Roaring for Azaadi: Kashmir refuses to be silenced

Masha Hassan

The idiosyncratic trait of the Modi led BJP is to pat their own backs after making non-consultative, overnight,disastrous decisions and back it up with hyper-nationalist propaganda and then relentlessly tout their so called “valiant” verdicts as a grand service to the “nation”. After the economic catastrophe of demonetization they have now thrown the bomb of the abrogation of article 370 on our faces. The act that is being painted as “heroic” is in fact a tactic to suppress their malodorous Kashmir policy.

To snatch away the autonomous status of Kashmir was not an overnight decision. It is the outcome of a recurring demand of a number of political and religious forces, especially of the Bhartiya Janta Party which had also mentioned it in its party manifesto in 2014. Revoking Article 370 will allow Indian citizens to buy land in Kashmir and this will most likely transform the demographics from a Muslim majority to a Hindu majority region, a scheme to deliberately decline political and ethnic pluralism. This majoritarianism will lead to further exclusion and marginalization of Kashmiri Muslims.

There are various aspects and motives behind revoking of article 370; the installation of fear through military occupation and legitimizing it behind the garb of “Islamic terrorism”, the rise of authoritarian populism-communication blackout, detention not just of women and minors but also of political leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and the Abdullahs, media ban and mass surveillance, all these step by step procedures are sending out blaring messages, “There is no room for dissent” and “The state will decide for you”.

Kashmir continues to resist [Photo courtesy: Al Jazeera]
The formation of a Hindu rashtra and saffronization of Kashmir is not the only agenda on the menu but the new Kashmir policy or shall we call it the land-grabbing policy is to fulfill the camouflaged neo-liberal economic aspirations of the Prime minister. When big lobbyists are given access to unrestricted land we can only imagine the extent of damage that will be done, the vale known for its majestic mountains and verdant meadows will be stripped down to concrete jungles. In Srinagar the extravagant Taj Vivanta hotel was built by destroying the green forest belt and flattening a hill.

Kashmir has been under siege and the goal of the government is to map out the Kashmiri population into distinct manageable units to spot the possible points of resistance in order to “control” rather strangle the society. The methodical mapping and massive data gathering was taking place months before the announcement of scrapping of Article 370. Collecting information is being done extensively, on various elements and spaces like, political workers, activists, leaders, journalists, mosques, businessmen, youths involved in protests in the past and personal security officers.

Interestingly when the party is not in power, they not only instigate but fan the flames of communal violence (Gujurat riots in 2002) and now that they have gained the monopoly of violence after securing power, they openly declare, “our way or the highway”!
The danger is palpable in Kashmir and the normalization of violence and controlled narratives are something we should be worried about because who decides what is normal and what is not, is the ruling party. Recently, during the ‘India Today conclave’ which had invited Jitendra Singh, Minister of state, to talk about the ‘Paradise lost or regained’; Mr Singh ironically kept on forgetting words like “liberty” and “human rights” while backing the decision and denying any kind of curfews, house arrests and bans. The interview, of course, is worth watching!

The ‘Tea seller’ hero who now sells the myths of development wants everyone to believe that eventually Kashmiris will welcome this decision as it is to open the gates of prosperity and employment that were far from their reach under previous powers.

As the ruling party diabolically continues to muzzle and choke the voices of azaadi they have made another move on the chess-board to reach their full potential, they have introduced “a bond to keep peace” under section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code that shamelessly breaches the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Political detainees and the so called trouble makers(activists, journalists, writers, protestors) in India will be freed only if they agree to sign this bond which will bar them to write, speak or comment anything against the current changes in Jammu and Kashmir. They are buying freedom for silence.

AZAADI

The cry for “Azaadi” (freedom in Urdu) reverberates from every corner of Kashmir. As Hundreds and thousands of protestors fill the streets of the Valley demanding independence and resisting against the injustice that has been brought upon them by the Indian government. The masses harbor strong animosity and they relentlessly continue to host widespread demonstrations, rallies, strikes and hartals against 700,000 Indian Soldiers planted all around Kashmir.

Backed and guided by separatist groups from Pakistan, the rise in militancy amongst the youth of Kashmir is the result of the broiling frustrations for their justice denied for hosting a referendum and a response to violent acts committed by the Indian para-military. They believe that this is the only path for them to be released from the sharp claws of Indian rule.

But do they really need 700,000 soldiers for 150 militants? It has been reported that “In the summer of 2010, soldiers shot dead more than a hundred protesters, most of them teenagers.

There has been a stark increase in resistance movements since the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016, aged 22. Termed as an insurgent by the Indian government but Bani was viewed as a freedom fighter by the youth of Kashmir. Men, women and even children have taken to the streets armed only with stones to pelt the police with but in return they are shot by pellet guns. On 7th December 2018, 18th month old Hiba Nasir became the youngest victim of the Indian Security forces during a clash between the army and the rebels.

Misrepresentation of complex and undefined states accentuates post-colonial trauma and to understand Kashmiri identity we cannot simply reduce it to “Hindu versus Muslims” or “India versus Pakistan”. Kashmiris have never identified themselves as being a part of any of the nation-state, so regardless of their religious affiliation they distinctively recognize themselves as only “Kashmiri”.

Demilitarization from the Indian government is a necessity to stop further casualties and loss of innocent lives. The Indian government has to understand that Kashmir is not a brand for their secularism. From Quit Kashmir movement in 1946 to the Anti India insurgency that started in 1989, Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom has been going on for decades and the only lingering question that still remains is “kab milegi azaadi?” (when will we get freedom?).

Masha Hassan is an Indian student pursuing her masters in Global Cultures from the department of History and Oriental Studies, University of Bologna, Italy.

 

 

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