COMMENTS NASEER A GANAI
Leader of opposition and senior National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather while speaking in a debate on Human Rights in summer session of Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir warned government of serious consequences if it continues its what he calls ‘indifferent approach’ towards issue of human rights.
“I should tell you if human rights violations continue, tomorrow we would not get time to rectify it.” Rather, who is a senior politician and has remained Finance Minister for 17 years, said. He didn’t explicitly elaborate the statement for obvious reasons. But he was pointing at something that is not difficult to understand. Unrest is growing in Kashmir. People, who have been pushed to wall, are reacting to the incidents in what some people would describe as “insane.” People react without fearing for consequences. “They can only kill us. What else they can do” seems new mantra of youth who have seen guns all around since 1989.
They have seen cross firings; encounter killings, fake encounter killings, arrests and frisking. They have seen Kashmir police, CRPF, BSF, SOG, Army, RR. The state deploys troops to quell uprising and to silence the agitators but it seems in case of Jammu and Kashmir they have been used to contain population. A huge presence of troops is a source of constant harassment for the people. And when troops who are close to civilian areas indulge in human rights they come on streets to lodge protest, block roads and demand justice. Over the years it has been seen that people even don’t bury the body till government ensures justice by coming heavy on the ones unleashing their anger by pelting stones on bunkers. In rural areas it has been seen that protests are not only being monitored but shot by the army units. Still people dare to come out against troops and the government.
But can anything come out of these anti-government or pro-freedom protests? Some would describe the protests and demonstrations as sign of frustration and normal law and order problem. But case is not so simple. Now situation is different. People here dare to parade army personnel. They now take on police, confront CRPF cops and tell them on their face that enough is enough. So one should read writings on wall.
Kashmiri a Martial race
Many would argue that Kashmiris are not martial race and thus can tolerate anything. But now people here have different views about themselves. A few days ago there was a heated debate between some youth with one arguing that Kashmiris have confronted everyone and still they are living.
Of course Kashmiris over the years have confronted everyone and still they are alive and at present they are giving tough time to New Delhi asking it to fulfill promises made by it with Kashmiris in 1947. Sixty years down the line Kashmiris have not resigned to their fate. They haven’t given-up. And just cite example of any other community or race, which has such a proud history of Resistance. Perhaps you won’t find anyone. If in Afghanistan or in Punjab people have great tradition and they have not succumbed before anyone, so have not Kashmiris. Infact Kashmiris have locked India in Kashmir Valley. For 60 years, Kashmiris have kept India engaged in Kashmir and thus in a way confined its role to the subcontinent. So what else tribute they need and require.
Here in Valley after every two meters, there is a security man guarding each and every movement of indifferent Kashmiri. Bunkers, frisking, raids, arrests are nothing but tools of the State to make people understand that they will have to face serious consequences “if they fail to adhere to established norms.” But when you overuse forces, it tires people, makes them indifferent and when you continue your practice of overusing them, it not only frustrates people but also politicians. That is why Muftis, Abdullahs join troop withdrawal bandwagon.
Presence of troops has become part of daily chorus of common man. It is part of soldier’s life also. He asks questions, seeks answers, demands identity cards, looks at ID cards photos and then indifferently asks person concerned to go. But there are times when he grills people, asks them strange questions. This routine becomes very bad business when untoward incident happens, like that of Bandipora. Or in case, there is a shootout.
A retired colonel in Hindustan Times in an article argued that troops are trained to kill and once they are placed in civilian areas and then shootouts take place, it becomes difficult for them to shoot in air. That they are not trained to disperse people. That they are trained to kill known enemy. That it is absurd for a solider to shoot in air, he had argued. Thus when human rights violation takes place people react sharply. They even dare to catch the erring solider as happened in Bandipora. It simply shows that the people who have been caged are now feeling frustrated and are desperate to get out of it. They are reacting what reasonable persons may consider as “unreasonable way.” But when people don’t have any outlet to vent their anger what should they do? They consider these bunkers as posts of oppression and occupation and hence they pelt stones on them and in rage they want to overrun the bunkers housing troops.
Genocide or mass revolt
At present the anger of people is confined to only those areas where incidents do take place. But the speed with which people express their anger shows that tomorrow it might become mass movement with everyone joining people of Handwara or Bandipora. This time people would not have guns in their hands but simple courage and fearlessness. “That what can they do except killing us.” This attitude either would lead to mass revolt. Or it may lead to serious retaliation from the State. The confrontation might lead to revolution or massacre of tens of thousands of people at large scale. Can we say we are at that dangerous point as patience of people is waning with every passing day and New Delhi is not ready to give anything? Perhaps yes. Things might take different turn and history different course, if the stalemate continues. Anything could happen. Either a massacre, a mass scale killing of desperate people who want to breath or a revolt which would force New Delhi to understand ground realities.
But before things take an ugly turn, New Delhi could take steps to avoid catastrophe. It should understand that here youth fears none. Neither guns nor tanks. So it should give peace a chance. It should demilitarize Jammu and Kashmir. You will not have peace in a militarized area. By going for demilitarization New Delhi would increase stakes of people in peace. This can be achieved by opening road links and allowing trade with China and Pakistan. The boom in economy will ensure prosperity and peace, and just solution of the Kashmir dispute will ensure political stability. India and Pakistan has great future. So has Kashmir, if only New Delhi takes lead and rises above petty politics of “infiltration up and down.” This is, it seems, only way to avoid dire consequences of which Rahim Rather in Assembly warned of.