Kashmir: narratives that slip through stones and pellets

Kashmir: narratives that slip through stones and pellets

Dateline: New Delhi

Stones have been flung a million times in the past over 60 days while pellet shots in hundreds have blinded scores. Those stones hurled by the protesters and pellets fired by the security personnel now symbolise a growing alienation of the Kashmir Valley. Both sides are busy weaving their narratives, updating it to their convenience and selling it to their constituencies.

There is no middle ground in Kashmir. If one raises the injuries suffered by the Kashmiri youth during their fight, the nationalist counter is ready with the injury count of the security personnel fighting the ‘enemies’. The heaven on the earth – the Kashmir Valley – has now been reduced to a slanging match of narratives and its competing counters. The deadly attack in Uri is likely to reinforce it.

No one will ever say that peace reigned in Kashmir till July 8 when the self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with the security forces. The protests were there but Kashmir was not on fire as it was earlier.

But the July 8 incident changed the scenario. Violent protests erupted across the Valley, not just limited to Srinagar or its outskirts. Stones, pellets and bullets were followed by rhetoric from both sides. However, it appears there was no effort or attempt to understand or tell people on both sides of the divide why Kashmir erupted in anger.

Was it just the manifestation of anti-India feelings? Why suddenly Kashmiri youths were on the streets? Was it the pent up anger? If so, what made them remain silent in the last two-three years? Did mainstream India try to understand that?

One-upmanship seems to be the mantra of the political class in dealing with Kashmir. A convenient narrative on Kashmir is now built around separatists and the BJP-led NDA government’s tough stand on Pakistan by raking up Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Separatist leaders are now depicted as parasites of the Indian system.

The best example was the remarks by two senior government functionaries on the eve of the crucial meeting of an all-party delegation that visited the strife-torn spot. Their comments on the plans to curtail the ‘freebies’ to separatists like security made screaming headlines but within hours, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told political leaders that there was no such plan. While some were gleeful about such news reports, one has to think whether such duplicity would help in solving a crisis. How will one solve a problem if it thinks that it will not involve a particular set of stakeholders, even if they have lost their teeth?

Another issue which the Kashmiris were raising was the use of pellet guns. The use of this crowd controlling weapon had invited the wrath of the common man as well as the rights activists. The continued use of pellet guns despite a replacement in PAVA shells (a chilli-based, less lethal munition) have also not gone down well. Except a few, almost all parties call for not using pellet guns. The horrifying pictures of those struck with pellet guns should be enough for the demand not to use it.

Fresh violence erupted in the valley on September 17 when the pellet-ridden body of a 13-year-old boy was found in Srinagar. Before that, over 500 people suffered eye injuries due to pellet shots and many of them were blinded. Questions will surely rise why pellet guns are not used against Patidar protesters in Gujarat or Jat agitators in Haryana. One should know that winning the hearts of a Kashmiri is not through pellet guns. Every shot from pellet guns will lead to further alienating Kashmiris. The government should know that what they are fighting for is not a valley of blinds.

Media rhetoric

The rhetoric in mainstream media – both in print and visual – is also not adding to the efforts to find an end to the present imbroglio. The jingoistic positions are not going to help. Perception management is fine but media does not need to gulp the official line without questioning.

Several theories are floated for reinforcing the official position from the change in character of the struggle in Kashmir to the regressive Islamist genre of Wahabism to the suspicious funding for the protests that erupted after Wani’s killing. Before spreading the theories one needs to also provide proof for theories like Wahabi elements taking over the leadership and changing the character of their protests from ‘azadi’ to setting up an Islamist state.

Till recently, this argument was not put forward. Even then, if this argument is right, another question arises – how the character of the protest changed and what are the reasons for it? In a democracy, people need to be told the truth.

While dealing with Kashmir, one cannot forget that Pakistan does create trouble from across the border. It has to be isolated in international community for its support to terrorism. The nurturing of the terror infrastructure by Islamabad has to be exposed. But again, one has to think twice before taking a line “for one tooth, the complete jaw”. The attack on the brigade headquarters in Uri has come at a bad time for the country as it is struggling to bring peace to Kashmir.

New Delhi is rightly angry. The attack has the potential of jeopardising whatever little that the political process had gained during the past few weeks after the visit of an all-party delegation.

The political leadership and policy makers should ensure that the attack will not have a bearing on New Delhi’s engagement with the Kashmiris and that it should not be used to further become hawkish in the Valley. A militarist approach inside the valley may go against the gains what New Delhi wants to garner.
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)