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Peace won’t return in J&K till Centre understands people’s aspirations

The call for shutdowns also doesn’t help to solve anything, as should be understood by now. It has only played a role of a buffer for authorities to impose curfews, change the ground dynamics of any uprising or even use it as a dartboard.

analysis Updated: Feb 13, 2017 13:11 IST
Fahad Shah
Fahad Shah
The Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir police carrying the body of a militant which was recovered from the rubble of a destroyed house where militants were hiding during an encounter at Frisal area of Kulgam district of South Kashmir on Sunday. (PTI)

If last summer’s civilian uprising doesn’t tell you what is happening in Kashmir, then nothing else will help. This goes for the government in Jammu and Kashmir and also at the Centre. Last year, for months Kashmir saw a series of protests that were dotted with around 100 civilian killings and thousands brutally injured but the state government still continues with its rhetoric that only acts as amplifier to the problems.

The fresh civilian killings took place in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district – part of the militancy-active belt, where two locals were caught in a crossfire near the site of a gunfight between the security forces and militants. There was an encounter between militants and the troops, in which four militants and two troopers were killed but the locals protesting in the area were also showered with tear-gas shells, pellets and bullets. The nearest district hospital in Anantnag was filled with injured civilians – almost two dozen.

Read: Kashmir’s bloody Sunday: 8 die as protests and encounter disrupt peace in Kulgam

So where does the problem actually lie? When the government felt everything is back to normal – people are feeling relieved that finally the “shutdown calendars” are over, there is almost repeat of what we saw in last July. Everything branches out of the four simple words – solve the Kashmir issue. Until and unless it is not realised that protests in Kashmir are genuinely based on aspirations, it is foolish to expect certainty of peace. When the civilian killings itself don’t stop then you are playing with fire.

The most surprising statement of the day came from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which tweeted from the official party handle: “Deeply grieved and saddened by the loss of precious human lives in the Frisal incident. Govt will look into the matter and will try to find out all the circumstances that led to such a damage at the place.”

For Kashmiris, the phrases like “will look into the matter,” “has ordered a probe,” “is deeply grieved,” and many such are synonyms to mental torture, intense anger and insult. It is only because no one ever looked into matter or probed or was actually grieved at the loss. These had been standard statements — only the speakers change —after each election. The constant abuse of justice for Kashmiris is the root cause of why we are living in this age of fury. It didn’t happen in one day but it has been a patterned policy of governments over the years.

Such patterns need to end beyond a point if anyone wants to change Kashmir and South Asia. With each civilian killing in Kashmir, the entire family and neighbourhood are affected. Even though development is part of any growing society, but the mistake of using that as an antidote to political aspirations will turn out to be dangerous. It has been seen on ground in 2008, 2010 and 2016 – and it is likely to be seen again.

Read: Kulgam clashes go ‘live’ on Facebook in volatile Kashmir Valley

The call for shutdowns also doesn’t help to solve anything, as should be understood by now. It has only played a role of a buffer for authorities to impose curfews, change the ground dynamics of any uprising or even use it as a dartboard. In 2016, redundant protest calendars became a habit and exhausted people, so no one even noticed when they turned irrelevant. Such kind of politics has also maintained a status quo over Kashmir issue and it is only young militants and protestors who have brought Kashmir back to forefront.

Everywhere in world, the youth don’t prefer a status quo. Such politics in Kashmir will only make issues linger and cause more bloodshed. It is time to look at this conflict through a twentieth-century prism and find a solution based on people’s aspirations. No dialogue is fruitful that doesn’t aim to find a solution to the Kashmir issue, having the people’s political sentiments as the bedrock of the dialogue process.

Fahad Shah is an independent journalist and founder-editor of The Kashmir Walla magazine, @pzfahad

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Feb 13, 2017 11:31 IST