A New Difficult Kashmir: Summer 2017 – OpEd

The conflict ridden Kashmir is witnessing yet another shift, an angry and fearless new generation. Now even the students — both boys and girls — have joined the routine protests and the scene is changing altogether. It is also changing the role of women and conflict in Kashmir.

Recently, on stopping their young boy of barely six years old from going out while the stone pelting and clashes were occurring, the parents got somewhat a strange and shocking reply from him. The boy angrily shouted, “Now when you have two sons (he and his elder brother), even if only one of the two lives, it is ok. One should die for Kashmir”. This scenario reflects that a conflict ridden upbringing and witnessing a bleeding environment has laid its indelible impact on a vulnerable lot and the conflict socialization/indoctrination is at its peak with highly disastrous ramifications.

Conflict as a way of life

Now even small children are memorizing and enjoying the freedom slogans/songs and in many families it is a form of entertainment to teach such things to kids. My dad says that a new difficult Kashmir is emerging as there was a time in Kashmir when people used to worry for the security of their daughters given the gendered norms, but now the scene has changed altogether, and parents must now worry about their sons.

It is usual for bands (Hartals) of very small kids to fearlessly stop and damage vehicles. However, having the backing of their elders the kids usually don’t bother to abuse the people using private transport. What does it infer and where will such a deviant socialization lead us in the future. It is worth pondering about the children who are throwing stones today when they even don’t know the reason they are doing so, and will they hesitate to become guerillas tomorrow when they are mature and aware of the history? This all means that a new difficult Kashmir is in the offing and without any serious intervention a big mess is to follow. We are gradually landing in a Kashmir where a civilian will be scared of another fellow civilian. A new range of social conflicts will further destroy our social fabric.

An Emerging (Fringe) Mainstream

Currently, the Valley is witnessing many changes and the reason is purely the situation at the moment. Now public and intellectual circles are somewhat merging and their thought is not much different. Even intellectuals are flowing with the tide. A new, but different, majoritarian thought is being shaped and everybody is subscribing to it. The new mainstream, which was the erstwhile separatism fringe, has evolved and the conventional mainstream has been reduced to a fringe minority. Hardly anybody dares to challenge this new mainstream — including the intellectuals. A fair chunk of this mainstream is keeping a low profile or merging into the new dominant group. Now even the former political workers are trying to show the angry masses that they have not voted or will not in future simply to survive amid this new wave.

Routine Crisis Mishandling Adding Fuel To Fire

Every civilian killing or torture or harassment turns has a long-lasting ripple effect on society and becomes a strong motivation for the younger lot to justify their anti-social actions, or what is normally called anti-national activities.

The recent incident of using a human shield by forces or the torture of students in colleges has further deteriorated the trust deficit and added to the perception that they are the “enemy”. Now there is video of everything happening on the ground. Every torture video of civilians is goes viral on social media and adds fuel to fire.

Stability seems almost impossible because both civilians and the Armed Forces are hostile against each other. All of this has severe implications on peace building and thus shapes an alarming future.

Mass Anger And High Trust Deficit

It may not be wrong to say that the Kashmir conflict is experiencing a fresh revival and the incessant demand for Azadi (secession) is at an all time high — even in the country side.

The recent lowest by-poll turnout (7.14) clearly reflected that people are not happy with elections amid the ongoing violence and political instability.

There are drastic changes in the design of the protests and clashes as well. Earlier the stone pelters used to throw stones and flee. It was thus unplanned and unorganized, but now they fight face-to-face and force the region’s security forces to fire, and even be killed.

A new conflict glory culture has also evolved as in the eyes of the majority of the youth, who believe it that to die for Kashmir is an honor and worthy of dignity.

This is the rebirth of a new 1990’s Kashmir — a new difficult Kashmir. The clashes and stone pelting now are more planned, more organized and fearless and it is certainly equally a big challenge for the state and security forces.

