Army knows that this is not so. And that they are facing people in what is a mass civil uprising, the worst situation for a democracy of course, but also for authoritarian dictators who might use the guns but do so knowing that this is itself an admission of defeat. History dear anchors, is replete with examples but perhaps for you the truth lies only in the tele-prompters.

So while the establishment seems to be drawing comfort from the fact that it is not the politician but the Army on the ground along with of course the Kashmiris, it is actually New Delhi hurtling down into a bottomless pit. If guns take over Kashmir, the consequences will not remain under control. Violence never remains in control, and is fraught with repercussions that are usually unexpected and sudden.

But while this is perhaps for another article, let us go back to options. Can the Indian government blast Kashmir out of existence? Even the frothing experts on televison cannot concede this. So then can there possibly be a strategy for peace? Or is that in todays environment a blasphemous suggestion? Peace is never easy, but it is only through peace that lasting wonders have been achieved. Yes that history again. But contemporary history under Gandhi in India, Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Here the suggestion is for the government to look at the option of peace, open doors, start talks, reach out, rehabilitate, decommission the pellet guns instead of the recent statement saying ‘use’ if necessary, and start---tentatively at first---building bridges of trust. People stay peaceful if governments are peaceful, and inspire trust and confidence. But even while writing this, one knows that this is a pipedream and is not going to happen as it does not fit into whatever plans New Delhi has stitched together.

So the suggestion then moves to the people. Non violence is a powerful weapon. More powerful than stones and guns. Less dramatic, more traumatic perhaps, but a weapon that no force can rent asunder. As Gandhi said “non violence is a weapon of the strong.”.

Perhaps one day a government in New Delhi will realise the power of non-violence and peace. But often the people have to lead the way.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR: Clashes in Srinagar)