Forced identity, bruised memory, political treachery, dilapidated history these are a few amongst many terms that come to one’s mind while trying to undertake possibly one of the most difficult and painful task of writing about ‘conflict’.
By Ayshia Zehgeer
Conflict that has nurtured every thought process and driven every aspiration of the people who see, feel and breathe it every day. If a conflict is as everyday as that, why must it be difficult to write about it? One may be compelled to ask?
The most difficult part of any conflict narration is not having to state different shades of truth which must rightfully find their expression. But, in all its likelihood, an almost given consequence of failing to measure up to the pain that entails a conflict. The conundrum which a conflict presents will have different meaning and significances for people. The prisms a conflict is viewed through will not be the same for the ones who experience it and the ones outside it. For the latter, prisms being simplistic and reductionist and for us as the ones experiencing it, the truth and history will always be too sacred to be viewed so narrowly.
The packaging of a conflict and the attached disclaimers are such that make any “Peaceful breakthrough” a far-fetched dream. For the uninitiated, carefully manufactured guise of the conflict makes it easy either to bracket everything done by the state apparatus as a reaction to acts that endanger high sounding platitudes: ‘Sovereignty, Security and Integrity’ or an even more reductionist approach of peddling developmental or economic narratives. Every such diversion, from the most fundamental truth amounts to surreptitiously par taking in everything required to keep a population deprived of their basic right to choose their future. This perpetual denial of identity is reminiscent of a mindset of colonial inheritance.
Politically, historically, geographically the state never really belonged to India. Everything done to usurp the territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including complete reorientation from its principled position of holding a plebiscite is where the entire Kashmir question commences. Rooted in the understanding of Kashmir, is this fundamental truth. Every solution, therefore seeking to resolve what stands today as sub-continent’s longest outstanding dispute must flow from the acknowledgment of this truth.
Today, India stands averse to such acknowledgment because it will necessarily serve a consequent admission of all the wrong doings, strategically inflicted upon the people over the time. A fight that manifestly is against the occupational power structure of India and its collaborative offshoots mustn’t be seen as an attempt to push the entire country off a cliff. Which by no means is the intent of the people fighting for their basic right to self-determination.
Thus, morally as a people, who inherit a rich history of freedom struggle, of overthrowing the British colonial rule, Indians must affect a critical distance from the power apparatus of their state. For, seeing the state as all just and fair, which by all our past experiences it never has been, would tantamount to collusion in all misdeeds, committed with impunity by the self-righteous state..
Etched in the memory of every Kashmiri are events that refuse to leave some corner of our mind. Partly because of the nature of the crimes committed by the state. Their gravity puts all human values to shame. And partly for the reason of knowing that justice will continue to elude us. Justice among in-equals they say is all that the powerful take and the weak must surrender. Your law is my jail, your order my chaos.
Last year (2016) saw an uprising of unfathomable spread and magnitude. A culmination of seething discontent and anger against India’s systemic oppression. Naturally, the response of the state akin to its previous record was repressive and marked by such excessive use of force against unarmed protestors that left no stone of brutality unturned. Over a 100 people were slain by the Indian Armed Forces, another hundred blinded by the use of ‘non-lethal’ pellets, thousand left maimed, and a significant number of people arrested and put behind bars under archaic laws of colonial descent. While all of this was happening, everything required to keep the muck covered and truth unexposed was done. From blockade of internet to the banning of local newspapers. Not contrary to our expectations, Indian media like true patriots on their part ensured the best misrepresentation of facts and allowed a tirade of anti-people propaganda thrive.
A few days back in the backdrop of Jallikatu agitation, there was a renewed debate about the discrepancy in the method and manner of crowd control. It was said that similar eruptions in Kashmir were dealt more severely. Such parallels are however erroneous to draw. Firstly, anyone versed with the Kashmir conflict would know why repression is inflicted upon the people. It is never really about the stone in the hand of the protestors. It was never about the gun in 90’s. It was always about ‘Azadi’. Self-admittedly, repression will always be an answer to any method used as a reminder to honor all commitments made by India to which UN resolutions stand a testimony.
Life in a conflict happens alongside conflict. No aspect of life is untouched by it. As far as peace goes, no one would in their correct frame of mind oppose peace. But again who decides what peace means. Does peace mean living in denial? Does peace mean not seeking a closure? Does peace mean absolving the state of all blame? If all of that brings peace then I for one don’t want it, don’t vouch for it. Peace must be preceded by political will to put an end to the dispute. An enforced peace, a façade of peace created at the behest of close to a million troops hounding the population to submission has not helped break the resolve of the people.
Every reconciliation, solution, attempt of pacification, every make believe campaign at diluting the political nature of the Kashmir dispute has fallen flat on the face for the lack of political will and correct intentions. As long as that doesn’t happen, we will see Kashmir continue to rise, continue to simmer and continue to fight. Because, ‘Sorry’ doesn’t sweeten the tea anymore for us.
Barrels of loaded guns may have aided India in holding on to Kashmir, but no colonizer in the history of the world could make theirs what was not theirs.
It is always cold in Kashmir. But, its more than the weather on the outside, rather its the hearts of the people of Kashmir. The killings and the war warm up the region for the wrong reason, and when it’s over, its cold again. There is little we can do, may a little warmth telling them we care…
This is Ayshia’s opinion on The Kashmir of her dreams. It is her story, unedited, untouched, raw to the core and we respect that. I was part of a fortunate audience to have met this girl in Goa for Lex Infinitum 2016, a mediation event where she represented Kashmir University. We had a session ‘mediation musings’, where she opened up about her childhood in Kashmir, cried and sent a chill down my spine when she asked members of a panel discussion, “Mediation seems to deal only with business. Can it actually help repair a community as destroyed as Kashmir?” She was hurting then, it was genuine and it probably was one of the reasons why I stuck to ‘Mediation Musings’ as a name for this blog. It is unfair to the people of Kashmir, when many of us Indians sit in the comfort our homes with the best of internet speeds and tweet or post on Facebook our opinion of what is good for Kashmir. What right do we have to judge what is good for a community that lives on the edge every second of their life.
As far as I understand (and this is from conversations I have had with people from J & K at different times), the people of Kashmir simply want to be free, they want to just be themselves, roam freely, eat and drink what they like, wear what they wish to wear, watch what everyone else watches, speak without being censored – all that they want is the basic human right TO BE… Beyond all the political, economical, religious bullshit, there are human beings living there who go to sleep at night, not sure if they will wake up to see the sunrise.
It is not for India or Pakistan to decide the fate of Kashmir, Kashmir deserves the right to decide for themselves how they want to govern themselves, whom they want to be friends with and where they wish to build their walls. This slow death of a community and its rich culture must end now, before it’s too late and more blood is lost. Dialogue between the two bordering nations and the people of Kashmir is the only way forward – Jonathan
(Courtesy: All pictures sourced from the Facebook page of UOK, University of Kashmir and Kashmir University Students’ Association)