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What Does ‘Normalcy’ In Kashmir Mean For Its People?

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By Naveed Ul Hassan:

The news of deaths has stopped coming in from Kashmir. People are back to ‘normal’. Buses have started to ply again. Some schools have also opened for the first time in four months. ‘Nothing’ is happening in Kashmir. Presumably, everything in Kashmir is as good as in Delhi. The protest calendars are being issued by the Hurriyat  and only seen on papers. What is the fiasco then about Kashmir? Why did people protest? These are questions one would expect from uninformed people from across the board.

Almost everyone has mixed feelings on the return of ‘normalcy’ in the state. Some say it is the result of wrong strategies in the earlier phases of the four-month deadlock due to the resistance of the  leadership. Others describe it as a ‘natural fatigue’ due to continuous stalling of activities in the region. The so-called ‘normalcy’ itself  puts to rest the first two assumptions. The current ‘normalcy’ proves how hard the state has been trying to enforce it. The tactics vary from demoralising the resistance leadership via the media to jailing thousands of young boys who question. Night raids by state forces had gained momentum by the middle of the ongoing uprising.

Calling the ‘normalcy’ as an outcome of the fatigue and wrong strategies is just another move to make sure the ‘normalcy’ remains. Does it feel like we are living in peace when a newspaper is banned? Are these ‘normal’ times when the state forces deny you basic rights of ascertaining the cause of your unlawful arrest? Under the provisions of the Public Safety Act (PSA), a person can be jailed for two years without any trial.

What happens when the news of killings don’t reach the media? The media frenzy is over and it results in the slow and bureaucratic occupation of people. In times like these, people arrested under a draconian law like the PSA are made to suffer in silence and the international community is oblivious of the persecution. If one is arrested, the entire family is made to suffer. One is booked under so many cases, that if he is bailed out in one, the police jeep is waiting to put him in jail in for another.

Now, how does the state proclaim that these are ‘normal’ times?  It inaugurates some cricket tournaments under the banner of the Indian Army and overlooks the alleged killing of a cricketer by the police. Nayeem Qadir Bhat, a 19-year-old aspiring cricketer was allegedly killed by the police in April. Makes the number of tourists visiting the troubled valley as a litmus test for ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir. Uses the qualification in the Indian civil services by a Kashmiri as a political bell.

It is described as ‘normalcy’ by people who support pro-India political parties and those who forget who they are and just remember what commodities they need. This is put to use in Kashmir especially after a continued hartal (a form of protest in South Asia) for a long period. After the summer uprising of 2010, the same definition was used to measure ‘normalcy’ after propaganda.

Despite there being ‘normalcy’, what is happening is a cause of serious concern. Away from the light of the cameras, there are thousands rotting in jails, hundreds have been killed and thousands injured lethally. That is not just the outcome of the happenings during this summer, policy decisions by every dispensation have resulted in similar situations even before for the Kashmiri people.

Thus, ‘normalcy’ needs a much better interpretation. The term ‘nothing happens’ needs a closer examination. While a campaign to promote how things have been controlled is launched by the Public Relations Department of the government, the ‘security forces’ are busy searching for protesters who questioned their role in the valley. While the government proclaims that the valley got relief from hartals, people continue to question the detention of Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist in Kashmir.

What really happens in this ‘normalcy’ is that the people are crushed under the voice of the public relations exercise of the government. People make repeated trips to the courts to free their children while learning endless terms of jurisprudence every day. The examinations of students, the opening of cafes and the plying of buses are not the solutions to the problem. On the contrary, it only aggravates the issue. Why would there be an unrest in 2016 if there was ‘normalcy’ after 2010?

It is time for us to stop buying the rhetoric of ‘normalcy’ and start looking for a permanent solution to the problem in a way that the uncertainty of future, life and security changes for good. While keeping in mind that solutions are not found in days, I would argue that the problem has been going on for decades and three wars have taken place because of it.

A Kashmiri would envisage normal times when he is able to roam around and doesn’t need to disclose his identity to any man on the street. The day he is consulted about his future would be nirvana for him. ‘Normalcy’ would mean a certain future and a guarantee that an armed man is not going to rape one’s daughter.

Many perceive the independence from the shrewd net of Indian occupation as the start of ‘normalcy’. But it is a serious question and it asks for India’s commitment to the UN Security Council Resolution adopted in 1948. Peace is the main victim of the government’s version of normalcy. Every day we hear the killings of people across LoC on both sides. Perhaps it is time for India and Pakistan to introspect into their roles on the issue of Kashmir and come to a peaceful arrangement for Kashmiris, keeping in view the political aspirations of the people.

Normalcy would be a side effect of the settlement of political scores. Let us forget ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir for a while and try to focus on the larger issue of peace. This is the best opportunity for everyone to solve the problem and avert a major crisis in Asia by just playing their cards right. Don’t let Kashmir be an issue of pride for anyone except Kashmiris. We are sick of carrying the coffins of our brothers. We want peace, not ‘normalcy’.

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Image source: Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images
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