The call for peace lies in the history of an unfulfilled promise
The desire for freedom is as practical as the brutal occupation. However, Kashmir’s poetics of desire have troubled the Indian political class as well as a tiny section of the intelligentsia that indulges in inconsequential political jibes, bringing them short-lived fame among the ‘nationalists’. Displaying her provincialism, Tavleen Singh, an Indian columnist, in her “politically incorrect acknowledgment” on August 14, 2016, brazenly remarked, “…[Kashmiri] they are very bad children who have become addicted to violence of an ugly Islamist nature. So addicted are they to violence that they are ready to ruin their own future by plunging the Valley into chaos…These ‘children’ need punishment for extremely bad behaviour and not sympathy.” In her attempt to draw the “red line”, she suggests her ‘humble view’, stating, “Once it is clear that there is going to be no ‘Azadi’, the violence will abate on its own.”
It is in this painful rhetoric, coupled with state-killings that Kashmir has been seething till date. The intelligentsia here has been blinded with power and obsessed with symbols of Islam. In this movement of resistance, it’s the pen, not the sword that is leading the struggle. With India’s high military spending in Kashmir, the pen, too, gathers speed. We are not “bad children”, as Singh erroneously puts it, we are fighters not intimidated by shrewd power and authority, giving voice to our pain. The ceaseless cruel display of military strength in the interiors of the Valley eerily evokes India’s own colonial past.
As Kashmiri’s strive to reconstruct a vision of their homeland in their writings, I see the Valley wreathing in pain under colonial hegemony and divisive communal designs. There has been no let up in state-backed violence since its occupation. As a result of the often mischievous and deceptive state policies, the Valley has again erupted in anguish.
This time the anguish and turmoil is the result of the killing of 22-year old young commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016. His death sparked mass protests across the Valley. More than 50,000 people congregated to mourn his death and joined his funeral procession that was dispelled by force wielded by the Indian armed forces. His killing flared up the situation with mass protests and subsequent clampdown by the Indian state.
In the most gruesome exhibition of force, the Indian troopers flouted all ethics of humanism by committing hostile violent acts against medical personnel, medical facilities, ambulances and patients. The pattern of abuse has gone far to violate the rights and practice of the health-care givers. On August 18, 2016, an ambulance driver, who was on his way to the SMHS hospital from Kangan, was shot at in Safa Kadal locality of Srinagar. Causing massive damage to the ambulances, the gun-wielding men in uniforms have brutally thrashed the medical staffers, the injured civilians and the people accompanying the wounded.
At the time of writing, the 46th day of the protests, heavy-handedness by the Indian armed forces has resulted in the death of 68 civilians. More than 7,000 people are reported to be injured, thus indicating a possible increase in the death toll. The exorbitant number of injuries is a result of firing of pellets, bullets and teargas shells by Indian troops on aggrieved protesters. Another horrific reality of the ongoing protests is the blinding of youth, disabling them for life and inflicting maximum physical damage and psychological trauma on the protesters.
Demanding immediate ban of pellet guns, Farooq Ahmad Ganie, the General Secretary of Medical Employees Federation (J&K), on August 12, 2016, expressed his resentment and asserted, “We may be Government employees, but we are not any different from Kashmiri people. Every drop of our blood is with the people of Kashmir. If the Government tells us that Government servants are a part of the Government, then we, as part of the Government, are asking them to stop using pellet guns.”
Posing enormous challenges to health care delivery in Kashmir, the state repression has reached a new height where the armed troopers have singled out hospitals, doctors and ambulances in their attack on the protesting civilians. The targeted attacks on hospitals and medic are just another aspect of the widening menace of state-terrorism that has flourished across the Valley. This occupational hazard not only makes the delivery of health care impossible to the victims but further exacerbates the restive situation in the Valley. A health worker in the Valley explained their situation to this scribe,
“We are helpless. What can we do? We are not being attacked by the raging protestors but the Indian troopers and Policemen who are acting as goons. There are no means to protect us – we can only voice our pain and powerlessness through any available channel.”
In this ongoing bitter conflict, the medical needs of the people have aggravated by subjecting healthcare facilities to violent attacks, intimidation, detention and obstructed access.
At this juncture, I am haunted by two different actions. First is the image of blood-shot eyes of young protestors and non-protestors and second is the diplomatic silence and complete inaction maintained by the international community. The international community willfully watched the atrocities unleashed by the ‘most vibrant democracy in the world’ on unarmed young protestors who have been fighting for their right to self-determination. The use of steel and rubber pellet guns did not ruffle the hair of the preachers of democracy, human rights and civil liberties. It was only after a month long infliction of state-terror that United Nations Human Rights Commission’s (UNHRC) on August 13 requested India to visit Kashmir to investigate human rights violations in the occupied territory. However, a collective political voice, including the left, unanimously rejected the request of UNHRC.
Thus, the problem lies in the entire state structure and apparatus that has been misused and abused by those in power against a resisting civilian population of Kashmir. The political machinations over the years of occupation have fueled resentment among the Kashmiris. A unanimous all party voice rejecting the UNHRC request is the real politics of India, where voice of the oppressed drowns in the rhetorical cacophony of the oppressor, where maiming the helpless subaltern fetches vote, where Muslim minority lives in the margins of the urban high-tech cities, where the life of the ghettos and slums becomes the subject of cinematic art, and where the educational minority institutions are raided before the much-celebrated Independence Day. Indian Parliamentarians should address such glaring, usually violent, “internal issues” of their country to which Kashmir is in no way a part. Instead, India chooses to adopt a clumsy approach each time by blaming Pakistan for the situation in Kashmir.
Pakistan doesn’t defray stones to Kashmiris. These are our stones and our protests, our pen and our poetics of resistance, our land and our struggle for freedom. Such conclusions that India jumps to make have failed in the past and are bound to fail in future. The call for peace lays in the history of an unfulfilled promise, that is, the promise of plebiscite.