Indian People, Media And Govt. Need To Answer Some Hard Questions About Kashmir

Posted on July 18, 2016 in Kashmir, Society

By Badrul Duja:

Kashmiris are demanding azadi which is not a new thing for the people of India. Many Kashmiris have been demanding independence from India for a long time and Indians are denouncing their claim now, as always. And this spilling of blood and rejection of it show has been going on and on.

The Indian reply has always been emotional, full of the drama, with arguments ranging from ‘Kashmir is our integral part’ to ‘Kashmir mangoge to cheer denge’ (to Pakistan) etc. Perhaps slogans and replies don’t work on the ground. If they did, India would never have witnessed such an anti-India atmosphere growing in Kashmir, especially in the past week or so. Instead of pointing fingers at Kashmiri people, Indians, the media and government need to answer hard questions to their own conscience. Why have Kashmiris been demanding independence from India? Why are educated Kashmiris once again picking up guns? Why is Burhan Wani becoming a revolutionary figure in Kashmir? Why are so many Kashmiris pro-Pakistan? Why do so many Kashmiris don’t want to live with India?

These are the questions which the citizens of the largest democracy in the world have to ask themselves. Yes, they are really tough questions. When PM Modi was
campaigning for the assembly elections in Kashmir, his answer to the Kashmir problem was to invoke “the dream which Atal (Bihari Vajpayee) ji had seen for J&K”. But, unfortunately, like his other promises, he never delivered that ‘dream’ of Vajpayee. For the past two years, especially after BJP took power at the Centre, I feel that the dissatisfaction among Kashmiri people has grown. There could be many reasons for it. Maybe it’s because they feel that there is excessive RSS influence over the Central government, especially regarding the Kashmir issue; due to BJPs stand on Article 370; or probably due to PDP’s alliance with BJP and the dissatisfaction with the governance in the state; due to a lack of dialogue with Pakistan; due to a lack of financial support to Kashmiris; due to the attacks on minorities in India, especially against Muslims; due to a lack of engagement with the Kashmir issue; due to hardships that pro-freedom Kashmiris face.

All this seems to have created a political, religious, cultural and social tensions in Kashmir. The result was the emergence of Burhan Wani in the political scenario of Kashmir. His own story of picking up the gun shows why Kashmiris are unhappy with India, why they want azadi and why they are picking up arms.

The Kashmir conflict was for a long time fought with guns. In 2008-2010, we saw a transition in Kashmir from gun culture to a culture of peaceful protest. But in 2016, things appear to be turning backwards again. Gun culture and the glamour and romance of guns seem to be getting revived in Kashmir. What is more, these gun holders are educated and politically aware Kashmiri youths.

Like Burhan Wani, there are a large number of Kashmiri youths who get harassed in Kashmir as well as outside. Sometimes they are labelled as terrorists, sometimes they are labelled as traitors, sometimes they are beaten up for supporting Pakistan in a cricket match. Indians have to understand that the anger of the Kashmiri people is justified.

They are deprived of all things, they are not safe in Kashmir nor outside Kashmir. You cannot win the hearts of Kashmiris by spreading venom against them. The more anti-Kashmir the Indian media, the Indian people and the Indian government gets, the more pro-Pakistan Kashmiris will become. Like Burhan, there are scores of youths willing to pick up guns, and that too without Pakistan’s support. Kashmir is going through a crucial transition where leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Omar Farooq are heavily criticised and questioned over their political work.

The whole of India appears to be abusing Kashmiris and labelling them as terrorists, but few seem bothered to know why more than a lakh people joined the funeral procession of Burhan Wani. 42 Kashmiris have lost their lives, more than 100 have suffered major eye injuries and over 2000 have been injured in only a matter of days. But after so much of blood, fear and violence, Kashmiris are continuing to pelt stones, and their demand for azadi appears to be getting stronger and stronger with each killing. Why? I feel it’s because Indians never understood Kashmiris. They seem more interested about Amarnath yatris and not about Kashmiri Muslims. A few days ago, the Prime Minister of India chaired a crucial Cabinet meeting on the Kashmir issue. Good. But after that meeting, he should have held another crucial Kashmir meet with the Kashmiri leadership.

The said Cabinet meet not only angered the people it also angered Kashmiri leadership. For example, Omar Abdullah, who questioned Mehbooba Mufti’s absence from the Kashmir meeting.

Perhaps people of Kashmir share the same opinion as that of Omar Abdullah. They should have initiated a dialogue with the Kashmiri leadership and pro-freedom leadership which has a big say in Kashmiri politics. On Kashmir, you have to accommodate all people, from different political thoughts. Dialogue with the pro-freedom leadership of Kashmir is as important now as it was during the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

I know all Indians are praying that normalcy should return to the Valley. If it does, will the situation get calm and will normalcy return? After two or three years, the uprising might just start again.

The reason why Kashmir is burning again is because of what might actually be, but is, at least, perceived to be the insensitive, ignorant, careless and arrogant approach of Indians towards the Kashmir problem and towards understanding problems of Kashmiris. Unless and until you don’t address the Kashmir issue sincerely, you cannot win the hearts of Kashmiris. And if you don’t win the hearts of Kashmiris, you cannot win Kashmir.

Featured image credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.
Banner image credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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