The end of fear has arrived to stay in Kashmir

Ather Zia
Ather ZiaDec 05, 2016 | 20:52

The end of fear has arrived to stay in Kashmir

Kashmir men hurl stones at an armoured vehicle of the Indian forces (photo credit: The Telegraph)

An exemplar image of what I am about to share appears thus. Kashmiri men, some running and still others climbing an armoured truck that carries the Indian paramilitary forces. It appears that after a pitched street battle, the military truck has been cornered by a handful of demonstrators, unarmed except for occasional sticks and stones.

The bodies of these youth have been synced in fatal intimacy with the vehicle. The soldiers are armed to teeth, and can shoot the youth down any moment. In the last three months, almost every day has been a funeral in Kashmir; young boys, men, girls, women and children have fallen prey to the Indian forces' excesses.


These men around the vehicle do not care about being killed, or even being maimed for life.

India continues to quell the protests that began on July 7 after Burhan Wani, a young militant was killed by government forces. [1]

Eventually, a long summer uprising ensued — full of invigorated calls for self-determination and independence. The enduring image of the Kashmiri youth swarming around the armoured vehicle is only an increment to the iconic grassroots resistance that all Kashmiris have witnessed since 2008.

The Indian response to the rebellion has been stock-in-trade, disproportionate and fatal force.

But this summer has made one thing amply clear: it is the end of fear in Kashmir.

If we take the last 126 days alone, Kashmiris have lost too much — 100 bodies and counting; more than 10,000 wounded, 1,100 plus eye injuries due to pellet firing, among severe damage caused to perforated organs, et al. [2]

The three-month long curfew, continues off and on. The valley is an "open prison": a term that Kashmiris use to define their homeland. The images of the raw, visceral nature of Kashmiri resistance are much too evident.

One would imagine that civilians would observe diffidence around soldiers, but it is not so in Kashmir. The fear of being killed has disappeared, as has the fear of being maimed for life. Kashmiris are demanding the right to self-determination in a hand-to-hand street combat.


Three decades of intense militarisation have made facing danger seem second nature to Kashmiris. They have buried and lost too many they say. The hospitals across Kashmir are full of wounded citizens — both protestors and those who were not even part of the demonstrations. [3]

The grotesque violence, reported mostly by local newspapers despite curbs on media, depicted the horrors of an undeclared war on civilians. Kashmir Reader, a newspaper known for its in-depth coverage stays banned for its raw, investigative reporting.

Not only men, but Kashmiri women too have increasingly joined the protests and street battles. Such has been the level of their participation that a local pro-India politician even used it as an excuse. He said that women were organising after they were done with domestic chores, which made night curfew imperative.

Talk about multitasking between the home and the nation. This is the constitution of the crowd on the streets of Kashmir. Yet the Indian government adamantly portrays the demonstrators as hired hands, criminals, unemployed, drugs addicts or unruly kids.

No amount of evidence or denouncement of this allegation from the Kashmiris allays the Indian narrative; most simply because it does not suit their political ends. The government continues to undermine all modes of Kashmiri resistance with two old bottles of snake oil: one has "Pakistan instigated" written all over it and the other peddles the Kashmiri movement as "political disenchantment".


The global community may not hear of Kashmiri movement as an "uprising" but as a mere "unrest", or even "terrorism" because that helps India to misrepresent the demand for self- determination. But all this should fall hollow in what Kashmiris have made the world witness in these past few months. They have sent a crystal clear message to the world: their fight is not for reparations or lifting laws like AFSPA, but for the right to exist as an independent country.

Sample this: two Kashmiri boys with bandages on their left eyes lie on a hospital bed in Srinagar. When the boys are asked if they would protest again, they promptly respond, "Why not, we still have one eye left."

Recently, the united Hurriyat met to decide the future course of the movement. Thousands of common Kashmiris thronged the venue to make sure the uprising continued through a "hartal" (civilian curfew), a historical mode of civil disobedience observed by Kashmiris.

Often debated as economically and socially unviable, for now, a hartal seems to be the only option through which most Kashmiris can participate in the civil disobedience movement without resorting to street protests.

Every day life, including schools, trade and supplies, are shaping around the boycott while street battles continue to ebb and flow. Kashmiris have re-readied themselves for a long resistance to India — one that has always been a part of their life politically and culturally.

A young Kashmiri boy with pellet injured eyes and face (photo credit: Danish Ismail/Reuters)

The 2016 mass uprising will be remembered for iconising the figure of a Kashmiri fighting for freedom. Chest heaving and daring the Indian troops — they may or may not have a stone in hand, and might even be blind.

Firing on a funeral of a boy wounded by Indian retaliation, and who later succumbed (photo credit: Kashmir Life)

Meanwhile, the government continues to perfect its technology of terror. After introducing the stronger PAVA shells, which turned Kashmiri streets and homes into gas chambers, now the Centre is toying with the idea of employing shock sticks. The continued use of pellet guns has resulted in mass blindings and perforation of organs beyond repair.

These injuries are beyond the realm of war wounds, and - as a mass punishment - ensure people become physically and emotionally incapacitated for life. The summer of 2016 also witnessed India making funerals worse for Kashmir. To quell the funeral protests, even firing on mourners was made to seem commonplace.

Somewhere, the coffins fell as people took shelter from the fire; elsewhere, as men dispersed, women rushed to catch the corpse; a practice seen as the epitome of pain and powerlessness. "There is nothing more left to see now; we are in Karbala," says one Kashmiri woman.

A Kashmiri man adds, "There is little to lose; it is do or die; no more fear."

The end of fear has arrived to stay.


[1] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/burhan-wanis-killing-brings-kashmir-to-a-crossroads/

[2] http://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/no-hope-in-the-dark-world-of-insha/ 297386#.WCVz-4eA8ws.twitter

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/india-crackdown-in-kashmir-is-this- worlds-first-mass-blinding

Last updated: April 01, 2017 | 18:59
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