It has been about 69 years since the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir fell in India's lap. Even though the accession did not constitute a final disposition of J&K, one may still argue that in the initial years, the situation in Kashmir was largely peaceful before things started to go from bad from worse.
In the past 26 years, the situation in the Valley has changed drastically. No longer it is called the "paradise on earth". Today, it is the world’s most militarised region. Encounters, killings, rapes, torture are now common phenomenon in Jammu and Kashmir.
Adding to the tally is the killing of 37 innocent people - and counting - after a top Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander was killed in an encounter.
On July 8, people in Kashmir were still in the festive mood of Eid-ul-fitr when the news about the death of Kashmir’s new militancy poster boy, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, turned the atmosphere into a pall of gloom and disarray.
Wani, along with his two associates, was killed in a brief gunfight in south Kashmir's Kokernag area in Anantnag district.
As per reports, Wani was there to procure more weapons when police launched a joint operation with Army's 19 Rashtriya Rifles to terminate the most wanted militant in the state.
Soon after the news of Burhan’s death spread, it took a blink of an eye to turn the situation hostile on the ground. Within no time, people in large numbers came on streets denouncing the killing.
|Tens of thousands turned up for Burhan Wani's funeral in Tral, south Kashmir.|
Announcements were made on public address systems with youths raising slogans in support of Burhan and azadi (freedom).
The loudspeakers were buzzing with anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. Defying the curfew orders, angry youth engaged in pitched battles with Indian forces. The cries of "Tum kitney Burhan maroge, har ghar sai Burhan niklega (How many Burhans will be killed, every house will give birth to one)" were resonating in the air.
So, why are people coming out on streets to protest the killing of a militant whom the Indian establishment has dubbed as "a dreaded terrorist and threat to society"?
Let us address some key points.
Delegitimising genuine aspirations
Over the years India has spent billions of rupees in the state in the name of growth, development and job opportunities.
A few examples are: Rajiv Gandhi’s proposed Rs 10,000-crore package in 1987. HD Deve Gowda’s Rs 301-crore package in 1996. Manmohan Singh’s Rs 24,000-crore package in 2004. And the much touted Rs 80,000-crore promise by Narendra Modi in 2015.
The government of India has been pumping money into J&K, and yet, it has failed to deliver India the licence to "own" Kashmir.
Even though India is never tired of calling Kashmir its “integral part”, the mass uprising of the past three decades have always proved otherwise.
The militancy of mid-1990s to the non-violent mass-uprising of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and now 2016 are a testament to how India’s policies in Kashmir have miserably failed to get any favourable outcome.
Kashmir is an offshoot of the 1947 Partition between India and Pakistan and is still one of the oldest unresolved disputes in the world. It is no secret that the majority in Kashmir strive for the right to self-determination.
|Indian troops and police are consistently accused of grave human rights violations in Kashmir.|
Since 1948, the UN Security Council has passed 18 resolutions assuring right to self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the resolutions are yet to be implemented.
Commentators and political analysts feel there is a huge gap between the mindset in New Delhi and Kashmir.
They are of the opinion that India’s approach in Kashmir is that of fire-fighting.
New Delhi doesn’t trust anyone in Kashmir and treats it as its colony. The mainstream politicians of Kashmir have always been used, shamed, and ruthlessly put down in the eyes of Kashmiris only for India's own petty and timely gains.
Kashmir-based journalist Daanish Bin Nabi says that trust deficit still remains one of key factors which determine ties between Srinagar and New Delhi.
"The truth is that India has never cared for Kashmiri people. From Sheikh Abdullah’s unceremoniously sacking as prime minister of Kashmir and subsequently jailed, to throwing autonomy resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly in the dustbin in 2000, speaks volumes of wrongs New Delhi has done in Kashmir," Daanish said.
This trust deficit is not a new reality.
|Why are people coming out on streets to protest the killing of a militant whom the Indian establishment has dubbed as "a dreaded terrorist"?|
The rigging of the 1987 state elections is a testimony to the birth to the armed struggle in Kashmir. Had the Indian State been sincere in its efforts, and helped in conducting free and fair elections, the political scenario in Kashmir would have been different.
Today, the forgery in the electoral process might be a thing of past, but it is still New Delhi and her intelligence agencies in Kashmir who call the shots when it comes to the state.
Hence, the trust deficit remains the same - if not more - as ever.
Human rights violations
Human rights violations have been the biggest factor that has created alienation between Srinagar and New Delhi. At present, more than six lakh troops are stationed in the state.
India still has to impose curfews and use oppressive measures to keep Kashmir "in control".
Even though India might have won Kashmir militarily, they have lost it psychologically.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of Kashmiris. Indian troops and police are consistently accused of grave human rights violations in the region.
In a damning report, Amnesty International noted that no member of armed forces in Kashmir has ever been tried for human rights abuse in a civilian court since 1990, when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) came into force in the conflict-ravaged region.
Professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches Law at Central University of Kashmir, says:
"It was due to this sense of alienation that today there is an enmity in youth against India. Kashmiris don’t want packages but resolution of Kashmir dispute."
Notably, ever since the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013, there has been a revival of militancy in Kashmir.
In 2015, for the first time in a decade, local militants outnumbered foreigners. As per the figures of Jammu and Kashmir Police, out of 142 active militants in Kashmir, 88 are locals and only 54 are foreigners.
According to official data, around 60 young men have joined militancy in the past five months in the militant stronghold of south Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani of Tral had a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
Wani became a favourite among youth and his photographs and videos were widely shared and praised on social networking sites across Kashmir.
After the death of Wani in a gunfight, the killing spree in south Kashmir in which 37 innocent people have been killed so far by Indian troops and J&K Police is one of the many glaring examples that how Kashmiris, especially the youth, are being pushed to wall.
According to data issued by the research section of Kashmir Media Service on the occasion of World Human Rights Day, Indian troops have killed 94,272 innocent Kashmiris since 1989 till date.
Of those, over 7,038 were killed in fake encounters or in custody. The killings have rendered 22,806 women widowed and 107,545 children orphaned. The Indian troops have molested 10,154 women during the period.
The fact is that India has neglected international obligations and its own Constitution by ignoring human rights violations carried out in the name of national security.
Passing the buck
Every time there is an uprising in Kashmir, New Delhi has seen it through the prism of its confrontation with Pakistan. There is no denial that Pakistan has its vested interest in J&K, but at the same time, the Indian establishment needs to understand that Kashmir issue is of its people. It is an indigenous movement.
The kangaroo trials taking place in newsrooms-cum-courts every night and labelling everyone as Pakistani has only aggravated the youth in Kashmir to exhibit their love for Pakistan.
Waving Pakistani flags on the streets of Kashmir are a part of that provocation, and more the media will exploit it, the frequency of such incidents will increase.
“Pakistan has become a scapegoat for India in Kashmir. On the name of cross-border terrorism, India justifies its actions in Kashmir in front of the international community. There is a Pakistan phobia in India. The day Indian government addresses Kashmir as their own problem, it will be solved," Saleem Ahmad, a student at Kashmir University, who has been quite active in the protests, said.
One cannot crush people’s aspirations on the rhetoric of peace and development. If that would have been the nature of any enslavement, India would have still been reeling under slavery of British.
If New Delhi believes that Kashmir is its integral part, then they have to earn it by adopting the means of reconciliation and not by throwing money at the problem.
I hope better sense prevails.