In present day Kashmir, as other conflict zones on the planet, the ideal phrase to describe the situation is a “state of nature”. However instead of a natural existence, without any external agency, the state of lawlessness and war in Kashmir is flamed and fuelled by India. Forget artificial political system, even the universal human or natural rights and laws do not find application here. India is engaged in a tireless and exponential increment of power. It does not fatigue while carrying out killing after killings, rape after rapes and disappearance after disappearances.
Kashmir seems to be an award, a prize to be won. A trophy that would propell India’s pride in the global political panorama. In the mission of laying it’s hands on the Security Council seat of that namely United Nations, which is but a League of Nations, India has ruptured the demography and geography of Kashmir valley. Massacres have never stopped. Wails and shrieks have never faded left the air. Mournings have never ceased. Gloom has been a national mood for more than six decades of alien rule in Kashmir.
Kashmir is “on the boil” once again is how media describes the current spate of killings that started from Handwara over harassment attempts on a school girl by an Indian armyman. This clichéd term is boring, and nauseating and laden with a certain delusion about the whole conflict. Peace in Kashmir stands for the pause between two deaths. The enforced inertia in the valley after every civilian murder by the forces is forgranted for peace. The conflict analysts have time and again dashed Kashmir to the “edge”. How long is the edge one wonders. 1947 to 2016 is the distance. Still counting.
First things first. Molestation and sexual harassment by armed forces in Kashmir are not new. You may castigate Kanhaiya Kumar for reiterating the same. But truth told is bitter. There are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reports to testify the use of rape as weapon of war in Kashmir. Negating them will not help unless you belong to a brand of buffoonish individuals who believe the above-mentioned organisations are backed by Pakistan. The rapes and molestations in the valley form a mere statistic, but a strong memory that dwells in every Kashmiri mind and constrains us to admonish India as a roguish colonialist.
The molestation attempt in a public washroom in Handwara ensued massive protests. Anger and rage filled people. They resorted to stonepelting. The “panopticon” army bunker was burned down. The tricolour was taken down too. Forces responded in a way they have been trained to. Here they showered bullets. There fell two young men. Dead and still. On the ground. In a pool of blood. The visuals of blood-soaked road gut-wrenched everyone on social media. Who could ignore. Who could bypass. For how long. How much blood of Kashmir is too much. How much power of India is too much.
Soon the pictures of Nayeem Qadir Bhat flooded social media. Nayeem was a college student, a budding cricketer, an under-19 player and an Indian team aspirant. His photos were all over. About to play a cricket shot in one. High backlift. Clad in sweater and jeans. Flowing hair. Well-carved stubble. He had been to the jungles few moments before. Then returned to buy groceries. Before wrath, in dark uniform, fell upon him. And rendered his life extinct.
The overcrowding of social media with Nayeem’s pictures and captions such as “smart”, “budding”, “cricketer” did a visible damage. The other two persons to fall prey to rampant forces were overshadowed. Iqbal Farooq the other youth. Raja Begum the elderly lady. Death is death, incomparable. But pause and think. What if Nayeem was an ordinary boy like Iqbal. What if he was an aged person like Raja. What if he was not a budding cricketer. Why has this become a norm to prioritise our lives in terms of the achievements or attained attributes. The forces murdered three people that day, and another the next day. Four people. Four Kashmiris. Four dead bodies.
The forces always “regret” killings of innocent Kashmiris. Life here has fixed value — a simple sorry. And sometimes a compensation. In Indian currency. They bring up the fabrication of “self-defense”. But then, are bullets so weak that they have to fear stones. Their weapons are destined to kill. Even their least threatening weapons kill. An expired teargas shell was used in Handwara the other day. They don’t use teargas shells, pellet guns, pepper gas or rubber bullets to blind, impair, cripple, injure or disperse protesting crowds. They aim their arrows at our heads. They aim to kill, not deter.
Every crime against Kashmiris is followed by a phony cover-up process by the army. A video circulated by agencies in the evening of same day showed the minor victim girl denying any molestation attempts by the army. The act itself was an offence. But wait — aren’t we talking of an armed force which is provided impunity by law. Moreover such concealment processes are hackneyed in Kashmir where evidence is tampered with and legal regulations are prostituted to preserve the image of armed forces as “security forces”. Remember the 2011 Manzgam rape case. Or, the Shopian double rape-cum-murder case. Revisit such cases. Get the point.
The working of Indian occupation in Kashmir since 1947 is replete with innumerable killings, rapes and disappearances. The whole charade has taught us to decipher the physiology of violence India has commissioned here. But, unlike the economic cycles, these vicious cycles in Kashmir have no boom but only depressions. The impetus to protests is provided by government or its proxy. Protests ensue. Stonepelting occurs. Forces respond with bullets. in their “self-defense”. A bullet here. A pellet there. A teargas shell here. A pepper can there. Kashmiris die. Funeral processions are held. Forces fire upon them too. More killings. More protests. The ignited cycle of state violence goes on.
In maintaining a stranglehold over Kashmir, the Indian media has served the Indian state very well. Rather Indian media is the Indian state itself. They have been manufacturing favourable consent for their fascist government right from 2014. How can one expect them to carry exact details about Kashmir and alter the asymmetrical power structure that is tilted towards the military Indian state. Even the local Kashmiri media has, gradually and forcibly, learnt to play hypocrite in their news spaces. The use of “alleged” for broad daylight murders, rapes and torture is one instance of how the media is siding with the alien oppressor.
The suspension of internet services to estrange Kashmir from outer world is part of a systematic mechanism to arrest the gross violation of human rights by armed forces from reaching the world. It is not that the world would come hammer and tongs on India but that it would at least shame them and their demands of a place in the superpower core. This method was conceived in 2010 by the then Chief Minister. His well-qualified CV paid him dividends in holding an entire population hostage to his whips. Now another young, “female” Chief Minister is carrying the legacy forward.
Handwara is a symbolic representation of a larger demand, a genuine aspiration held by us for many decades — Azaadi. India has erred repeatedly by disbursing economic packages and sending across teams of imposturous interlocuters to calm down the rage. The most that can be gained out of this “boil” is removal of the bunker to some other place in the same vicinity. And suspension, later reinstatement, of the accused armymen. Maybe a probe to add to the list of countless others to have vanished in thin air. At heart of the problem, the demand of Azaadi remains.
“Solitary, nasty, brutish and short” is how Thomas Hobbes described life in the state of nature. That is how life in Kashmir is. There is an unending war. The only thing that can liberate people is the contract made long before — the contract to fight till we are free.