The Paradise that we so passionately love, cherish and adore stands violated, vandalised and vulgarised by a cocktail of factors which have to be located chiefly in the political uncertainty. An uncertainty that is sought to be sustained and perpetuated by those who either suffer from acute myopia of vision or are woefully deficient in their capacity to look beyond the present moment. That is why those watching the unfolding developments in Kashmir from the ramparts of Delhi continue to remain smug in the mistaken belief that it would be 'back to business' once the tempers cool and people get back to their life as usual? For all we know and the lessons we have learnt over the years of our turbulent history, that is a make-believe world which they are at liberty to choose to live in. If anything, the prevailing crisis has revealed more than ever before that not all is well over here in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, notwithstanding the over-eagerness in the corridors of power to read too much into the inanities like the massive tourist inflow or the highest ever turnout in the previous elections as being indicators of normalcy having returned to this place. All it takes to expose these self- serving assertions as a myth is to scratch the surface a little and find oneself face to face with turbulence of gigantic proportions lurking under the surface as has been driven home by the sudden spurt in violence and unrest following this latest episode involving Burhan Wani. It is not for nothing that some youth in the valley are fancying themselves following into his footsteps which, in the absence of other avenues available to them, is a disconcerting thought and calls for urgent soul-searching, not the least by the powers that be.
It's not my case to sing encomiums in his praise for the path he had perforce chosen to settle scores for the innumerable indignities that are known to have been heaped upon him and his family as a result of the excesses of the security forces and the systemic subversion of justice at a time when all was hunky dory in his personal life, marked as it was by the burning desire he had nursed to make it big in life. This dream of visualising a successful life for himself was inspired by his conviction, also shared by his teachers, that he was a bright student who had no reason to contemplate a path that the later unfortunate circumstances in his life had forced upon him. The fact that he was not involved in a major subversive activity during his stint as the 'chief' of the outfit as none of the activities he had actually engaged himself in were deemed to be serious enough by the law enforcing agencies to lodge an FIR against him, had put this young boy in an altogether different league from those who had 'donned this mantle' before him. That should serve to explain the reasons for the mass hysteria following his death and the tens of thousands of those who had turned up to pay obeisance at his funeral!
It's surprising, and indeed shocking, that both the print as well as the electronic media in the country have chosen to gloss over this side of the Burhan story while going overboard to bring in those aspects of the saga which are peripheral to the discourse on recent developments in Kashmir. One is appalled by the abysmal depths to which the contemporary talk shows/debates have fallen in recent years, being beamed as they are, on sundry TV channels featuring the modern day anchors, intellectuals and those privileging themselves as members of the 'think-tank' on issues about which their understanding- or lack of it- is invariably coloured by their perceptions which are often biased and lacking in objectivity. Come to think of it, the fact that there is an unmistakable correlation between high TRPs of certain news channels and the questionable choice of the idiom used by these news anchors to hector and shout down those espousing a contrary perspective on an issue under discussion bespeaks the dismal levels to which a significantly large chunk of the viewership across the country has stooped. The fact that these viewers enjoy this high decibel cacophony and derive vicarious pleasure in the manner in which the nonconforming guest is pilloried by such boisterous anchors tells the story of an India that is increasingly becoming intolerant and dismissive of views being perceived as antithetical to the 'dominant national discourse'.
It is because of this warped sense of nationalism that the debates surrounding the current phase of turmoil in the valley are, more often than not, reduced to pussyfooting on whether the young boys taking to the streets should be killed, 'half-killed', maimed or mauled and whether to achieve these 'noble goals' through the use of bullets or pellet guns! Not a thought is spared for addressing the root cause of the problem which is routinely pinned down to the proxy war being waged by the neighbour next door, rather than ask themselves why and how upon earth one would offer the ultimate sacrifice by putting his life in the line of fire! Human life even if it is robbed of dignity, whether by deceit or destiny, is already too precious to trade for crumbs which the national media would have us believe as being the soul motivation for these 'deviant' young Kashmiri boys to take to the streets. In support of this 'theory', a prominent news channel had recently featured a young Kashmiri boy saying that he was paid (a whopping!) Rs.500/- by a well known Kashmiri separatist leader as 'wages for pelting stones at the security forces'. The sad part of the saga is that the said news channel has not checked its facts, or else the news involving that same boy's retraction a day later that he was made to speak those words under extreme duress- that too way back during the 2010 upheaval – while the CRPF personnel had trained their guns at his forehead, would also have been featured in a subsequent story.
