Jammu and Kashmir – The Disputed Valley

Population pyramids show that almost half the Indian population lie between the ages of 15 to 35. These are young minds living in the bustling cities, towns and villages of India, competing amongst themselves for scarce resources, superior standard of living and above all ‘Wealth’. The ‘India Shining’ story has spread far and wide and to the youth, being  part of this shining India gives them the confidence that they too can get a piece of the action and make a comfortable living for themselves.

But the foothills of the Himalayas speak a very different story. Sixty years of social unrest, curfews, oppression, everyday killings and lack of economic stability has given rise to a war demon which refuses to go. For many the Kashmir issue is simply an issue of “it’s my land, no its mine” between India and Pakistan.

The problem of Kashmir has today taken a grim turn and is more threatening than ever. The young Kashmiris have turned to violence against the law enforcement agencies. One prime reason which has led to this situation is that these youth have slept and woken with bullets flying within meter’s range every other day, where frisking and rioting is a way of life. The standard of living has barely changed. It is all but an outcome of sentiments built over the years, since childhood. The peaceful talks and summits between the two countries have not made much of a difference and perhaps a military coup might just be the only way out.

Stone pelting is not new to Kashmir; family members of viceroys, prime ministers, political leaders, all have been greeted with stones at some point or the other in the valley. And to make things worse, the younger generation is taking up this trend and the numbers are increasing in dangerous proportions. This is a matter of concern for both. It’s like a nuclear reactor destabilizing every day, in the end it might lead to neither of the countries wanting hold of the state. Jammu and Kashmir is self destructing!

Reports say it is the reaction to the oppression they face in the hands of the Indian police. Death during ‘peaceful’ protests lead to retaliation from the crowd with stone pelting and controlling this crowd requires drastic measures which again lead to more deaths and retaliation. This cycle is never-ending and will worsen unless their anger is drowsed.

In terms of numbers, the social unrest has cost Kashmir 6500 crores in revenue so far and a whopping 165 crore every day. The number of tourists who visit Kashmir every year is close to seven million, in the initial 3 months of 2010, the number stands at around 0.7 million. The import and export industry is further losing 3.5 crore a day. This maniacal rioting and chaos is also costing the people of Kashmir their daily bread, life savings and more. The question now is what’s next? Can we let our Kashmiri brothers and sisters lose their dignity? What is a soul without dignity but Satan himself!

A study by Robert Bradrock, a scholar from London’s Kings College, after interviewing 3,774 people in both parts of Kashmir in September-October 2009 showed that 44% of residents of POK favored independence, as compared to 43% in India occupied Kashmir. This meant that half or more citizens of Kashmir saw a separate state as the only viable solution.

What is scary is that the stone-pelting is becoming a lucrative business in Kashmir. Shabir Ahmed Wani arrested by the police revealed how an organized distribution of stones existed wherein they brought stones by trucks at specific locations, and then were supplied to those indulging in rioting overnight. These he said were funded by the ISI and other militant groups.

The minds of the “Youth” anywhere in the world, Kashmir or Kenya are like ‘Clay Pots’, once molded, they are very difficult to change. Killing members of a protesting crowd is not the answer, they must be heard, answers must be given and action must be taken. Rising above castes and land disputes and realizing human are the only assets they have is what the leaders of Kashmir need to preach and follow. There is evidence to believe that unruly elements exist and these must be quelled before any listening and reconciliation happen. Can’t rubber bullets be used to disperse attacking mobs? They hurt like crazy but don’t kill. If they want to break the law and go to prison, and start a so-called “Revolution”, don’t put them into prison put them in an orphanage and old age homes to spend time with ones they can neither argue nor hate. Converting this hatred to love, bringing back faith is most important and it all begins with being credible yourself. Kashmir needs a government who wants to do good for the people.  Kashmir needs a saint, a spiritual discourse that will bring all towards humanity above religiosity. Can Sri Sri Ravi Shankar do it? Or at least inspire some of his disciples? That is the kind of change we need. This is how you close the doors of hell and pave the way to heaven. Wasn’t it supposed to be heaven already?

Mayank Solanki