25 years, and ticking

25 years, and ticking

Who says this is not a crisis, it’s a profound one

In the begening, let me confess that 25 years having been passed-by since January 1990, rests heavily on my mind. Agreed, in the life of a nations, a timeframe of 25 years hardly matters.   For a person, however, about to reach the age of 50 in a few months, a quarter of century, —most significant and productive period of the life—really matters.  

How, and why, the most popular uprising of our history, digressed into a chaotic upheaval, a most pertinent question, should be troubling every concerned Kashmiri.   

In Delhi, precisely last Saturday, I asked a very senior former Indian bureaucrat, how does he understand the passage of last 25 years, and ever evolving crisis in Kashmir? The bureaucrat turned friend—though we hardly have any convergence of ideas, he is well-aware of my thoughts— is deeply involved with developments in Kashmir even after his retirement from active service more than a decade ago, retorted; “there is no crisis in Kashmir presently, that was overcome a long-time back”. And he continued, “Kashmir has moved-away from the violent days of 1990s; a confident new Kashmiri generation has appeared”. And he was clearly referring to a talented cricket player, a boy topping Indian civil service exams,  Youth “enthusiastically” participating in elections, and thousands of boys and girls venturing out for studies in the length and breadth of India; he seems to describe them as “harbingers” of peace. Moreover “following the footsteps of accomplished poet, late Agha Shahid Ali, “Kashmir has produced few writers of international acclaim”, thus he buttressed his argument. Parvez Rasool, Shah Faisal, Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, along with numerous other budding talents, really makes us proud. How could one contradict the brilliance of our youth? Yet a barrage of questions began to hit me. 

Perhaps, he is not aware of Agha Shahid’s longings, –A Country without a post-office—for Kashmir. Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed are accomplished writers, are they not a product of a conflict? In what way their accomplishments negate the continuation of a conflict? Parvez Rasool indeed inspires many in Kashmir, does that signal an end to a conflict? And then suddenly as a flash, Shiraz Ahmed Ganaie of Panjran Pulwama, a journalism student, comes to my mind. If he had not died at such a young age, maybe he too would have arrived on scene as an author or a famed journalist. “I don’t know why. I also don’t understand why he joined militancy when he could have enjoyed life with all the wealth and business we have”, wails Shiraz’s seemingly well-to-do father. Shakeel Ahmad Wani of Pakherpora killed only few days back, we are told was also a promising talent. What compelled him to tread the path of an imminent death? During the Republic Day Celebrations, visiting President of America, Barack Obama in attendance, President Pranab Mukherjee awarded highest peacetime military honour, Ashok Chakra to two army personnel posthumously; “who laid down their lives combating militants in Kashmir”. Inevitably conflict in Kashmir frustrates all the efforts of being pushed into oblivion. And next very day, a senior military officer, decorated for his bravery a day before on January 26, was killed in an encounter with militants near Tral. What devours these precious lives across the ideological divide, if not a festering wound in Kashmir?            

The existence of a crisis is undeniable; the simmering conflict only feeds instability. 25 years of struggle, consuming tens of thousands of precious lives and causing extensive destruction, has failed to produce a resolution of the conflict. While crisis is irrefutable, resistance failing to achieve an honourable solution is a countervailing reality. Rather an apparent disconnect with the resistance is quite palpable. During the just concluded assembly elections, a local journalist from Chenab Valley shared with me a photograph of an 80 year old man.  With flowing white beard and donning scarf with BJP symbol lotus embossed all-over the cloth; he was standing along with the BJP’s candidate from Inderwal, Tariq Ahmed Keen. There were many anomalies in the photograph: a pious looking elderly person campaigning for BJP; a Muslim candidate drawing huge crowd in a predominantly Muslim area, where few years back militants enjoyed complete sway. Yet a shock was more in store, I am told that the elderly person is father of two slain militants. What pushed him to campaign for BJP? Perhaps owing to deep insecurity being father of two militants? Maybe he has lost the complete hope, his joining BJP symbolises defeat? Probably he is enraged with the Hurriyat leadership and in disgust has joined the diametrically opposite camp. This is not the only surprise. From Chenab belt BJP wining three seats, first of its kind, is really shocking.   Some may feel satisfied that out of 34 BJP candidates in Valley, 33 lost their deposit. BJP could field a candidate in valley. Nareandra Modi could draw some crowd in Srinagar. Amit Shah could hold a rally in Shopian. Navjot Singh Sidhu could campaign in downtown. This is all spectacular, however, inconceivable.  Moreover a group daring to make public its allegiances with Sangh Parivar just before the conduct of elections, with a hope to gain traction and significance; eventually wining two seats, apparently sounds disgusting. Yet it’s immensely revealing. Agreed APHC leaders are absolutely inefficient. Indeed the resistance has utterly failed to render an accomplishment from the uprising.  Even if a humiliating defeat stares in our face, BJP able to find a toehold in the Valley is something purely out of character. Whether we agree or not, this is the real crisis. Are we heading towards a collective suicide? Boys desperate to seek revenge, how can there be a peace. Meanwhile defeated psyche in absolute submission is willing to embrace even death. Who says this is not a crisis, it’s a profound crisis of will.