By Arshie Zuhar
The Kashmiri struggle for right to self-determination had never been so widely debated and discussed as it’s after 8 July 2016. 8 July is the New Year in the resistance calendar of Kashmir. That day Burhan Wani did not die; he was born. Born as the face of Kashmir, a real ‘naya’ Kashmir. Burhan brought out the Kashmir dispute from the cold storage to the centerstage, from the slumber to the frontline, from the footnote to the main chapter—as a people’s movement celebrated and supported by a vast majority of Kashmiris.
2016 is by no means the bloodiest year in the history of Kashmir’s resistance. On the face of it, 2016 could be another 2008 or 2010 as a massive public uprising was crushed. It was crushed, like the previous two uprisings, with large-scale killings and blinding of the people. But in the chemistry of 2016, the year has set a reaction, triggering multi-layered mass uprising and catalysing the sentiments of the present generations to the new height. The mass uprising also dealt a blow to the Indian State’s policies against Kashmiris, policies that are heavily bordered around jackboots. And with it what drained and drowned was billions of rupees India has spent since 1947 to secure its control over Kashmir.
The 2016 uprising takes a new road towards a new age of rebellion where the generation stood up for a militant commander who had given endless runs and sleepless nights to government forces, not because of his active participation in militant activities but for the seed he has sown and the roots of which have gone deep in the land.
The 2016 uprising also drove home the old truth: governments in Kashmir are run directly by Delhi. No matter whether it’s National Conference, PDP or any other pro-India party, their reins are in the hands of Delhi and its agencies. The pro-India parties in Kashmir have total insignificance to the grass root decision-making. No matter who is in the power in Kashmir, the killings will not stop; there would be no solution or consideration to their opinions of solution; there will never be a fair enquiry into the cold-blood murders.
The people of Kashmir have, by virtue of their sacrifices and steadfastness, thoroughly exposed the drama enacted after every six years in the form of assembly elections. These elections have no acceptance on the ground except for new regime or new ruler. The rules of the game remain the same. While in rest of the world elections and governments mean a change, in Kashmir they are conducted to hoodwink the public. They are conducted to tell the world that Kashmiris believe in Indian democracy. These elections mean a halt to any probable solution to Kashmir dispute. Another abused word in Kashmir is dialogue. It seems like a movie in the making just with the name, but no cast, no story.
The technological revolutions have given common Kashmiris an insight into the international understanding of the Kashmir conflict. While in 2016 the media was gaged in Kashmir, yet Kashmiris found the name of Burhan Wani resounding in the United Nations General Assembly. The significance could be debatable, because for the common Kashmiri nothing except statements of condemnation and voices for dialogue are made; it does not bring him any relief from the daily dose of oppression and repression except the belief that international communities and international alliances have changed in the past at a remarkable speed.
In this darkness, Kashmir has seen a new structure of targeted and mass brutalization by the State. With the entire villages held hostage and looted of the decency of the community, Kashmiris are witnessing a systematic violence planned and executed to induce fear among the common people. The cordon and search operation (CASO), the brazen misuse of Public Safety Act (which the Amnesty International calls a ‘lawless law’), mass vandalisation of properties, blinding by pellets, killings, and tortures have — they are a leaf taken from the counterinsurgency book of 1990’s. Kashmiris, for their part, have come a long way. They have learned to resist the systematic and structured violence by the State. This could be even more challenging for Indian State in Kashmir as resistance and resilience to the most brutal oppression would bring a point of saturation where confrontation would be a new normal.
The deep-rooted communalization and polarization in India has made an ominous entry through hyper communalized BJP into otherwise secular state of Jammu Kashmir. The communal divide and the plan of changing demography of Kashmir has long been on the agenda of Indian policymakers, but the quick response and strong resilience of the common Kashmiris has weakened the Indian strings.
The polarization between Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley has further fuelled the spark of self-determination as the common Kashmir feels unnerved by being overshadowed by the Hindu fascist forces in Jammu. Though this divide has been used as a vote bank by BJP across India, the tremendous opposition and resistance they have faced in Kashmir has made it clear that it’s an impossible fight to win.
The resistance leaders have a more active role on the ground. They need to work on grass root level with the young and energetic faces. The space must be filled with plan, strategy and above all the unflinching resistance.
I believe that 2016 uprising has been a filter to the movement, separating truth from propaganda. People have realised that silence does not mean peace and peace is not in silence. Also, status quo is not the solution to any conflict, status quo itself signifies conflict.
—Arshie Zuhar is a JK High Court lawyer
This article was published in Kashmir Narrator’s June edition. To subscribe to print edition of Narrator, please call +91-7298102560 or mail at KashmirNarrator@gmail.com