By Sofi Ahsan:
Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir on Saturday, 7th November yet again proved how myopic and ignorant the leadership in Delhi is when it comes to Kashmir and its turbulent politics. The Prime Minister’s announcement of a Rs. 80,000 crore package may have cheered few faces in the valley, particularly his local allies – Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed and his party men, but by evening the bitter truth of Kashmir was again out on the streets as a stark reminder to the Indian state how lethal it is to think that the money can restore calm in the troubled valley.
Gowhar Ahmad, a 22-year-old Computer Science student, was killed in Srinagar when a tear gas shell hit his head during a protest against Modi’s visit to the valley. The military apparatus may have succeeded in foiling the Million March called by Hurriyat Conference against Modi’s visit, but it could not bottle up the emotions and aspirations of Kashmiri youth for long. They were again out on the streets as soon as the restrictions were eased to perhaps tell Modi that they were not up for sale. Death again revisited the valley on a day the Indian Prime Minister promised Insaaniyat (Humanity) and Jamhooriyat (Democracy) to its people.
The mistake of looking at Kashmir through an economic perspective while overlooking the glaring political reality of Kashmir has been an old policy of the Indian state, but the youth out on the streets in the valley have time and again debunked the myth perpetuated by New Delhi that Kashmir is merely a law and order problem. They have revealed their demand of a political resolution and a right to decide their future through continuous resistance, be it by picking up the gun in the early ’90s or today by throwing stones on the Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers.
Gowhar’s murder by men-in-uniform should again remind Delhi that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved by keeping open the treasury in Delhi or announcing an economic package. Modi, who “does not need advice or analysis from anyone…on Kashmir” must come out of his slumber and read the writing on the wall, that the youth in Kashmir can no longer be swayed by the oft-repeated Vajpayee rhetoric on Kashmir. They know and know well the twisted glass of despotism the Indian state makes use of to look at Kashmir and its residents.
Modi’s announcement of the package, that had become necessary to announce for his local ally, Peoples Democratic Party in order to save its face in the valley, may have acted as a breather for Mufti and his ruling alliance, but a common Kashmiri is surely disappointed. The aam aadmi is bearing the brunt of an unending political strife and needs more than purse strings to heal the wounds inflicted by Modi’s representatives in the valley – the gun-toting soldiers stationed in every village and town of Kashmir. The mantra of Insaaniyat and Jamhooriyat is hollow as long as India allows the gun and its black laws to do the talking in Kashmir.
The Prime Minister’s visit had been sold as a major dream to the valley by his henchmen, but he not only dismayed his only ally in the region but also failed to win the hearts of Kashmiris who had hoped the Modi would go beyond the usual rhetoric given his government’s mass popularity and dominant say in Indian politics. His speech in the heavily guarded Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium only reflected his lack of understanding of the Kashmir subject. There was only a semblance of former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, but in reality he failed to achieve anything substantial to remove the alienation of people in Kashmir by failing to address their long-pending demand of political engagement and deliberation on their right to self-determination.
Modi, by avoiding a serious political narrative in Kashmir again proved the insincerity of the Indian state towards Kashmir. It again showed that the political leadership in India only prefers to deal with Kashmir when there is bloody mayhem out on its streets.
The Prime Minister may be a ‘toofan ka aadmi” for Mufti and his ilk in the so-called developmental and political sense but for the family of Gowhar and many other households who lost their sons to Indian bullets and tear gas shells, he is the angel of death whose one day presence in Kashmir took away their beloved.