Kashmir: Can autonomy be the meeting ground for lasting solution?

  • Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Aug 23, 2016 21:01 IST
Kashmiri protesters throw stones on Indian paramilitary soldiers as tear gas shell explodes near them in Srinagar. Ascendant pro-Pakistan sentiments in the Valley have several contributory factors: incidence of intolerance in India; lack of trust in the PDP-BJP coalition; absence of political dialogue on Kashmir and security crackdown on protests after Buran Wani’s encounter killing. (AP)

The youth who defy curfew, pelt stones and fight pitched battles with security forces in the Valley are veritable family drop-outs. Their parents have no control over them. They might follow the Hurriyat’s ‘calendar’ of protests. But they aren’t exactly at the separatists’ beck and call.

Be they teenagers, sophomores or university alumnus, the mood is defiant; the anger so palpable that one can slice it with a butter-knife. “I’m unable to convince my son; this generation isn’t in our control,” bemoaned a Kashmir University professor. “What you see is a mass movement driven by boys as young as 12 to 16….They hold the trigger.”

The university’s faculty comprises teachers from across the valley. One among them quoted students from South Kashmir, the worst affected among all regions, as telling him that each youth now was a militant. Some had guns, some didn’t.

On August 16, a boy was killed in police action at Batamaloo. Next day, a group of fifty assembled at the same spot to take on the forces, recalled another teacher. “Their generation only saw violence. They don’t dream of building careers. They’re ready to die,” he said.

Read: The challenge of engaging with a hitherto unknown Kashmir

The uprising is the result of accumulated anger compounded by ‘excessive use’ of force after Burhan Wani’s killing. It has to it an unmistakable religious dimension feeding on the shenanigans of Hindu supremacists elsewhere in India.

One heard slogans in support of Pakistan and against India at the SMHS hospital where scores of injured youth are under treatment. But to entirely attribute the agitation—that has unprecedented mobilisation in the countryside-- to an external conspiracy would be a costly folly.

A PDP insider offered on it an interesting construct: protests driven by anger grew into a kind of civil disobedience movement that had Pakistan navigating it from behind the Hurriyat veneer. Its overt diplomatic offensive on rights violations drew sustenance from on-the-ground covert action, including co-option of armed militants who addressed azadi-seekers in Anantnag and Pulwama.

Ascendant pro-Pakistan sentiments in the Valley are confirmed by local journalists. The contributory factors are many: incidence of intolerance in India; lack of trust in the PDP-BJP coalition; absence of political dialogue on Kashmir and security crackdown on protests after Buran Wani’s encounter killing.

But how serious is the demand for Azadi? On the face of it, pretty much! The voices one heard on streets, at hospitals and in assemblies of traders, teachers and lawyers could be paraphrased to read: You’re mistaken if you think you can tire us out; we’ve enough rations for six months; we’d fight till the end; won’t let the cause for which so many of our brothers died go waste.

Read: Caught in the line of fire: Lives of CRPF men in Kashmir

“Muslim Kashmir is reluctant to continue its relations with an India perceived as Hindu India. That’s a harsh reality,” admitted a local legislator. So the problem that needs prompt negation is the valley people’s psychological secession from mainland India!

A militant-turned-politico had for it an antidote that’ll require a BJP leap of faith—from seeking to scrap Article 370 to granting autonomy to Kashmir. It won’t be Pakistan’s extension in Kashmir, as was once argued by Arun Jaitley. “It will be its defeat. We ask for Azadi when we are denied autonomy or self rule.”

Read: Video of two Kashmir cops ‘resigning’ amid cheers from public goes viral

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