Kashmir: a human tragedy to address

The struggle in the Valley is no longer a political blame game or a diplomatic battle that needs to be won.

Sitting in the comfort of Namma Bengaluru, I imagined a day when our students in colleges and schools would be on roads fighting pitched battles with the police.

The thought made me shudder; shivering with fear, I prayed that we would not see such a day but my heart cried in pain for thousands of Kashmiri parents who were fighting day in and out battle with fear — the fear of an uncertain future for their little ones and the fear of their children not coming back home.

I also felt a sense of numbness at the way we Indians have mastered the art of ignoring any news affecting the common man from the Valley and raising the flag of nationalism at the drop of a hat as we have made Kashmir an ultimate symbol of patriotism and chest thumping nationalism.

The intricacies of the Kashmir problem are beyond my domain but I am voicing the concern of an Indian who fails to understand how we have managed to alienate the common man on streets in the Valley and after seven decades allowed Jinnah’s ghost of the two-nation theory resonate again. The valley has erupted many times but the nature and depth this time is what needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

Yes, there may be some truth in the story that the terror money funded the stone pelting youth but how do we explain ordinary students from schools and colleges having a running battle with the security personnel? Let’s stop pretending that they are brainwashed and are blindly emulating the forces across the borders. It’s time we introspect and try to understand this generation born after 1990.

And I am forced to do so recollecting the emotions of a young Kashmiri student of mine who tried arguing against AFSPA during a panel discussion and broke down as she narrated her personal experience which is the experience of her generation. At that time, I was guilty of putting on my nationalist cap and not thinking from a human perspective, which I am forced to now seeing the students on streets.

The paradise on earth has become one of the regions with highest military presence in the world. The young Kashmiri has seen the men in uniform blocking his path, intimidating him with their very presence and alienating him by being suspicious. The rich and mighty have ensured that their young ones have moved away from the turmoil but not everyone is so lucky.

The common man continues his daily struggle for survival and the unending trauma of proving his innocence. Failure of political leadership across parties has meant there is no economic development. Think of the young men and women who are growing up with limited access to quality education, poor living conditions and no jobs.

Not to forget freedom to move around one’s own place. The nearly three decades of struggle, justified or unjustified, has alienated generations from the India narrative and today “azaadi” is the slogan which rocks the valley, forget embracing Pakistan.

CRPF personnel

The video of the restraint shown by the CRPF personnel who was mocked by the local mob and the human shield used by army during the recent bypoll are symbolic of all that’s wrong with India’s Kashmir policy.

The mocking of the security personnel shows India as forceful occupier resented by the man on street. Human shield was justified on the grounds that it was the only way the security personnel could ensure their safety amidst the blood thirsty mob and not have any human loss on both the sides.

But some tell another story more powerful and lasting. The picture is inhuman to say the least and shows India in poor light. We as a nation must salute our armed forces and acknowledge their daily struggles but such incidents need to be condemned more so as they alienate the Kashmiris further.

Even during the height of terrorism, the Valley voted and in the 2017 by-polls, the poor voter turnout shows the loss the faith and frustration of the common man. It’s no longer a political blame game or a diplomatic battle that needs to be won, but a human tragedy that must be addressed. A hard stand on not talking will only make the Kashmiris angry and resentful. Forget Pakistan, talk to the common Kashmiri. They are like the rest of us.

All they want is a peaceful life, bijli, sadak, pani and jobs for their young. Religion was never the cause for Kashmir problem but unfortunately in the last few years, it has got a religious colour to it. Our flip-flop policy is partly responsible for this. This is a battle that is lost if we rely only on guns.

Reach out to the people of the valley for it’s a human tragedy which is not restricted to only when our soldiers die but is also played out when innocent children are shot and youth are put behind bars. Kashmir is not a war to be won but a tragedy that needs to be talked and resolved.

(The writer is Associate Professor, Mount Carmel College Autonomous, Bengaluru)

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