The situation in Kashmir is spiralling out of control as the youth take to the streets with a devil-may-care recklessness. Without fear, they confront security forces that to them are a symbol of the coercive power of the state. This mindset poses new dangers of disintegration to the state. – Arun Joshi
The Kashmir situation is going from bad to worse. In the current situation, almost every household has become a grooming centre for the would-be “warriors”, where children sing the songs calling for “martyrdom” to boost their morale These are uploaded on social media and get the intended response. A message of hatred against India is spread and that translates into anger on the streets.
Homes, schools and streets peddle this narrative of Islam and liberation. The tales that parents, teachers and the youngsters bring about the real or imagined or exaggerated versions of the “atrocities” of the security forces reinforces the thinking that they are living in a besieged land. The talk of the village corners has shifted from devastating militancy of the 1990s to “state terrorism.” It is something that separatists had been saying for long, now the “mainstream” leaders, too, have joined the chorus. They are unanimous in demanding restraint from the security forces but are shy of telling the misguided youth to go to schools instead of stoning the security personnel. That has made this narrative of “state terrorism” more pronounced. A recent video showing the Army using a youth as a human shield has further given credence to this version to the youth.
They are conditioned by the mindset of resistance not only for the liberation of Kashmir but also as their religious obligation. Kashmiri nationalism is just a cover, as always. The militancy was guided by the goal of setting up an Islamic Republic in Kashmir. The situation is dreadful — the fear of the Army is over; crowds gather in a matter of seconds and start throwing stones, political workers are either being killed or threatened to declare their disassociation with the political groups that they belong to. The disclaimers broadcast on social media, combined with real-time blood spilling, has infused the atmosphere with extreme fear for commoners. The police department’s advisory to its personnel that they should not visit their homes for the next few months is seen an admission of the deteriorating situation where policemen have been told to be extremely cautious. That means that the threat to them is real.
Alongside, there are youth drawn from villages, schools and colleges who are manifesting their anger on the streets using stones, each stone cast with a message that they were ready to face bullets. And, once the bullets are fired, the cycle of funerals, burials, new vows and martyrdom move at an unimagined pace. This cements the feelings that a final battle has to be fought.
A striking factor was that there was a deep element of fear of the search-and-cordon operations. People would sit for hours during search operations. There was an awe. Now such operations are near-impossible. There is no forbidden zone for the stone-throwers or gunmen.
A new deadly trio has emerged of gunmen, stone-throwers and the crowds offering moral support to them. In 1990, it was hoped that Army would reverse the situation and that it did, making it possible for the politicians to contest elections and form the governments. Then the vested interests in Delhi started playing games — a fair assessment of the situation was dumped as a bad idea because the threats from across the border had not vanished and militancy was not over as yet. The breathing space was scotched.
Nowadays, public anger and hate against India is too pronounced to be ignored. The politicians, who are now calling for restraint by the security forces, were the ones who never bothered to deliver on governance. The basic needs of the people were ignored with contempt. They ruled with the backing of Delhi, and the Centre never held them accountable for their waywardness. They started hiding their failures by claiming that they were working for the larger goal of a political solution to the Kashmir crisis. The new generation did not trust these politicians, who promised “sadak, bijli, paani” during the election campaign but shifted their narrative to the honourable and dignified solution of the Kashmir crisis. Their flip-flop and mishandling of small incidents snowballed into a bigger crisis of confidence. The political class is seen as “opportunistic, collaborators, exploiters and corrupt to core.”
Now they suspect that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed BJP is trying to undermine their religious identity. Religion is a very sensitive issue in the exclusively Muslim Kashmir. This is the most uniting factor as the “pro-freedom leadership” started its campaign by driving Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley. That was in 1990. The 2017 visual realities of the Muslim world clashing with the West and their own youth heckling, slapping, kicking the CRPF jawans has given them the power of aggression. They are sensing a new revolution that would make India retreat.
That is where the situation is not only uncontrollable but also defining new dangers of disintegration of the state that can have a ripple effect on the rest of the places as well. This mindset of resistance is the real challenge for the country now.