This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhishek Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Whose Idea Of ‘Normalcy’ Do We Want In Kashmir – The Government’s Or The People’s?

More from Abhishek Jha

By Abhishek Jha:

Despite curfew-like restrictions in place, the death toll has risen every few hours in clashes between the security personnel and protesters in Kashmir after the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Operation theatres are running non-stop. The number of dead civilians now stands at 29 and the number of injured is over 1000.

As the unrest grew in the valley post Burhan’s funeral, Nayeem Akthar, the state government spokesperson, appealed to all political parties to restore normalcy. Ram Madhav- RSS veteran, BJP’s National General Secretary and the man who is said to have engineered the PDP-BJP coalition- also asked for the same, although only a day before, he was tweeting that the government will stand firm, “eruption or no eruption”. In Delhi, the PM, back from beating drums in Africa, is chairing a meeting today, 3 days after unrest broke out, for a swift return to normalcy. The Chief Minister of the State, who only recently won a by-election, has barely spoken or acted.

Kashmir protests
A senior PDP leader confessed to a newspaper, “We can’t give people what they want.”

But what is the ‘normalcy’ that they want a return to? As some senior anonymous PDP leader confessed to a newspaper, “What can we do? We can’t give people what they want. So such a situation will keep on happening.” The reference is obviously to the absence of a political solution to the hope that was irrevocably instilled in the people of Kashmir when they were promised a plebiscite, not to mention the centuries of atrocities faced by the peasant population that have made the desire undeniable. In this void, such eruptions will continue to happen.

It’s clear then that when the government appeals for support to bring normalcy back, what they are essentially asking is that people be lied to. That they should be told that the impunity with which rape, torture, and killings have gone on in the valley for over six decades will finally be tried, that the barricades and concertina wire, the bunkers at every nook and corner, the constant frisking and beatings will all end if people stop protesting just this once. But this lie has already been repeated over and over again. And as the adage from Birbal stories go, you can’t cook twice in a wooden pot.

The tacit understanding however- which one can see in the reports of attacks on even ambulances and hospitals by security personnel – is that such massive protests cannot be allowed to happen on the death of a militant. But the people of Kashmir view these militants very much as part of their struggle for a dignified existence, for ‘normalcy’ as they see it. When reports on human rights violations become routine and do not inspire any action, it is only natural that a galvanising force such as Burhan, who had become a household name in Kashmir, will bring huge numbers to the streets.

Moreover, right from Maqbool Bhat, who was hanged in ’84, to Burhan Wani, Kashmiri militant commanders have maintained a nuance in their messages and speeches – which the Indian media and textbooks can try to paint over with the image of a gun-wielding, hate mongering, naïve jihadi- but which most Kashmiris are aware of.

Bhat maintained a conception of an independent state based on socialist principles. Wani, in his video messages, had assured that neither Hindu pilgrims going to Amarnath, nor J&K police will be targeted in any violent attacks. It is difficult then for the Indian establishment to discredit them as people working to the detriment of the interests of Kashmiris.

If even the ongoing protests are to controlled, the current method of crowd control needs to stop.

So although there is a discussion in Kashmiri households as well as in academia as to whether armed struggle is the right way forward, once any Kashmiri is killed at the hands of Indian security personnel, a funeral procession or a shutdown does not always require exhortation by separatist leaders. It happens on its own because the resentment is simmering just below the surface, and finding an opening, gushes forth.

It is also, therefore, irrelevant to ask separatist leaders to intervene now and aid the Center in bringing back ‘normalcy’. For one, these leaders have a reason to grouse. They are seldom invited to talks on Kashmir that Indian and Pakistani leaders participate in. Moreover, they are put under preventive detention every time they call for a protest. The central government in Delhi has hardly ever heard them enough for them to find any incentive in playing along right now. Two, the people of Kashmir respond to leaders that understand them and articulate what they have to say. It is not for no reason that the elected leaders are not popular and elections are boycotted. The people will articulate what they have to, either by taking to the streets or by sending an appropriate response to the leader. The NC was abandoned and the PDP- with which people seemed to have some hope- has lost charm even faster.

If a genuine effort at even ending the ongoing protests is to be attempted, the current method of crowd control- which for some unknown reason has involved attacking ambulances and hospitals- needs to stop immediately. Every single death and injury is going to further add fuel to the fire. But even the protests stopping for now are no guarantee that everything will be alright thereafter. Each death will be commemorated along with Burhan’s, Guru’s, and Bhat’s.

Unless the Indian government creates a space for this mourning, unless the impunity provided to the army under AFSPA is withheld, the cycle of calm and unrest will continue. But the government cannot do this unless it allows Kashmiris to express what they want: Hum Kya Chahte?

As long as the answer to that question remains a taboo in India, it will need silencing. And that gag-order, as it comes with the whole paraphernalia of a war-zone, has never been the idea of ‘normalcy’ for Kashmiris.

Featured image credit: REUTERS/Danish Ismail
Banner image credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

You must be to comment.
  1. Karabi Deka

    Finally an unbiased write up..the whole media has been sickening to its epitome to take sides which will be only’s difficult to judge about a place and re tweet or repost some nationalism random matter..without having visited or lived in such a tumultuous state ever..kudos finally bring a ray of hope in this jaragon of nonsense that one gets to read in the form of News..excellent built up and have an heart that feels..very good work..kudos!

  2. Shariq Khan

    Nice one. I have visited Kashmir twice and for a long duration. I’ve seen myself kashmiris life full of jeopardise.

More from Abhishek Jha

Similar Posts

By Ashraf Lone

By Aheed

By Education Updates

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below