What happened in the skies between Indian and Pakistan generated lots of heat. And the contest in the international arena threw up loads of light. Kashmir popped up as a flash point. But the light that falls on Kashmir is not just inadequate, but in many ways evasive.
Kashmir becomes subsidiary to the Indo-Pak contest. Worse over, an auxiliary to the global politics. The darkness over this godforsaken little valley – Kashmir – finally remains as thick, if not thicker.
In this darkness the only thing that grows is absence of human freedom. It is this absence of freedom that India lords over so rigorously in Kashmir. This, and nothing else, deserves all light. For these last months this darkness deepened further. The raids, the arrests, the bans, and a full-scale infusion of terror into the valley; this is over and above the usual doses of oppression.
It’s a full throttle acceleration towards violence. For any conflict practitioner, this is a real bad thing. When we take violence as a concrete thing, suspending for a while any value judgment, the measurement of non-violent spaces matters.
For a partisan, and for ethical standards, the distinction between a fake peace and a real peace matters. But for pure measurements sometimes this distinction doesn’t matter. It is from this standpoint that New Delhi’s recent actions are all geared to make Kashmir a deep repository of a lingered, and fearsome violence.
In how many directions it travels in its course of growth, and who it hits how hard – not so easy to predict.
Here are some of the things that contribute to this pessimism.
The electoral politics that usually worked as a bulwark for Delhi’s version of peace stands eroded. The constitutional framework that ensured no unmanageable upheaval gripped Kashmir, is dismantling at a good speed. GST, and the hanging sword of 35A. You can add NIA to the list. The real political dissent, slowly manoeuvring in a non-violent space, is getting lethally choked. And the independent spaces, like media, are under assault.
To illustrate the point, let us take the case of Jamat-e-Islami.
I don’t belong to JI in the strict organisational sense. But I am related to the larger tribe as it exists in the societal space of Kashmir. So my knowledge of it is more than mere theoretical.
My relationship with the party is like that of a member of a family who lately realised that apart from a whole lot of good things there is something seriously wrong with the ways this family thinks, and talks; about itself and the others. My columns in Greater Kashmir earned me more than mere displeasure from many of the tribe. The ban JI pains for the reason that it would add to the layered violence in Kashmir.
Here is a story a friend in my college times narrated. In mid 1990s a group of students was formally inducted into Jamiat ut Tulaba, student wing of JI. At the time of oath taking the then District President, Amir-e-Zilla, barely holding back his tears, almost begged of all standing in the row – “My dear boys, don’t even come closer to thinking of any association with the armed. Ever.”
If this little anecdote is any indicator, JI is potentially a part of an architecture of non-violence. And it is not just this one little anecdote, the decades long history of Jama’t illustrates how it can non-violently contribute to the society, politics, and economic activity in Kashmir. It is only the conditions outside that can push this organisation into the network of violence. And this is what happened in 1990. The overwhelming external stimulus coupled with the internal theoretical contradiction resulted in JI becoming a part of armed underground enterprise.
Some years later, the then Head of the JI, Ghulam Muhammed Bhat, publicly announced departure from any underground association. He made repeated assertions about this to the extent that it appeared grotesque.
Slowly the organisation picked up the older thread, reclaiming the lost ground. In all this the seniors of this organisation time and again invoked JI’s constitutional principle.
This principle is a gateway to non-violent interaction: of JI’s with the outsiders and of the outsider’s with the JI. But unfortunately this opening for non-violence remains narrow, and this ban has narrowed it further down. ( JI’s doctrinal understanding of politics is also responsible for much of the troubles it invites for itself, and serves to others. But that is a separate story) The constitution of Jamat-e-Islami, J&K, puts it in the Part First, Article 5, sub-Articles 2 and 3. it reads: ( Translation from Urdu is author’s)
To achieve its ends this organisation will never resort to the methods that are contrary to (universal) ethics, truthfulness, and honesty; or has any potential of endangering life, limb, or property. ( The term used is Fasad Fil Arz, which roughly means anarchy, disorder, lawlessness.)
For the intended reformation and upright revolution ( Saleh Inqilab) Jama’t will follow constitutional and democratic methods.
In the backdrop of a violent conflict, if an organisation avowedly confirms to the principle of democratic, non-violent methodology, it is an asset for peace building.
This ban wins the argument for those who espouse armed action as the only way forward. This is the contribution of New Delhi’s new dispensation that propagandistically wishes to clear Kashmir of violence.
Strange are the ways one extreme validates the other. Safron on the one side, Black on the other.