On 12 April 2016 rumors began to circulate that an Army man had molested a girl in Handiwara,which is 69 km away from Srinagar.A furious mob soon surrounded the Army Bunker and started stone pelting.Soon they began ransacking the place,assaulted the army personal deployed there and tried to set the place on fire.In self defense the soldiers fired their weapons as a result of which 2 youth and a woman were killed. The entire incident has caused outrage in the valley. But there is a twist.The girl from Handiwara who had been allegedly molested has denied being molested by any army personnel in the first place.She says that she was stopped while on her way to the washroom by a Kashmiri youth who snatched her purse while another one raised an alarm claiming that she was being molested by a soldier. The Coalition of Civil Society(a civil rights group) is furious over the leak claiming that the girl will be left vulnerable now as there will be retribution by her fellow Kashmiris for speaking the truth. These are the circumstances under which the Indian Army has to operate in the valley.
Welcome to the world of fascism,misinformation and twisting the truth. That’s what politics in the Kashmir valley is all about. India doesn’t have a very good public image with respect to its handling of the situation in the valley. Most Indians cringe when asked uncomfortable questions about Indian atrocities. This article is not meant to dispute that. It is widely acknowledged that the situation is bad in the valley and India has been unable to come with a solution to finding peace in the valley.However, this article is an expose on the fascist ideology,bullying tactics and misinformation used by separatists within the valley to create an environment antithetic to peace. One where lies heaped upon lies are spread to the world and to the Kashmiri people themselves.Now most people confuse the Kashmir Valley with the state of Jammu & Kashmir and this confusion enlarges the geographical extent of the problem. It is divided into three parts: Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh. Jammu has a predominantly Hindu population,Ladakh has a predominantly Buddhist population and Kashmir is predominantly Muslim. However, Most of the politics is concentrated around the valley which usually gets it way. While the population of Jammu and Ladakh region firmly want to remain with India there are many in the valley that are split on being a part of India,being a part of Pakistan or being independent of both.
The biggest misinformation that is spread by separatists is the plebiscite issue.Separatists often bring out this point that the Kashmiris should be allowed to be independent(Azad) if that is what they wish for. When they talk about a plebiscite they are referring to the UN Resolution 47. Unfortunately for most Kashmiris who get starry eyed while talking about “Azadi”, the fact is that the plebiscite never gives the option of Kashmir being an independent country. It only has the choice of choosing between India and Pakistan. This is something that is seldom highlighted. There are many Kashmiri youth who are enamoured by the idea of “Azadi” not realizing that such an option simply doesn’t exist and neither India nor Pakistan would ever want a azad Kashmir. Furthermore, The United Nations has removed Jammu and Kashmir from its list of disputed territories.
In 1987, there was the allegation of rigged elections that took place and some state legislators point out that this was justification enough to begin a reign of terror. Bihar under Lalu Prasad Yadav had allegations of rigged elections for years yet that did not prompt the Bihar opposition to take up arms against the government.Even the dreaded emergency that were considered the darkest days for Indian democracy did not see parliamentarians take up the gun.Neither did we see Al Gore taking a kalashnikov and shooting and kidnapping people because of the controversial elections in the United States. Unfortunately, the very idea of democracy as a political process is very weak in the valley and separatists would use intimidation,murder,kidnapping as ways to ensure that the electoral process does not succeed in the valley.The flood gates to a full blown insurgency opened when Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JLKF) cadre kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed(Sister of the present Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed) forcing them to release terrorists. Though many people in the Kashmir valley were angry at the JLKF for kidnapping an unmarried girl,New Delhi buckled under pressure and released 5 terrorists. The separatists realized that it was easy to arm twist the government and thus began a full blown insurgency which though has subsided over the years, has scarred and disillusioned an entire generation of Kashmiri youth.
No conversation on separatism in the valley can be completed without talking about the Kashmiri Pandit. Kashmiri Pandits consisted of 5% of the population of the valley but were driven out during the 1990’s. The Hindus that resided in the valley were almost always strongly in favor of staying with the union of India. They also formed part of the government and were usually the eyes and ears to the government. Obviously, the separatists knew that it was highly unlikely that the pandits would support any movement for merger with Pakistan or Independence and thus began a massive campaign of hatred. This resulted in the eclipse of secularism in the valley where communal tensions were once non-existent. Mosques through loud speakers would incite the population to kill Hindus, houses of Hindus would be marked -something reminiscent of Nazi Germany during the genocide of the Jewish population, Hindus would be targeted and killed. The state machinery lived in fear during those dark days. There was a large scale migration of Hindus during this time who left the valley. It must be pointed out that this was not the sentiment of very Kashmiri. Most Muslim Kashmiris did their best to save their Hindu neighbors.But the separatists were strong and many of the Hindus who remained were subsequently killed. Many separatist leaders in forums would compare the Kashmir valley to Palestine. They are correct in this respect but unfortunately the people who are the Palestinians are the Kashmiri Pandits and not the separtists.
