Kashmir: Is This Supposed to Be the New Normal?
According to government spokespersons in J & K and New Delhi, Kashmir is returning to normalcy and peace. It is true that the intensity of the uprising which had shut down everything for more than four months is coming down and the normal day to day activities are starting slowly. These are fully resumed on every Saturday and Sunday designated as full relaxation days by the leaders of the movement leading the uprising. Normalcy means return to the normal conditions.
However, in case of Kashmir what is considered “Normal” may not be the same as understood in other places. Kashmir’s normalcy itself is abnormal in many ways. For instance in regard to basic human rights such as the freedom of expression, it is in perpetual abnormality! We have a permanent section 144 imposed all over which bans assembly of four or more persons. In addition, there are many draconian legislations including AFSPA in force which grant total immunity from any prosecution to forces while dealing with the unrest in the state. They can kill and destroy at will and are answerable to none!
The so called “peace” has been restored to some extent by very harsh and brutal use of force. According to research conducted by Kashmir Media Service it is alleged that 115 people have been killed so far; 15,000 have been injured; out of which 7330 have been injured by pellets; 22 youth have lost total eyesight; 307 youth are on the verge of losing eyesight; 1255 have partial damage in the eyes; 37 schools have been burnt; 9700 persons have been arrested and 608 have been detained under Public Safety Act. It is further alleged that a large number of houses have been damaged along with the household goods throughout the valley.
These five months have seen alternate shutdowns and curfews. The youth seem to be in no mood to compromise and the traditional leadership has had no alternative but to issue shutdown calendars on a regular basis just to keep their own relevance. Otherwise, the leadership is now totally in the hands of the new generation of the youth. They are are so far following the calendars and the originators of the calendars are at a loss to know when and how to end these!
If one refers the Webster dictionary, then the return to so called peace in Kashmir can in fact be termed as subjugation rather than normalcy. To subjugate is defined as, “to defeat and gain control of (someone or something) by the use of force; to conquer and gain the obedience of a group of people, a country, etc.” Interestingly, the dictionary traces the history of the word subjugation. According to the definition, “the word “Jugus” means yoke in Latin, thus subjugate means literally, “bring under the yoke”.
Farmers control oxen by means of a heavy wooden yoke over their shoulders. In ancient Rome, conquered soldiers, stripped of their uniforms, were actually forced to pass under an ox yoke as a sign of submission to Roman victors. Even without an actual yoke, what happens to a population that has come under control of another can be every bit as humiliating. In dozens of countries throughout the world where people who are denied their basic rights, view themselves subjugated by the government, army and police”.
To achieve this “normalcy”, the government had to request Army for conducting a “Calm Down Operation” which was nothing but a crude way of cowing down people at large by the show and use of naked force. Unfortunately, the authorities in New Delhi always try to manage rather than solve the problems.
The story has been same throughout the recent history of uprisings in Kashmir. Temporary firefighting rather than tackling the basic cause of the fire which keeps on blazing out from time to time. The story was same in 2008 and 2010 and is now worse in 2016.
One can judge the severity of the situation from the declaration of Farooq Abdullah asking the Hurriyat to unite and offering to join them. In fact, he has asked his followers to support the movement fully and be a part of it. Of course, it is not a change of heart after many somersaults of the Abdullah dynasty but is purely a survival maneuver!
Jean Dreze in his article “Kashmir’s Hidden Uprising” in the Indian Express writes, “The government of India’s sledgehammer response, aside from being inhuman, does nothing to solve the problem. If the root of the problem is the alienation of the Kashmiri people from India, then state repression can only make things worse. It also undermines Kashmir’s peaceful traditions and pushes Kashmiri youngsters towards armed resistance and radical Islamist groups. The possible consequences, not only for Kashmir but also for India, are too horrible to contemplate”.
That could be construed as the most civilized way of telling the authorities that the situation in Kashmir is not normal and more subjugation is going to make it worse!
(The writer, I.A.S. (Retired) is former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir),
(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)