Sunday, April 26, 2015

Someone asked me a question. Kashmir.

Was asked to answer a few questions for a conflict studies research paper recently. Started off slowly with my school and education in the state, and led into 'the Kashmir issue' and why education was so important esp. here. The final question set me off because it was the same 'why won't Kashmiris just integrate?' based thing.

What do you think are feasible solutions/policies for Kashmiris to feel safe, integrated and not victimised? Education being one of them.(Please include your suggestions for the govt and possibly your reading of the ground requirements that have been long overlooked.)

I'm sorry, I think the entire problem lies in the line of thinking that this question has come from. 'Integration'. You must understand that this idea of forced integration of Kashmiris is in fact one of the biggest problems there is. And it is pushed and repeated at every opportunity, and it does nothing to make Kashmiris want to belong. This has been voiced often enough in popular protests and written about and discussed in online spaces and TV media by Kashmiris before. The resistance to integration just gets stronger every time it is insisted on by the Indian State.

Let us just step back and look at young Kashmir today. This is a Kashmir that grew up in nineties and we must remember what they grew up with. I didn't even grow up here and I resent what I saw in two months a year when I visited Kashmir for the holidays. My generation of cousins has lived through terrible times, first hand.
Every time someone says Kashmir and its violence, what violence are we talking about here, we need to understand that as well. I doubt you will find too many cases of kids remembering 'terrorists' [we call them militants, and I'd say every Kashmiri family has had a militant from amongst it] ruining their growing years or interfering in their daily lives and entering their homes in a manner that affected them. But you will find innumerable stories of resentment and anger among children growing up in the '90s in Kashmir where they have either been personally at the receiving end of the Army/BSF/CRPF's interrogations, crackdowns etc or have seen the Armed forces entering their homes, beating up their family members [men, women, old, young] in front of them, breaking furniture, turning the house upside down, tearing their - the children's- certificates, books and so on and so forth. Being frisked every few metres in your own neighbourhood. Being called out for crackdowns, adhering to curfews, being on the receiving end of insults and mockery on a daily basis.

I have maintained in the past and continue to say this: The biggest sore point for an average Kashmiri is the overwhelming presence of armed forces everywhere in their daily lives. The Army and various uniforms in the state are the face of India to a Kashmiri. And to be frank, it is not a pleasant face at all.
The resistance in Kashmiri is very strong even today, and giving it a Pakistani bent or Islamo-terrorist bent is just irritating to the regular Kashmiri. Both cards are played often enough, many kids are swayed by anything anti-India; if that turns them to Pakistan or radical Islam, well, yes, there will be cases like that as well.
Not because these young Kashmiris know India as Indians and regular people [I do for instance, having lived outside J&K most of my life] but because for them India is its uniforms, its forces, its many atrocities that have unfolded in the past two decades. And zero accountability. Continual nationalistic barrage from MSM and politicians and chest-thumping patriots in India, complete disregard for Kashmiri voices through its local media and press and writers and intellectuals.

In the face of all of this to ask 'what do Kashmiris need to feel safe, integrated and not victimised' - well, that's three different questions.

1. Safe: I'd say Kashmiris feel perfectly safe in their lives at present, what is there to feel unsafe about? Is anyone seriously under the misapprehension that Kashmiris are fearful for their lives because armed militants are roaming the mountains and valleys and cities and towns, thirsting for blood and violence and jihad? Everyone knows this is not the case.
Yes, when there are protests against serious miscarriages of justice or human right violations and you have common people going out on the streets and armed security forces have a go at them - that is serious cause for concern. When you have AFSPA in place and no accountability. We must remember which is the only side in Kashmir which is armed right now, and it is not the people of Kashmir.

2.Integrated: Don't want it. Want normal Kashmiri lives.

3. Victimised: Could it be that when Kashmiris start seeing some justice - overdue for all the many violations of rights and tragedies that have befallen them in the recent past - at the hands of successive governments and especially the armed forces, could it be they stop feeling victimised then?

All of the above has already been said enough times in the past by Kashmiris far more articulate, knowledgeable and more relevant than myself, but I thought I'd put it out there again.
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