The Indian government has time and time again pointed fingers at the Pakistani government at meddling in Kashmir. They have provided guns,training,finance and this has even been admitted to by General Pervez Musharraf, former dictator of Pakistan. The Pakistani intelligence service(ISI) has also ensured that all pro-India or pro democracy elements are eliminated. The Hurriyat conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s father was one of the people who was assassinated for supporting elections in the valley. Similarly one would often hear stories of village Panchayats getting beheaded but civil society almost never raises a hue and cry over these killings because they themselves are scared that the people who are asking for “Azadi” will take them out as well. Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir just express condolences and lament at their helplessness to control the situation.
A major issue that is taking place in the valley is the increased religious intolerance in the valley. While the intolerence debate has been a recent phenomenon in the rest of the country. The level of relgious intolerence has increased significantly in the valley over the years. It has come to the point that in 2013 an all girl rockband was forced to discontinue after a single performance as it was considered as unIslamic. All the members received threats of rape,murder and other physical harm.Then of course there is there is the Amarnath Land row controversy in 2008. The State government had decided to transfer land to the Amarnath Shrine board land to provide temporary shelter to pilgrims. Many people took exception to this in the valley claiming it was a “cultural invasion” and more than 500,000 people protested against providing any relief to pilgrims while visiting their holy shrine.Some seperatists even went to the extent to say that the Muslims in Jammu loathed sharing space with Hindus. There were strong counter demonstartions by Hindus and Muslims in the Jammu region who were against any appeasement to the bigoted separtists in the valley. As usual, the valley had its way and the land transfer was revoked.Then in August 2014 another issue began to boil over the Kausar Nag pilgrimage. Kausar Nag is a pilgrimage done by Kashmiri Pandits for several years but for some reason separatists found this as another “cultural invasion” and cited “ecological concern”. Stone pelting was seen everyday and protests were held. Once again the State Government got arm twisted by the seperatists into doing their bidding.
In 2014 during the general election in India,there was an election boycott that had been issued by the separatists. However,voting continued. In North Kashmir, separatists began blocking roads and checking for people who had voted by checking for the indelible ink. Those who had voted were thrashed and had their clothes torn off while others chanted “Traitors!!”.There were places where the men were beaten mercilessly, then were stripped naked in front of women and had videos taken of them. Even the women weren’t spared! They were verbally abused, insulted and asked if they wanted to marry Indian Army soldiers and so on. The residents in these restive areas said they were willing to vote if ther government promised that they would not be marked by the indelible ink after voting. Though in the main cities separatism is strong,in the rural areas election boycotts don’t work as most of the villagers want to vote. However, intimidation tactics like this along with cold blooded murder by the separatists has created an environment of fear.
Stone pelting is one of the most common ways in which the youth express their frustration. A single rumor is enough to enrage an already frustrated youth. This is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The youth of Kashmir are frustrated,unemployed and have lived a life where they have never known peace.Stone pelting is seen as a way of channeling out this frustration. Magroob,a well known psychiatrist in the valley has called the youth “the trauma generation”.Studies conducted have shown that 30-50% suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). There have been instances where youth can be seen encouraging school kids to take stones and throw it at the security forces. Kids that young are quite impressionable and usually listen to their peers. Once these young children are caught ,mobs are incited by saying that the cruel Indian Army is now arresting children.
Handiwara and instances like these show the other side of the separatist movement. It is a fascist movement that is trying to project the concept of “Azadi” as a holy and righteous struggle against Indian oppression. Many Kashmiris who support Indian rule are unable to openly say so due to this intolerant climate. Many who dare speak out are normally killed or humiliated so much that they never support India again. The politicians in the valley who support Indian rule are normally labelled as Indian stooges and even they are helpless in protecting their own people. Even with those who want to separate from India there is a divide. While many want “Azadi” there are others who want to join Pakistan. But make no mistake that all these shades exist in the valley. It would be irresponsible to put all the blame on terrorists and Pakistan just as it would be ignorant to say that no Kashmiri wants to be part of India. There is an urgent need to help pro-India & pro-democracy Kashmiris feel safe and confident enough and give a counter narrative to what the separatists say.
10. Kashmir: The Vajpayee years by A.S.Daulat