After Burhan Wani’s killing, an illusion is shattered in Kashmir

How does one address words to Kashmir? What do you say in a political context where all texts are sub texts, all ends dead ends?

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Updated: July 21, 2016 4:04 pm
kashmir, burhan wani, burhan wani death, Kashmir violence, Kashmir protests, burhan wani killing, Mehbooba Mufti, hizbul mujahideen, hizbul, hizbul commander, hizbul militant, Afzal Guru, kashmir violence, kashmir valley, jammu kashmir news, kashmir news, india news Srinagar: Policemen guard a street during restriction and strike on fourth consecutive day in Srinagar. (PTI photo)

Kashmir evokes, above all else, an overpowering and numbing sense of futility. When “heaven is on fire”, to use Muzamil Jaleel’s evocative phrase, it is not clear to whom words are addressed. How can one address words to the Indian state that has repeatedly produced outcomes of the kind we have just witnessed since Burhan Wani’s killing: Thirty-one young people killed, scores injured, many blinded? What does one say to this state that has, whatever the formal legalities and mitigating circumstances of the case may be, acted as an occupying army, immobilising considerations of justice at every turn? What does one say to its custodians, who at this point, mouth platitudes about their resolve over Kashmir, more I think to convince themselves, than to address Kashmiris? What does one say to this state that refuses to see the problem for what it is: A deep legitimacy crisis of the Indian state and a standing rebuke to Indian democracy? This state will, doubtless, be able to curb the violence in a few days: We will again feign normalcy, till the next round takes us by predictable surprise.

We will unleash our rhetorical prowess on Pakistan; stand firm in our resolve to fight terror. All well and good and justified. But let no one underestimate what has been on display in Kashmir since the killing of Burhan Wani: In one fell swoop the legitimacy of the Indian state has been eroded. The comforting illusion that all we face is a cross-border intervention, not the deep and continual alienation of our own citizens, has been shattered. The response will alas be predictable: First the law and order solution and then some promise of good governance. The latter could be a start, but that promise has been betrayed so many times that one cannot make it with a straight face. And these instruments have not been enough to break the vicious cycle of distrust. The structure of competitive politics will, in the end, be too preoccupied with competitive bickering.

Full coverage: Protests in Kashmir following death of Burhan Wani

But it is a fatal mistake to assume that there is just an instrumental solution to this challenge. The small windows of relative normalcy, the inevitable desire of so many young Kashmiris to make their way in the world has always lulled us into a sense of complacency. The sense in Kashmir that the idea of India is not a beacon of light and hope, but an ever strengthening shadow of darkness and violence, of disappearances and denial, of betrayal and repression, is strong. One measure of this is that it is hard to think of an Indian state that has produced such a poetry of pain (but then in these times of prose, who reads poetry). As the shadow of majoritarianism increases, this credibility crisis of the state will worsen. But how can one say this to a state where even an attempt at the description of the problem will be met with the usual ideological barrage: Insinuations of romanticising separatism and much worse. There is nothing in the ideological and empathetic armoury of the Indian state that is geared to addressing the deep alienation of those who matter in Kashmir. It is designed mainly to address Indians in the rest of India, so that we give our state a long leash in Kashmir.

WATCH VIDEO: Kashmir Protests: Visuals Of Curfew In the State

I must confess that I am surprised that we are constantly surprised that teenagers in Kashmir are throwing stones at the Indian state. The real surprise is that it does not happen more. If we were subject to the regular interdictions of the police most of us might be tempted to pick up a stone or two; what years of army occupation, no matter how well intentioned and well run, would do is anybody’s guess. Our insecurities have produced a failure of empathetic imagination on our part, we want to hide behind a cloak of monumental ideology that mutilates any conversation about what it is really like to live in a state of siege. But I am also surprised at the surprise that a terrorist like Burhan Wani can be made a martyr by the general public. It is important to remember that this is not a phenomenon unique to Kashmir. It is still hard to dissociate far graver acts of terrorism, the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, from the construction of ethnic identity and politics in Punjab and Tamil Nadu respectively. This political phenomenon needs deeper diagnosis.

Column | Mirwaiz Umar Farooq writes: A new generation of struggle

But how does one address words to Kashmir? What do you say in a political context where all texts are sub texts, all ends dead ends? Writers like Chetan Bhagat are more confident of their locus standi in addressing Kashmiri youth. Given what we know about our state, I am less confident that we can look them in the eye and make even a credible promise let alone redeem the pain of the past. All we can do is try and make this India, in whose name we licence violence, attractive and credible enough. Just as we hope that the Indian state will make truth not illusion the starting point of its strategy; we hope Kashmir politics will do the same. The path of violent state subverting terrorism, just as a matter of political reality, has almost never led to success.

WATCH VIDEO: Kashmir Protests Victim: 5-Year Old Zohra On How She Got Hit

Whatever romanticism there was about the idea of Kashmiriyat, it is now tinged with the irrevocable odour of ethnic cleansing and reactionary radicalism. The Indian state, with its size and might, will probably absorb the cost of this turn. But in the end, the price of that violence and turn to reactionary radicalism will be most deeply felt by Kashmiris. One can easily grant the mutilations inflicted by the Indian state; but these do not have to be compounded by a kind of self-mutilation that violent terrorism by its nature brings. It may seem cathartic for a while, but this path hardly contains the seeds of regeneration. We can all remind ourselves of Sheikh Abdullah’s insight: That the fate of Kashmir inevitably depends upon the fate of India-Pakistan relations.

