Disillusion in the Valley

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To dream of Kashmir, is to dream of a valley enriched with majestic grandeur, serene lakes and pure mountains to be experienced and cherished as the summit of freedom. To know of Kashmir is to know of the strife of the people, the suffering, and the pain the man of a free nation feels waiting to be freed from the clutches of brutality of politics and identity. The land once called heaven on earth by a Mughal ruler Jahangir fights an irony that the land touted as the most beautiful valley in the world, has little time to enjoy that beauty. As tourism blooms and tourists flock the valley, experiencing all with amazement, feeling protected by noticeable presence of the forces, little do they know about the web of mayhem encircling that very ‘jannat’.

An Unwanted Scenario
The streets of Kashmir are volatile. As the city and it’s people wake from slumber, activity begins. There is no scarcity of energy. Instead, there is plethora of fury and anger. Their fierce minds and unresting hands have unfortunately not been successfully controlled by their chief minister Omar Abdullah. He must become more personal and emotional with the masses. The people of Kashmir have felt the affect mostly by heart. The security forces are on their heels, with frightful activity engulfing the day. To confine and reduce the numbers, various strategies are adopted and if the agitation becomes too barbarous, brutal measures are enacted.

People die. Mourning people rise again, and unspeakable savage fires up. In such emotional and suffocating conditions, Omar Abdullah needs to reach the people’s heart and it is very unfortunate, that the very people who elected their own leader and not ready to listen to him. With the toll of death escalating to every day, it is likely to increase, if this outrage is not mollified.

The tear gas shelling that resulted in the death of a young protester named Tufail Matoo fuelled mass protests all over the valley. In the backdrop was the Machil fake encounter this year. The separatist party took advantage of this unrest and lack of confidence in the people towards the security forces, and the people who died in those incidents were declared martyrs who had laid down their lives for the cause of an Azad Kashmir. The condition only worsened in the months that followed, as protests increased and so did causalities from firing from the security forces.

Nature of the Problem
It is very crucial to acknowledge the fact that the nature of protest has been very different from what has happened in the past. In the past, Kashmir faced the problem of controlling insurgency, and the military played a very crucial part in counter-insurgency. Now, the battle can be no longer fought with bullets. We have no enemy to kill, or capture, dead or alive. The intrinsic nature of the issue and demands may not have changed, but the spectrum does not involve terrorism as a force. To factor these changes, to understand the cause of such unrest can be related to the condition of the people living in the valley. Tackling militants is not the only problem, we have to address the issue socio-politically. The population is involved, and so must be there involvement of policies for their redressal.

The underlying problem and cause of protest lies in the existence of a discontent population who never saw a practical ‘political package’ from their political leader Omar Abdullah. Omar Abdullah’s promising win in the polls conducted last year in January, seemed to signify a positive sign of  state with people wanting  peaceful democratic conditions of living, by placing faith in the leader they chose. The turnout of voters was appreciable and the people of Kashmir expected a political package, which has come very late by the hands of Omar Abdhullah, who is facing a tough job of bringing in control the chaotic law and order situation in Kashmir.

His wake from slumber might be late enough to cause enough damage in the valley. The people and youth of Kashmir are certainly not satisfied of what the present government is doing for them. Increasing unemployment among the youth has forced them to pick up stones and protest against the failed policies and delayed actions. The recently promised political package which would possibly include amendment of the armed forces act is rather late. Angry and defiant youth will continue to flock the streets, and more blood will be spilled by using the security forces trying to resist them, and unrest will continue just because the government will fail to find a much better way to tackle the existing ideologies in the minds of the people.

The Chief Minister in his Independence Day speech expressed grief over the death of people and that his heart goes out to them. He has announced the implementation of a policy designed to provide employment to 50,000 people in public service, and also raised the issue of abrogation of the armed forces special powers. Armed forces have been requested to exercise maximum restraint as any human right violations may trigger severe protests in the valley and worsen the situation.

However, law and order can only suppress resentment for so long. The people of Kashmir need peace from within, that can be achieved only through a social revolution that the nation will have to invoke in order to facilitate peace in the heaven that we call Kashmir.
The use of force has led to the colossal loss of life throughout the state’s history. The recent Shoot at Sight orders that were issued by the State Government could only be as counterproductive as the word itself. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that above all, no Shoot at Sight orders should be issued. For it is a harsh truth that those who have their names written on bullets fired by the Security Forces aren’t mischief makers or terrorists at all. They are the innocent and troubled people who live every moment of their lives in a conflict, having to choose whether to watch their family starve to death or to try breaking the curfew to live by for another day.

Solutions for justice
Firstly, this can be dealt by using every means to avoid casualties and the usage of more refined methods like water cannons, tear gas shells and rubber bullets. The security forces indeed use them, and they are often provoked and instigated by the crowds to take use other severe methods, the use of firing should be the last resort possible. Legally, we might justify the use of controlling a mob and dispersing by use of firing, but loss of life further leads to mass protests, and gives birth to anti-government sentiment.
Secondly, the amendments to the Special armed forces act might not the right solution to tackle the problem. Time and again, politics have used its supremacy over law, and create innumerable problems. The best way to deal with the recent criticism the act faces to is try and withdraw certain provisions of the act for a certain period of time, and see if the state functions better without those provisions in question these days. For example, the American constitution is a very concise and small one, and the number of amendments it has seen in the past are almost negligible. Whereas, the Indian constitution has seen umpteen number of amendments, and the functioning of government machinery has been far from smooth. Once amended, the provisions, if needed again, would not be at the disposal of the state.
A positive side is that the Amaranth Yatra has had a smooth sail and not much problems were faced by the yatris on the tough pilgrimage. The separatist party leaders have also been releasing statements that send the message of their desire of a smooth yatra by the pilgrims and requested the masses not to harm them as they are their ‘mehmans’. The same attitude should be complied by both Hurriyat and the PDP to the existent problem, if they wish to see any peace in the valley, and should not merely become political parties who look for opportunities to gain support for themselves, and this self-gain process leads to downfall of their own people. Extensive dialogue should be initiated by the centre and the party in power in Kashmir with all groups to effectively tackle the wide resentment against the government there.

The government of Kashmir, like any other in India, is diseased by wide-spread corruption and inefficiency. The policies and the political package to be introduced can no longer fall in the hands of a tired and slow machinery. The relief must reach to the masses as soon as possible. Prime Manmohan Singh must not fail to enact the promises made by him on 15th August, 2010. For him, like every Indian, a successful Kashmir is a dream, he longs to achieve.

Omar Abdullah’s exuberant victory riding on the promises of bijli, sadak, pani, sehat and taleem need to be realised with much more desperate emergency than similar ones made all across India. For more than money and health, the people require respect. Therefore, before long these very people will start commanding respect by coercion, rather than merely demanding it as done presently. Hence, political reforms must focus not merely upon providing employment, but also upon providing respect and the harmony that is lost and hanging somewhere in the mists of the valley.
However, it is of critical importance to declare it far and wide those separatist demands will not be tolerated at any cost. The mellow reforms, if they are implemented, shall only go on to prove the pain that the Government shares with the people and that its primary goal is to soothe the hurt from the deepest wound inflicted in the history of independent India. Therefore, separatist demands shall not be entertained and the Huriyat Conference’s calls to people for unison and to struggle away to freedom shall be punished at all costs, but not through bullets and gun fire. The dream for an Azad Kashmir shall stand and shall be realised, however, this independence is not one that is political or geographic, it is the freedom of the minds and peace of the soul that the nation will give to the residents of Kashmir.

Chaitanya Kaushik

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/2260639712/sizes/m/]

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