Whereas it is understandable, though by no means justifiable, how Pakistan has been milking the political unrest in the valley to advance its own cause on Kashmir, it doesn't help the rabble rousers on this side of the border to raise the Pakistan bogey every time the valley rises in protest. One wonders why they can't see the elephant in the room that is getting a little too oversized to remain lodged in the room. The undeniable and unassailable fact remains that the present phase of unrest in the valley is indigenous, home grown and needs no outside intervention to stay its course. On the contrary, the political establishment across the border is seen as being keen to spoil the Kashmir cause by looking the other way when its non-state actors are making what are clearly unwelcome and unsubstantiated noises about their 'role' in fomenting trouble in the valley!
It was in the light of these developments that in a recent write-up this writer had emphasised upon the need for all the stakeholders involving the Kashmir dispute to shed their congealed positions on the issue and to come to terms with the demands of our times which cry for an immediate end to the imbroglio. If all those involved cared to know, the questionable ways in which the neighbour across the border has sought to exploit the situation in Kashmir to its advantage has already extracted a huge price from that country which is too well known to bear repetition in this column. On the other hand, one also knows that the all-pervasive and dehumanising misery that has taken its toll upon the inhabitants of the valley, has not spared the hundreds of thousands of the perpetrators of these atrocities including their masters on this side of the fence who have been deployed to restore 'peace' to this beleaguered piece of land. Let me hasten to add that the damage to the latter as alluded to above is not meant in the sense of the magnitude of physical injury or the death toll suffered by them during these frequent bouts of upheaval in the valley, which is not even remotely comparable to that having been visited upon the hapless Kashmiri youth. Here what is sought to be underscored ought to be understood in terms of the avoidable disgrace which these state-endorsed actions have brought upon their country that proclaims itself as being the 'largest democracy' in the world and as a champion of peace and ahimsa.
In true spirit of this 'culture of ahimsa and nonviolence', it would enhance the stature of this country in the eyes of the world if it chose to engage with all the stakeholders of the dispute to explore ways of de-escalating tensions in the region which would only be possible by seeking a solution to the K-issue in an atmosphere of mutual trust, regard and understanding. The upcoming visit by the home minister of India to Pakistan on the eve of the SAARC summit is a great opportunity and ought to be grabbed by both the countries to arrange parleys between him and his Pakistani counterpart. That meeting may surely not yield much but shall hopefully pave the way for many more dialogues in future towards a final resolution of the issue. Whereas it is not reasonable to hope for a solution that would be maximally acceptable to all the stakeholders, those aspiring for 'nothing short of the moon' would do well to remember that the complexities underlying the issue would inevitably throw up a situation where one would have to settle for an arrangement that would be 'minimally unacceptable' to the parties concerned!
Lastly, but no less significantly, let us face the fact that the separatist leadership under the banner of Huriyat which truly represents the genuine aspirations of people of the valley, has to be willing for course correction, as and when warranted. The leadership is unarguably on a tight rope walk and a small error of judgement at this stage could prove prohibitively costly. All the same, it is no cake walk to have to lead in the midst of a situation which is extremely delicate and marked by unprecedented fury and anger being witnessed on the streets of the towns and villages in the valley. The fact that people at large continue to steadfastly follow the Huriyat leadership in whichever ways they are required to stand up and register their protest is indeed a reassuring thought, both for the people and those leading them in this moment of reckoning. However, unless these actions are accompanied by sustained stock taking and a will to address the possible faultlines in its approach as they when they are visible, it runs the risk of the public perceiving itself as being taken for granted, a prospect that could have consequences of far reaching implications for the ongoing struggle. It is time that steps are taken to infuse new life into the workings of the conglomerate through new ideas and fresh ways of looking at things, which it surely is capable of. Sooner it is done, the better.