A transformation in that relationship opens up options; hostility in that relationship diminishes possibilities. It is easy to propose interim steps in Kashmir. But as Vajpayee used to ask, “yeh sab karega kaun?” No political force is minimally up to the task. The crisis will deepen as this episode puts a strain on the PDP-BJP alliance. All we can hope for is that politics throws enough cold water on the heaven that is on fire. But the sense of foreboding is only growing.

(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘Heaven on fire’)

The writer is president, CPR, Delhi, and contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’

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  1. H
    Hemant Kumar
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm
    Ramdev should be replaced by Rajiv hi in my previous post.
    Reply
    1. H
      Hemant Kumar
      Jul 13, 2016 at 1:00 pm
      The writer is hopeless about Indian state and encourages terrorism by drawing an analogy with the link of ethnicity with the ination of Indira and Ramdev.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jam
        Jul 13, 2016 at 8:13 am
        India needs land of kashmir not kashmiries, otherwise it was better for india to work for its own people, for those who dont have houses living under open sky, for those people who are living as slaves even worst than the slaves of 10th century. Instead of spending money on amunation and army on Kashmir, just work for its own people. who want house, who want education, who want costsystem free environment. according to latest analyses india has 14.9 crore potion who are either slaves or living the life worst than slaves.lt;br/gt;India should not bother about Kashiries, We are inteligent, we have enough resources here, we know how to progress.
        Reply
        1. J
          Jam
          Jul 13, 2016 at 8:46 am
          Indians are much intelligent, but i dont know, why they have mostly nonsense people here for comment. who just think, india has the power, arrogancy, they can kill all kashmiries but will not let them live free life. looks india has lot of potion with foolish people. Remeber, no one win by killing or wars, ur generations has to pay for this killings, history is writtng indias atrocities and cruelties on kashmir. Tow villages of Kunnan Poshpora women were raped by ur indian army. Can any of you indian will provide his mother or sister or daughter to his proud army and say I am so happy, that i have served the army.lt;br/gt;india army is the biggest terrorist, the killer, the rapists, the thieves, even in 90es I have seen indian army stealing gold from houses during search operation.
          Reply
          1. J
            Jam
            Jul 13, 2016 at 7:03 am
            it is india and indian media who calls the burhan or other militants as terrorists. the same people are heros the freedom fighters for the kashmir. why 1.5 lakh people joined the funeral prayer of Burhan, why only few hundred people joined the funeral prayer of kashmir CM Muftti Mohammad s. India should not be blind from these facts. Every kashmiri sees the indian rule as oppression on Kashmir, illegal occupation on kashmir.lt;br/gt;since 1947 blood of kashmiries espacially from 1989 around 1 lakh kashmiries were killed.lt;br/gt;Did you think, the solution for curbing of kashmiri is to shoot and kill, HOW LONG? how long india will use shoot and kill to keep kashmir under its control. lt;br/gt;Why india is blaming stan or few separatists to destroy peace in kashmir every time, what about indian acrocites? Are All kashmires enough fools that they are ready to secrify them selves and come openly inform of indian forces. Dont be blind, india needs to open eyes. lt;br/gt;why india is calling its people who were killed by British colonies before 47 as matiyers, even though they were playing the same role as kashmiri militants are doing. How they were matiyers and Kashmires as terrorists?lt;br/gt;At last remember, This is common kashmiry who is fighting for its freedon, for illegal occupiation of india, dont make ur self pool by saying all is well.
            Reply
            1. M
              Malathi
              Jul 13, 2016 at 6:15 am
              India, Wake up! Anti national forces are gaining momentum, and spreading across the country. We need to save our country from these forces. Remember, the anti national forces have several fronts: 1. Terrorists outside and and inside the country, who carry out attacks on innocent civilians and trying to convert India into another Islamic State 2. "Award Vapsis", "Secularists", "intellectuals", sold out to anti national elements, who use the corrupt mainstream media to mobilse support for terror elements and to preempt any action by the government. 3. The Mega Corrupt Party - which looted the country to the core through the scams 2G, Coalgate, etc. - and its allies, who provide political support to the terror elements.
              Reply
              1. S
                Subbu
                Jul 13, 2016 at 8:24 pm
                Since Feku took over. There I no peace in Kasmir. It is not that K was peaceful before. But it was not burning like that's.I visited Kashmir several time pre2014. at least there was life in Srinagar. But the author anguish now justified. Just malampatti job will not solve the issue. Feku thinks he is smart that too he only is smart. His Kashmir policy advisors like Snghi Ram Madav are only distructive in nature. lt;br/gt;Hope Kashmir survives and remain with India for long. We need Sangh mukth Barath urgently
                Reply
                1. A
                  Ajit
                  Jul 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm
                  In any Muslim society it is not tough to gather 15% to 25% fundamentalist and lawless elements to lose sanity in name of Islam. The reason for no truly democratic muslim countries. In muslim countries where there is democracy elites and military keep these elements in check in good times and bribe in worst times. Iran and Afganistan were quite progressive countries once. Unfortunately nothing much Indian government can do other than work on crowd control
                  Reply
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