On the other side, militants and their videos on social media further energize the protesting youth who openly clash with security forces almost on a daily basis. The protesting youth now don’t see themselves just as militant supporters, but they view themselves as actually being militant. People, especially the youth, are trying their best to confront security forces during live encounters so that the militant is saved. This is a recent trend and almost unstoppable now.

As mentioned, the army has even recently used human shields to avoid the stone pelting of their vehicles – that action only further added to the anger of the masses. This has all resulted in an enemy perception with hatred at an all-time high, and  the people don’t expect any healing touch or the revocation of AF(JK)SPA in Jammu and Kashmir from the government.

The fact is that people believe that the government has failed to grasp the volatile Kashmir dynamics and more often their irresponsible statements have further deteriorated and aggravated the situation. Instead of seriously pondering over such a grave situation on the ground, the state always resorts to short-term tactics — such as implementing an internet or communication blockade in the name of law and order. Even among a large chunk of the society that usually does not participate in anything like protests or polling or political or separatist activities, hopelessness is now common — hopelessness with the system.

Need For An Immediate Intervention

As conflict permeates through the young vulnerable minds, the urge for separatism — and even linking the political issue with Islam (Azadi barai Islam)  — has become the new reality as reflected in the graffiti that plasters the walls across Kashmir.

Wisdom demands acting wisely and displaying a vision for a peaceful Kashmir that is currently on a war footing. The Centre should start delivering on the much hyped Insaniyat (humanity) and Jamhooriyat (democracy) for the sake of true Kashmiriyat in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Instead of thinking more on the procedures, the authorities must sincerely worry for the peace building in Kashmir — especially when the summer is about to set in. Be that elections or other activities, peace and a peaceful environment must be the prerequisite, as continuing with such routine exercises amid violence and chaos actually defeats the goal.

A close relative who was on election duty in the Budgam area recently narrated a horrible story. The situation in his election booth turned so violent that he bade his last goodbye over the phone to his family members, while witnessing a massive attack on the school that happened to be his polling station. The employees and everybody else were loudly crying inside the school, which was being bombarded by massive stones from a hillock.

Democracy, violence, lawlessness and such open crimes cannot go together in such an unaccounted and inexperienced way. Those in power should realize this and start negotiating with the angry youth as earlier as possible lest the new difficult Kashmir will turn to an impossible Kashmir. Kashmir needs some able leadership at the helm to see the change on the ground.

Last Word

The scene is currently completely different and chaotic on the ground. Now a civilian is scared of another civilian and police personnel think twice before visiting their families. Political workers feel insecure and killings and torture continues as routine. Everyone seems aghast and every Kashmiri is under stress — the stress posed by the anemic circumstances and daily happenings. The atmosphere at the moment simply tells that yet another summer may be lost to one violent uprising.

The Centre has to take sincere initiatives and start dialogue to build peace in Kashmir. As per some media sources; CM Mehbooba wants an agenda of alliance to be implemented, especially the talks on Kashmir. It still remains to be seen if Kashmir see a change on the ground after her recent meeting with the Prime Minister.


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Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and columnist at various reputed international and national media groups. Being an academic he has more than fifty publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor for South Asia since 2014. His first book on Kashmir-Yearning for Peace (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6) was published in Germany in December 2016.Reach him at [email protected]

One thought on “A New Difficult Kashmir: Summer 2017 – OpEd

  • April 27, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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    Agree. The might is right policy has alienated the Kashmiris which for the most part were leaning towards India. The problem would not been there if India had maintained Kashmir as an autonomous part of India. There was near agreement when ajpayee was PM to have open borders with Pakistan held Kashmir, but political will was absent on both sides to implement it. The current government has definitely made the situation worse with their short sided policy of giving the army a free hand instead of trying a political solution. The problem is the valley. People of Jammu and Ladakh want to join India. Some thought should be given to integrating both into India and giving the valley autonomy.

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