Kashmir over the years has been presented as an internal issue or merely a ‘law and order’ situation in the international forums by the Indian State. Historically, whenever people in Kashmir have demanded their rights, agencies of the Indian State have responded by trampling over more rights. The latest developing trend is that of the the pop-up war rooms. The big Indian media houses, and the analysts, from a distance, declare people on the streets as gullible individuals who are just puppets and work based on the whims of Pakistan.
These experts on Kashmir have forgotten their history. They have forgotten the fact that Kashmir has seen such unrest in the past. An armed struggle has been going on since the late 1980s. Before 2016, civilian unrests had also taken place in 2008 and 2010.
In war-torn Kashmir, the anger against the State terror has taken the form of a gigantic undercurrent, which needed a reason to erupt, and Burhan’s killing was just that one reason. One has to understand that when peaceful struggles are not provided space, a more violent form of struggle is inevitable. Kashmir has always been a dangerous place for those who dissent, those who contest or are perceived to contest the legal sovereignty of India. The dissent may be in the form of throwing stones at police and military agencies of the State or mourning the death of a local militant.
The successive uprisings of 2008 and 2010 and the direct confrontations with the police and the Army have detached the element of fear and changed the dynamics of the politics surrounding the area. It has created a sense of solidarity with the local armed struggle among the new generation. Some of the unarmed youth are even willing to put their lives at stake to give the escape route to fighters trapped in encounters. In Southern Kashmir, whenever armed rebels are trapped anywhere; some people risk their own lives to help the fighters flee from the anti-militant operations conducted by the Indian forces. There have been a number of events since 2010 when Indian forces opened fire on civilians. One civilian was killed last month in an encounter. There is a sense of deep alienation and a disbelief in the credibility of a political process, which has non-serious players at the state and local level.
The civilian uprisings of 2008 and 2010 saw a shift of the conflict to a new generation. The demonstrations saw the participation of millions of unarmed civilians. The responses to the civilian uprisings were intense crackdowns against the people who were leading or actively participating in these rallies. Draconian laws were used to book people and even juveniles. According to a report by the Human Rights Law Network, more than 700 minors have been booked under the PSA since March 2013. The agencies of the State killed and maimed people, irrespective of age and gender, choked all the voices of dissent, crushing the space for a political solution. The denial of a space and an ear to political aspirations, using immense force, has given rise to a parallel violent uprising and young men in their late 20s or early 30s took the lead this time.
The rise of nationalistic politics in India and the decline of liberal policies can only lead to a path of direct confrontation, which is dangerous in any social and civilised setup. Moreover, the local ‘unholy alliance‘, people believe, has no agenda of an alliance at all. They failed to release political prisoners. The denial of space to a political and peaceful struggle has made a violent struggle inevitable.
The alternate modes of resistance that have developed due to a disbelief in the political system and the continuous failures of the political system to deliver must concern every individual. The belief here has been pinned against the wall creating more and more victims in the conflict. The sequence of events that has unfolded after the 2010 uprising has created a violent discourse. More and more young people have joined the militancy.
In 2016, the civilian uprising was again met with a similar response. After the killing of Burhan Wani, around 80 young people are said to have taken up arms. The new age militancy has created a romantic discourse and militancy is now glorified through videos and messages circulated through social media. These new age militants use social networking sites to circulate their aspirations and political message.
When the distrust amongst the civilian population against all the institutions of a system is mounting, it just erodes the credibility of that system. There is a high level of consensus amongst the intelligentsia of India, Pakistan and Kashmir that the Indian State has mishandled the political situation in Kashmir. The Indian State has to hear the genuine plea of the Kashmiri populace and get involved in political discussions, with not only the Kashmiri people. It should also take other sections into account, including the forces of resistance, to stop the situation from drifting into a state of complete anarchy.