Recently I was asked by one friend of mine who works as a reporter in a ‘reputed’ regional Telugu daily, the reasons for ‘gun culture’ and ‘stone pelting culture’ in the Indian administered Kashmir valley: “Why is it that people of Kashmir don’t peacefully complain about their problems to the government?”
I replied to him that it is the cynicism and the distrust of the people with the system. My friend didn’t ask me what that actually meant. I wanted to explain to him about the life of common people in Kashmir, the diabolical role of Indian army, and their impunity for human rights violations.I wanted to explain to him how a knock on the door late at night or sneaking away to smoke a cigarette at night sends spasms of anxiety through the people, afraid that this might be their last breath.
I made up my mind that I need to grab his attention by hook or by crook to my story of the pain and suffering of Kashmiri people. I wanted to explain to him what distrust with the system meant. But my pal didn’t show even a trivial interest. He was content with my one line answer to his question to fill the space left in his story. Writing this piece I thought might help me to fulfill my yearning.
The past is never dead; the past, in one sense or another, lives in the present. E.H Carr says in his monumental work ‘What is History’, that we can view the past and achieve our understanding of the past, only through the eyes of the present. By putting it the other way around I think we can view the present and achieve our understanding of the present only through the eyes of the past.
But to have a better picture of the past, we need to know who has narrated the past and why s/he has done so. We need to go back to the time of the event and interpret the mind that has narrated that event. Looking at the nationalist narratives for reality won’t help one to arrive at the truth. It is thus important to bring the history and its making under the scanner.
In determinism they say everything that happens has a cause or causes, and could not have happened differently unless something in the cause or causes had also been different. Similarly, there is a cause to the phenomenon of stone pelting in the valley. It is impossible to heal this problem without curing the cause of it. Merely making assertions that normalcy has returned to the valley can’t conceal the cause.
After the killing of youths in the valley and the commotions over a period of one month, most of the Indian newspapers have started claiming areturn of normalcy, which is not the case. You cannot heal the gash just by trying to put it out of sight. Kashmir is burning and will continue to burn unless the government of India repeals its draconian policies on Kashmir.
The Indian state always has been able to hide its heinous crimes under a facade by calling itself a liberal, democratic, and secular country. Whetherit be the continuation of Gujarat’s Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister or the inability to bring the terrorists responsible for the blasts in Mecca Masjid, Gokul Chat, and Lumbini Park in Hyderabad to justice, the Indian state and the its mainstream media have always remained indifferent.
Most Indians formulate their assumptions and ideas on the basis reports carried by TV channels, Bollywood movies, newspapers, and magazines having some ideological stand. Rarely is there any Indian TV channel, paper, or magazine having an empathetic understanding of the Kashmir issue. Hardly can one see stories like ‘State of Discontent’ written by SiddharthVardharajan on the cold-blooded murder of five innocent civilians at Panchalthan near Anantnag in March 2000.
Otherwise it is always people like Praveen Swami, whose reports are constantly crammed with bias and get maximum legroom to write the claptrap in the national newspapers. As people are prone to amnesia, lest they forget the cause, I would like to refer to few instances thatto a considerable degree can be related to the question of the current stone-pelting phenomenon in the valley. To answer my friend’s question, I would hereby like to provide him a slight idea about the reasons for gun culture and stone pelting culture in the valley.
1987 Elections: Whether it is Sheikh Adbullah, who had originally led popular dissent against Maharaja Hari Singh, or Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, it is always Delhi that has decided to choose the ruler for Kashmiri people. This can be understood clearly by the following sentence thatNehru wrote to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad: “It would strengthen your position much more if you lost a few more seats”.
Both Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi, when they fell out with their mentors in Delhi, were arrested. In 1984 Farooq Abdullah’s popularly elected government was dismissed at the behest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Farooq Abdullah was found to have built links with Indian Opposition parties like NDA to create an India-wide alliance against the ruling Congress Party.
In 1986, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah signed a new political alliance establishing an electoral partnership. This added to a sense of betrayal among Kashmiris who were shocked at Farooq Abdullah’s compromise with the very Congress party that had pushed him out of power in 1984.
The Congress Party and the National Conference jointly contested the elections against a conglomerate of smaller political parties under the umbrella of Muslim United Front (MUF). There were mass arrests of MUF candidates. The candidates of MUFwhowerein the opposition had no choice but to pick up the gun.
SumitGanguly in ‘The Crisis in Kashmir’ says ‘there were some six hundred opposition workers in those areas known to be MUF strongholds.’ Without going into more details, what we can conclude is that the elections of 1987 were a turning point in the history of valley. The disillusionment and enormous resentment against electoral politics and the victorious National Conference- Congress coalition can be called ‘the beginning of the end’ as Tavleen Singh puts it. That is how the gun culture started.
Bijbehara Killings: 37 innocent people were killed on October 22, 1993 when the Border Security Force opened fire to disperse a crowd of nearly ten thousand people who were demonstrating against an earlier incident where protestors were fired upon near Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar.
The Indian government said that the people who were killed ‘died’. Though the National Human Rights Commission took the case into their hands, it was not able to do any justice forthe people who were killed. The incident was one more shock for the people and they started to doubt the reliability of state institutions.