Why People Rebel
Around mid-19th centuries the French political scientist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville propounded an important theory regarding why people rebel. The theory came up in response to the events of the French Revolution. This theory formed the basis for the romantic view of revolutions that is still popular today. Tocqueville in his book 'The Old Regime and the French Revolution' published in 1857 argued that the French Revolution was ignited by frustrations over the country's repressive regime. "The careful student of France", wrote Tocqueville, "during the 18th century must have noticed ……….the birth and development of two leading passions…….One-the deepest and most solidly rooted- was a violent, unquenchable hatred of inequality….. The other -of a more recent date, and less solidly rooted- prompted men to seek to be free as well as equal". Thus, de Tocqueville theorized that instances of unrest, such as the French revolution, are born out of the virtue of fighting against injustice and fighting for freedom.
More than a century later in 1970 one of the most influential 20th century books on instances of instability 'Why Men Rebel' was written by Ted Robert Gurr. In his work, Gurr, an authority on political conflict and instability, explains instances of political instability through the theory of relative deprivation (RD). He defines RD as the discrepancy between what people feel they are entitled to have, and what they have in reality. According to Gurr "When this discrepancy grows large……frustrations start to grow. It is out of these political, social, or economic frustrations, also known as grievances, that violence is born". Thus, following de Tocqueville, Gurr explains rebellions from the perspective of virtue, as they are driven by a sense of injustice. Both these theories are extremely helpful in understanding most of the conflicts around the world including that of Kashmir.
Burhan Muzaffar Wani and the events that followed after his killing on 8th of this month are reminder of this growing sense of injustice, deprivation, and hatred for inequality and, therefore, urge to fight to be 'free and equal' among Kashmiris, as outlined by Tocqueville and Gurr. Kashmir problem is as old as the State itself. It was this sense of injustice and deprivation that led to 1931 and it was the same sense of deprivation and desire to fight against injustice that led to 1989-90 events. Uprisings of 2008, 2010 and 2013 were no different. As the injustice, deprivation and inequality increased the desire of people to be free and equal kept growing. In each phase people kept expressing their anger/desires through different forms of resistance. However, rather than accepting the reality and making sincere efforts to address the real problem, the state always brushed aside the whole issue as sponsored, therefore, having no ground support. The result of this policy is for world to see.
The successive state governments, who have been too obsessed with power, have only blindly followed the dictates from Delhi and imposed a set discourse. Same they are trying to do this time also. But has this done any good and has it or is it going to yield any positive results for them? Absolutely NOT. It does not matter what labels Arnabs, Bakshis, Rahuls, Sushils etc. are going to give to Kashmir problem and what names they attach with Burhan and his associates. What really matters is how the people in Kashmir see this issue and how they see Burhan. I think the sheer number of funerals held for him and the number of people participating in ever single funeral, as well as what we have been witnessing since his death is self-explanatory of the views of Kashmiri people. As Shobhaa De wrote, "No matter which label one sticks on the man, the incontrovertible fact is that Burhan Wani was seen as a powerful symbol of the unrest we are refusing to confront. By denouncing him and his supporters, neither will the unrest disappear, nor will Burhan Wani be forgotten". Similarly, by arguing that Kashmiri problem is Pakistan sponsored or created by handful of separatist elements, neither will Kashmir problem be resolved nor Kashmiris cowed down.
Like 2008, 2010, and 2013 state force has been unleashed with full might on the protesting and stone–pelting Kashmiris. As I am writing around 47 people have lost their life and more than two thousand injured due to bullets and pellets. Among the injured hundreds are maimed for life with most victims loosing their eyesight. The brutality of state response is clearly written on the bodies of injured. This could be gauged from the facts that among victims are included children (both male and female) aged 5, 8, 11, 12 and 14 years; around 90% injured have been hit above waist; pellets being fired from such close range that in once case a full cartridge of palettes along with its casing pierced victims both eyes; that the team of ophthalmologists from Delhi described whole scenario as 'war like situation'; that we had first case where pellets were found in the heart of a youth. But hang on palettes are 'non-lethal' so they can go on using them. And by chance if someone raises voice, you have AFSPA. It seem that the state still believes that it can turn the situation in its favor by brutal use of force with impunity, which can never be the case. As New York Times wrote editorially on 21st of this month, "A major cause of the uprising is the resentment among Kashmiri youths who have come of age under an Indian security apparatus that acts against civilians with impunity. Kashmir is subject to India's Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or Afspa, which grants the military wide powers to arrest, shoot to kill, occupy or destroy property. The result is a culture of brutal disdain for the local population".
A day after Mehbooba Mufti woke from her deep slumber to 'meet' relatives of few victims of state brutality, the killings continued unabated with two more youth loosing their life and dozens injured. While reacting to the State response to 2010 uprising, which led to killing of 120 people, as an opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti had said "I think Omar Abdullah's biggest problem in governing Kashmir is that he is unable to connect with the Kashmiris….he is disconnected from grassroots and, therefore, unable to respond properly to the crisis". Holding placards calling for repeal of AFSPA, she could be seen leading rallies against repressive policies of the state. She accused Omar Abdullah and his government of being insensitive towards his own people and thinking like a foreigner. Six years down the line Mehbooba Mufti is faced with similar situation and she has failed in the same manner as Omar did. "The current crisis in the Valley" wrote Basharat Masoodi of Indian Express "has exposed the dichotomy between Mehbooba Mufti as a leader of the opposition and Mehbooba Mufti as a chief minister. When in opposition, her concern for human rights, her soft corner for the separatists and her fiery speeches talking about "battle of ideas" and 'Goli nahin, Boli say (Bullet not, dialogue) won her many admirers in Kashmir. But two months in power, that image has been completely tarnished" (http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/mehbooba-mufti-in-opposition-and-in-power-two-different-people-2922179). Or should we say the real image has come to surface. While world leaders, international bodies and world human rights organizations have condemned the state response to the protests; the state has quietly kept its war against people going. And Omar Abdullah and his party is playing the same role as Mehbooba and his party played in 2010.
Shedding few tears does not absolve a person from his responsibility or crime. In a well functioning polity the only mantra to hold public office is 'perform or perish', but in Kashmir it has always been 'collaborate and rule'. Till New Delhi continues to see Kashmir as a law and order problem and State governments follow this discourse they should only expect the situation to get worse. From Drass to Kishtiwar, from Kupwara to Kund whole Kashmir region is united and protesting, that too after killing of a militant. The new generation is absolutely free of fear, the funerals of militants are getting fatter and fatter, every time there is encounter people risk their life in an attempt to save militants, and there is a renewed support for militancy. Burhan has been able to infuse new life to a waning militancy and attach a symbol of 'purity' and 'heroism' to it. Militant funerals are becoming major agency for recruitment. In such circumstances, quelling protests and muzzling the voice of people by absolute force (killings, pellets, bans, curfew etc.) is only adding fuel to fire.