Few days back I received a call from a friend from south Kashmir (it is not possible now as phone services are blocked). While narrating his helplessness for getting medicine for his ailing father who is a diabetic patient and his sadness about the deaths and injuries in his vicinity. Though talking about the young boys who have lost the vision due to pellet injury in their eyes, he ended the conversation by saying Kaachh-e-Taembarr Hindustan -as – Indian State has turned Blind. The State-oppression in the form of fake encounters, enforced disappearance, torture, rapes (Kashmiris do remember Kunan Poshpora) and killing of protestors on streets has been justified in the name of ‘national’ security. The Indian State has been always been a State of Exception vis-a-via Kashmir as far as it extra-constitutional legalities and special laws which grant impunity to its military forces from war crimes are concerned. It is typical of a modern nation-state like India to turn into State of Exception in a territory where it has legitimacy crisis. Though sometimes it has tried to show its benign face through economic packages and relief measures during natural calamities – earthquake and flood, but that could not help it to gain its legitimacy. Apart from this Indian State is turning blind. Suffering from Kacch-e-Taembar as a friend rightly said, where you deliberately do not want see the things around, one can be blind enough not to see a clear writing on the wall.
After the martyrdom of Commander Burhan Wani, the Indian state was in the mood of jubilation ‘to eliminate the most wanted terrorist’. But it soon turned into its nightmare. It was not the first time that the funeral of a rebel was attended by thousands but the immediate response across Kashmir through demonstrations and funerals in absentia made the civil and military establishment of Indian State frustrated. The immediate response that it resorted to was putting the whole valley under seize by imposing curfew and clamping down of internet services. It was followed by suppressing the demonstrations with violence which resulted in 38 deaths and 1500 injured in four days. The use of force to suppress the peaceful protests is not a new phenomenon. All through the decade of 1990s and as recent as 2008 and 2010 it was witnessed on the streets of Kashmir. If there is a change it is in the addition of some more “non-lethal” weapons in the list like pepper-gas, stunt-grenades and pellet-gun along with the conventional way of showering bullets at point-blank range. The use of pepper-gas bombs in large quantities in the residential areas, create what in military language is called “closed room effect” that suffocates people. In the present protests Indian military used these inside the hospitals, one can imagine conditions of patients. The stunt-grenades which unlike tear-gas does not only causes smoke but explodes which causes serious injuries. In 2010 it was one of the “non-lethal” weapons which was directly thrown to people causing death of many young boys and girls. The on-going protests has seen eye injuries of more than hundred people across all ages by the use of one more ‘non-lethal’ weapon – pellet-guns The ophthalmologists of various hospitals in South Kashmir and Srinagar who carried out surgeries claim that the damage caused by the pellets is permanent and most of the injured going to be blind for life time. One wonders if these are the “non-lethal” weapons and methods which are causing people blind, crippled and dead, what would be the ‘lethal’ ones that Indian state would employ.
The story of coercion does not end there, there have been attacks on the ambulances carrying injured and ransacking of hospitals which are war-crimes in any standard procedure of International law and conventions. No respect for the Geneva conventions which among other things do talk about the right to medical facilities of the wounded in armed conflicts; even in case of occupied territories, there are obligations on occupying power vis-a-via civilians. The image of India is becoming great at the international level now, claims the Government of India but it does not want follow any international norms to engage with Kashmir. On the one hand Indian Prime Minister (who was Chief Minster of Gujarat in 2002 when state led genocide of Muslims happened) is travelling across the world and talking about the role of India in world ‘peace’ while on the another hand his regime is legitimizing the State violence against the Kashmiris. It is not only the present Hindutva regime but all across the party line including the parliamentary-Left that stand united in this kind of approach vis-a-vis Kashmir. Indian State has been also instrumental in turning its own Indian Citizens blind by providing them the statist discourse of Kashmiri self-determination movement. Foreign, ISI, mis-guided youth, fundamentalist, terrorists, paid-agents, development, elections, sadbhavana, normalcy, peace and happy-valley are some of the key words in the statist discourse. Even when it is not being able to deal with the on-going protests, the state machineries are busy in manufacturing this discourse. Law and order problem created by some miscreants after the death of a terrorist is what is its explanation of the present crisis to suffice the consciousness of its citizens. Indian State does see and understand the reasons for a 22 year old rebel to become a symbol of resistance but it continues to be in mood of denial. The political groups like People’s Democratic Party (which has formed the government in coalition with Bhartiya Janata Party) and National Conference have always toed the line of the Indian state and collaborated in the occupation. Though knowing the reality from the ground, both these groups too are happy to suffer from this Kaachh-e-Taember syndrome.
In the ongoing crisis, it is being seen that most of the Indian media houses (business-houses) are acting as an apparatus of the Indian state to propagate its discourse. These electronic media channels and newspapers are (as they did in 2008, 2009 and 2010) trying to show-case their objectivity by this ‘balancing’ act of doing the stories of the injured Indian soldiers against 38 killing and 1500 injured Kashmiris. Some of the Indian journalists claiming to be reporting from ground-zero and who have been reporting Kashmir for last two decades too join the cacophony of the State. Instead of reporting the grave human rights violations on ground, the prime focus of the news is how the Home Minister of the benign Indian State is sending bunch of paid Imaams (who otherwise are used at the time of elections) with the message of ‘peace’. The Home Minister instead of taking an account of how many have been killed by Indian troops showed his concern for the smooth conduct of Amarnath Yatra and protecting Kashmiri Pandits. Through their TV debates they try to reduce the debate over political aspiration of Azadi to ‘operational question’ of what kind of weapons need to be used to suppress the protests. There has been this attempt by these Tv anchors for last six days to create the binaries – radical Kashmiris who are protesting versus moderate Kashmiris as well as non-Kashmiris who want ‘normalcy’ back. In realty if there is any binary (which these Indian journalists know well) it is Azaadi vs Occupation. The violent image of ‘misguided’ boys on the streets with stones against the ‘patriotic’ Indian troops disciplined enough to use force only as last resort are being produced to manufacture a consent of larger Indian population and justify its violence. Along with the media, there is a new peace brigade of progressive Indian intellectuals. They claim their neutrality, they are not siding with the state but want to be equidistant from the people protesting on roads. In the name of “concerned citizens”, they have signed the petitions against human rights violations and appeal for ‘peace’ but they do not want to engage on the questions of military occupation, self-determination or evade this discussion by saying –we do not want to go in history, we want peace for our fellow Kashmiris . They do not want to take a stand, they do not want to call a spade a spade. They confuse objectivity with neutrality. It is not solidarity to talk about human rights violations by one of the apparatus of your state, solidarity is when one talks about the real aspirations. With this half hearted solidarity and not talking about the occupation, the ‘progressive’ voices of India are affirming the approach of their State which is suffering from Kaachh-e-Taember for longer period of time.