2016 was a year of controversies, protests, killings, pellets for Kashmir. It was also a year of blinds in Kashmir. In the history of the Kashmir conflict, 2016 will also have its share. 2016 will also be remembered.
Every Kashmiri will remember Eid-ul-Fitr of the year 2016; everyone will remember July 8, particularly the evening of July 8 when news of Burhan Wani’s death broke out. No one will forget the aftermath of his death.
It was July 8, and Kashmir was savouring Eid. Most people in Kashmir were on tours with their families and friends when suddenly the news of the death of Burhan Wani broke out. Firstly people did not believe the news and thought it was fake. As the news got confirmed and every news channel was running this breaking news, the situation took an ugly turn in Kashmir. Soon traffic disappeared from roads, and shops were closed. Everyone was in a hurry trying to reach home safely.
Loudspeakers of the Mosque blared with “Everyone come out Burhan has been martyred“. People came out to protest, the young and the old were on the streets chanting slogans for Burhan. Being a Kashmiri myself, I hadn’t seen such a massive scale of protest. Some people were still not believing that he was dead. Within hours, protests turned violent in most parts of the valley. Mobile Internet was snapped. Separist leaders first called for a one-day shutdown, but after seeing such a massive protest, they changed it to three days.
The next morning Kashmir was silent. There was no traffic on the roads and no civilian movements. Everyone knew that the situation was going to turn violent soon because Burhan Wani’s funeral was going to take place and a large number of people were going to participate in it.
Soon news came of massive clashes between civilians and security forces in many parts of the valley. Within hours, there was news of civilian killings and the numbers kept on increasing every hour. Kashmir was burning, people were angry, but the Government’s reaction was the same as it had been in the past. They were, as usual, blaming Pakistan for such a situation.They were asking Kashmiris to be calm and maintain peace. Statement after statement kept coming from various politicians about Burhan Wani’s killing. Every politician was busy praising security forces for such a success, but nobody was talking about civilian killings. Above all, Kashmir didn’t get a single tweet from Prime Minister Modi condemning civilian killings on such a large scale. This made Kashmir angrier.
On the other hand, the mainstream media was also busy increasing their TRPs in the name of Kashmir and Burhan Wani. Every ‘News Hour’ show was making people in Kashmir angrier towards the Indian state. People who were sympathetic about civilian killings were branded as ‘anti-national’ by these newsrooms. The whole of Kashmir was branded as ‘anti-national’ and some people were even justifying these civilian killing.
What made 2016 different for Kashmir from the 2008 and the 2010 unrest was the massive use of pellet guns. Pellet guns were used ruthlessly in Kashmir last year. It took a heavy toll on the people of Kashmir with many losing their eyesight permanently. Pellet injuries during the 2016 unrest were mostly above the waist. This so-called non-lethal weapon turned lethal for the people of Kashmir. Most people who lost their eyesight due to pellets were in their teens; they had a long life ahead which will now be spent living in darkness.They won’t be able to work or study now. According to doctors, pellet victims become vulnerable to many deadly diseases.
The Home Minister Rajnath Singh had promised many times that there would be a complete ban on pellet guns, but it never happened. Pellet guns are used even today. Every Kashmir had the same question, why were pellet guns not being used elsewhere in India and why were they being used in Kashmir. This type of treatment was always kept for Kashmiris. It didn’t matter which party was ruling in the centre, voices in Kashmir were always silenced with brute force. People of Kashmir won’t forget the killings, the pellets scars it will accompany them into 2017. For those people, who lost their loved ones in this unrest won’t be able to forget 2016, for them, 2017 will be just like 2016 – full of miseries.
Now that 2016 has come to an end, and normalcy has also returned in Kashmir. Separists leaders are still issuing protest calenders but for only two-day shutdowns in a week. Tourist activities are also gaining pace. The overall situation in Kashmir valley is calm, but one doesn’t know for how long. During the unrest, many politicians asked for peace, so that they could make any dialogue process effective. This is the right time to speed up any dialogue process and make peace permanent in the Kashmir valley. Any effective peace process won’t harm any politicians’ voter base, in fact, people will remember them for such a significant step towards peace in Kashmir. Now let’s hope, 2017 brings cheer to the people of Kashmir and long standing peace in the valley. Let’s hope for a better Kashmir in 2017, a peaceful and happy Kashmir.