Kashmir: A deep-rooted conflict

If the government of India to reach out the people of Kashmir with very attractive political packages rather cinstitutional remedies and safeguards,it cant win heatrs and minds of people,simply because the inflicted are so grave that political concession alone wont work.

By Bashir Assad

The acute frustration of Kashmiris, which has a long history of political mismanagement by New-Delhi at its back is fraught with new but frightening proportions. Though, anger and alienation has been aggrieved by what is perceived as prejudice against Kashmiris, the ongoing political upheaval has altogether a distinct character. One is surprised to see small children and teenagers coming out on the streets in bulk to protest against the state repression. The anger in among these children who are at the threshold of adulthood is so deep that they face bullets like brave warriors rather patriots and nothing could stop them from coming out on streets despite severe restrictions put in place by the security forces. One wonders, how these children take on the state forces equipped with lethal weapons that too when the forces are enjoying impunity under the draconian laws like AFSPA.

Given the intensity of the protests, the state forces have virtually failed in handling the protesting mobs and the anger and alienation increases with each killing as admitted by the Indian Home Minister in Parliament only few days back.

Beguilingly, many of these children have seen their fathers being gunned down during two decades of militancy in the Valley that has led to an alarming rise in the number of orphans in the region. Although there are no official statistics, surveys conducted by various NGOs put the number around 50,000.

Studies conducted by various NGOs have found that children in Kashmir suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders , which arise from being witness to the killing of a family member and/or destruction of homes and property. Actually the new generation in Kashmir, has never been part of a peaceful atmosphere. They grew up amidst roaring guns, crackdowns, elders and women being humiliated by the security forces, they have even seen the democratically elected governments in state patronizing the dreaded killers , their hearts bleed while recollecting the worst kind of physical, mental and psychological pain and injuries inflicted upon the people during last twenty years, witnessed only the brute face of armed forces and also the broken promises of political elite of the state and centre. The frustration and anger among younger generation is beyond control, it is stimulated by the state coercion immaterial of whether Pakistan and its ISI fishes in the troubled waters or not. I am afraid about the adverse implications of the statements of the Indian Home Minister, he made from time to time since Jun 11 stating sometimes that militants have mingled with the protesting mobs and at other occasions blaming Pakistan and LeT for instigating violence in Kashmir. Home Minister is trying to export cut and dried formula of absurd Indian democracy to douse the flames, which he can’t.

Call it ‘post traumatic disorders’ or anger and alienation, the fact remains that the intensity and rapidity of the current phase of mobilization is so soaring that if the state comes out with all its military might to crush the mayhem, it will get defeated. Not only this, I bet, if the government of India tries to reach out to the people of Kashmir with very attractive political packages rather constitutional remedies and safeguards, it can’t win the hearts and minds of people, simply because the injuries inflicted are so grave that political concessions alone won’t work.

As mentioned earlier, the current phase of political mobilization is fraught with considerably new theoretical significance against a backdrop of institutional decay culminating in political violence, the political initiatives alone can’t douse the flames unless there is humanitarian response to the extraordinary situation having psychological ramifications.

Humanitarian response can be provided by a number of actors : local and international humanitarian organizations, NGOs, backchannel actors. Their methods vary and there are times when one form of action is more effective than another. As for the Kashmir situation is concerned members of Indian civil society could be more effective than the government agencies. There was a time when the Hurriyat conference and other separatist groups like expressed their willingness to participate in elections to prove their representative character under the auspices of the Members of Indian civil society not under the supervision of Election Commission of India. In fact the separatist leadership also identified such privileged members before the 2002 general elections and expressed their full faith in them for their integrity and understanding of the Kashmir problem. I am really tired of the rhetoric’s of Kashmir being political problem and needs political handling. Of course, it is a political problem, yet the fact remains that the people of Kashmir, especially the younger generation won’t repose their faith in the system unless they are reached through human prism. I am in total disagreement with the people advocating straight dialogue between the centre and the people of Kashmir. Taking into account the futility of such exercises of the past, one can’t expect any breakthrough though such dialogue. The situation, of course, needs political handling through non-political actors of the Indian civil society. Yes, for that you have to create a conducive atmosphere and there comes the role of the Indian political system. Initiate some serious confidence building measures first like revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), release all the prisoners, withdraw the troops from the civilian areas and allow a political space for all the political leaders and then utilize the services of the privileged members of the civil society to initiate a dialogue with the people of Kashmir but give them total liberty to make the dialogue serious and result oriented. I mean, any action should be based on dialogue with the concerned parties and acceptance by them, and its aim is to provide an effective response that will benefit all victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. And one should be fully aware that acceptance has to be earned and can easily be lost. But it is equally convinced that in situations of armed conflict, its neutrality and independence does facilitate access to people in need and to the proper authorities. Demonstrating the relevance of this particular approach to humanitarian action, I think is persuasive example of the enduring value of neutral independent humanitarian action.

I wonder, why the people at the helm of affairs don’t understand this simple point that in the current humanitarian emergency in the conflict area of Kashmir, were as many as 40 innocent people have been killed by the security forces in past two months, the Government is direct participant in the conflict-how the people who have been isolated by the state machinery through its repressive measures, can trust it. It is likely to create confusion with other actors engaged in a purely humanitarian mission, and suspicions about these other actors as well. In a complex situation like Kashmir, effective and timely humanitarian approach alone can deliver because the players involved in humanitarian activities engage in substantive dialogues, while being aware of and respecting each other’s mandates, principles and modus operandi. Given the contexts in which the backchannel players could work and their mandate, it is inevitable that they will be successful at fostering respect for international humanitarian law and maintain relationship with the Kashmiri people in order to disseminate international humanitarian laws. There is no scope for any other government sponsored mechanism as for the present situation in Kashmir is concerned. Government of India has to understand that the younger generation in Kashmir is not even ready to trust the leaders of the resistance movement as was evident from the latest episodes of rejecting the UJC Chief’s appeal of a well devised action plan. More interestingly, Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also come under public scanner for his recent appeal to the youth not to engage in stone pelting. If this is the case with the separatist leadership, what about the proposal and postures of the Indian political system.

Author can be reached at: bashirassad@rediffmail.com

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