A week ago, Kashmir was bustling. The Tulip Garden had opened for visitors. It is situated at the foot of the mighty Zabarwan Hills and washed by the Dal Lake on the other side. People in large numbers — both local and non-local were seen enjoying the garden. Tulips of various colours, along with multi-coloured hybrids mesmerised and spellbound the visitors.
While the government was gearing up for the revival of tourism by projecting a “return of normalcy”, Kashmir woke up on Sunday (April 1) to see a new phase of mayhem and bloodshed. An encounter throughout night and day, followed by protests left 13 militants, four civilians and three security personnel dead. Hundreds were injured, many among them hit by pellet guns — they may lose their eyesight.
Eventually, photos of tulips on social media sites were replaced by those of dead bodies, eyes pierced by pellets, burning houses (encounter sites) and protests. Few compared tulips with Kashmiris, one wrote – “both have a short life”. Studios of many New Delhi-based news channels were in a celebratory mode — despite the death of three jawans. These channels were doing what they do best — romanticising state violence.
It is important to note that all 13 militants killed were Kashmiri youth — most in their twenties, and a few still teenagers. While people sitting in Delhi were celebrating their deaths, Kashmir was mourning and many called Sunday as a “black day”. There was a time, a few years ago — when people used to run away from encounter sites for their lives. Today, the opposite is happening, people run towards encounter sites — to help militants break the siege without caring of their lives.
The Government of India (GOI) has consistently followed the policy of an “iron fist” to stifle dissent and caging political dissidents. All of this has failed, since today, more young people are picking up arms. For the first time, the UN chief called for the “need of investigation in civilian killings”. Half-hearted attempts to initiate dialogue by appointing a former IB man couldn’t melt the ice.
Kashmir has been ruled by Mughals, Afghans and Dogras. And people have not cared about ruler being Kashmiri or Non-Kashmiri as long as they proved to be good and just. As Prem Nath Bazaz has written in his book ‘Struggle of Freedom in Kashmir’: “For that reason, when capable leaders were not forthcoming in their motherland, the people invited strong and noble-minded men from outside to rule over them and then they owned them as their kings.”
Many think this violence may escalate and engulf the whole tourism season.
“Peace” here is called as a period of time “between two deaths”, but for how long will it continue? It has a human cost as well. In 2017, according to JKCCS (Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society), there were 451 killings in Kashmir – which include 125 Armed Forces personnel, 217 Militants and 108 Civilians. Human rights can’t be subjected to terms and conditions. The question is not about whether India can control Kashmir, but does it have a sense of propriety whether governed are happy with our actions?
The situation in Kashmir is changing—hopes of any result-oriented dialogue are dimming. India may continue its militaristic approach but at its own peril.
Author is a Kashmir-based blogger. He tweets @khalidbinbashir