How Burhans were created in Kashmir

How Burhans were created in Kashmir

Malik Altaf in New Delhi

Kashmiri villagers carry body of Burhan Wani, chief of operations of Indian Kashmir's largest rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen, during his funeral procession in Tral, some 38 Kilometers (24 miles) south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Saturday, July 9, 2016. Indian troops fired on protesters in Kashmir as tens of thousands of Kashmiris defied a curfew imposed in most parts of the troubled region Saturday and participated in the funeral of the top rebel commander killed by Indian government forces, officials and locals said. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Kashmir has been on boil since the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), on 8th July. Burhan joined HM when he was 15 years old and his secondary school examination was only a couple of months away. His friends and teachers say that he was a very good student and a kind human being. He belonged to the upper middle class of the society; his father was headmaster at a local government school. In this article, I would argue that Kashmir issue is not about development or lack of it thereof, but it is a much deeper political question which gravely affects the life of every Kashmiri which in the process creates future Burhans.

Growing up in a conflict zone, I believe, has made me a different person as compared to people of my age in rest of India. My life was full of horrible experiences emerging from Indian occupation of Kashmir as was everyone else’s who were growing up with me in Kashmir. My parents who come from a generation before me had even more horrific stories to tell. The armed rebellion of 1990’s and India’s brutal suppression of it still gives me nightmares. Somehow Kashmir emerged out of it. The brutal face which India revealed in Kashmir made our parents very submissive and scared to say the least. Their only concern was the safety of their children. In the process, a whole generation of people was growing up who were directly affected by India’s occupation in more than one way but were somehow keptaway from taking part in the resistance struggle.

At the same time, a technological revolution was taking place in Kashmir.  The arrival of mobile phones and the internet gave a fresh life to the intellectual class of Kashmir. Kashmiris started writing about Kashmir, and the world took note. Freedom to Kashmiris has always meant much more than what India offers them. Technological revoultion made it more obvious to Kashmiris what they were missing out on. We became envious of the freedom people in other parts of the world were enjoying.

An opportunity came our way in 2008. A new generation of Kashmiris which was not old enough to have participated in the armed struggle of 1990’s but was well aware and victim of India’s brutalities was presented with a chance to carry forward the Azadi movement on their shoulders. Violence was not what they believed in. The non-violent protests by the new generation of Kashmiris were ray of hope to resolve Kashmir issue peacefully. These protestors were not gun-wieldingmilitants. They were educated, tech-savvy new generation of Kashmiris who were disgusted with the way India was treating them.

India again failed miserably in cashing this opportunity to resolve the Kashmir issue. Here was the youth of Kashmir who were victims of Indian brutality and demanding azaadi but without resorting to armed violence. They were disillusioned with Pakistan given what was going in that country at that time. The undemocratic events taking place in Pakistan during that time, if anything, created a soft corner for India and Indian democracy. But to see the end of armed struggle as the end of Kashmir freedom movement was the biggest mistake New-Delhi made.

Whatever little hope remained was shattered in 2010. Non-violent protestors were killed by security forces using live ammunition. The infamous pellet guns were introduced- it is important to mention here that during that time, Omar Abdullah was in power in Kashmir and Mufti’s were in opposition. Mufti’s criticized the government of the time and shed crocodile tears while Omar defended his moves. In 2016, Omar is criticizing the government since he is not in power and Mufti junior is defending her moves. The only outcome of the protests in 2010 was that more than 110 civilians were killed, some as young as 8 years old, and hundreds were blinded. In 2016, at least 65 people have lost their lives and hundreds are yet again blinded but there are no signs of the movement dying down anytime soon.

In 2013, Afzal Guru was hanged in 2001 Parliament attack case. The merit of his case was questioned by many renowned legal luminaries. Despite the fact that there was no conclusive but circumstantial evidence against him, Union Home Minister decided to go ahead with the deciosn to hang him. His family was not even allowed to meet him for one last time. To add salt to the injury, his deadbody was not returned to his family.

All these events had a very deep impact on the youth of Kashmir. It made them experience first-hand the brutalities Indian state was capable of unleashing. The arbitrariness with which innocent people were killed, cases against security forces shut, justice not delivered created serious doubts in the minds of young Kashmiris.

What was common in the events since 2008 was that no form of non-violent democratic protest was allowed in Kashmir. Separatists were put under house arrest for longest stretches of time. Internet clampdown became a routine. False cases against young people created more anger within young generation of Kashmiris and as a result home grown militants outnumbered foreign militants.

The final nail in the coffin was the formation of a coalition government between PDP-BJP. People voted for PDP so as to keep BJP out but they did not know that PDP will bring BJP in Kashmir. Then came the hardened stance of central government about Kashmir that it is a non-issue, at worst, law and order problem. The only issue which New Delhi will address is how to get back POK from Pakistan.

The result of all these events was the frustration among the youth which had moved to non-violent democratic forms of protests in 2008. Atrocities committed by forces pushed some of them to the path of militancy like Burhan Wani. Call it intelligence failure (which is highly unlikely) or adamant childish nature not to accept the reality, nature of resistance movement in Kashmir has changed post 2008. To say that everything is fine in Kashmir is a very stupid as well as dangerous statement to make. That is the approach which government of India adopted in the latter half of first decade of the twenty first century. Not accepting that Kashmir as a political issue and alienating separatist camp created insecurity within a larger section of Kashmiris.

What is motivating these young people to come out and protest is not the money Pakistan or separatists pay them. What motivates them is the frustration which they feel has become a permanent part of their life; the frustration which is an outcome of Indian occupation of Kashmir.

I believe the new generation of Kashmir is motivated enough to take the Kashmir issue to a logical conclusion to the satisfaction of all Kashmiris. The new freedom movement in Kashmir has surpassed the fear which India was once able to create among Kashmiris. The situation in Kashmir is very grim. Given the communication blockade India has imposed in Kashmir, news channels like Times Now and Zee News are feeding lies to Indian Masses. More killings will lead to more anger and more protests. What is required is some concrete steps on the ground to regain the trust of Kashmiris which India has so miserably lost, remove all the armed forces from civilian areas, punish the guilty among security forces and initiate talks which involve all the three parties; India, Kashmir, and Pakistan.

The writer is a Research Scholar of Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was born and brought up in Ganderbal, Jammu and Kashmir and have witnessed state brutalities. The views expressed here are his own.

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