Kash­mir: More than a Mere Land

Libertatem Magazine - - Contents - Shreyan Acharya

The re­cent rhetoric of “in­no­va­tive ways” has cre­ated a na­tion­wide de­bate. The two fac­tions in the coun­try have ei­ther sup­ported the state­ment or con­demned it. The Army Chief Gen­eral Bipin Rawat stirred a con­tro­versy when he fe­lic­i­tated the Ma­jor Lee­tul Go­goi be­fore the Code of In­quiry con­cluded its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The Army Gen­eral came out in sup­port of Ma­jor Go­goi, for us­ing Mr. Dar, a Kash­miri, to be used as a hu­man shield. The Army Chief made it clear that to en­sure the safety of the Jawans from the lo­cal protests and mil­i­tant am­bush, such in­no­va­tive mea­sures are needed to avoid ca­su­al­ties and counter in­sur­gency. But, the ques­tion arises as to whether such in­no­va­tive mea­sures are within the Code of Con­duct of the most re­spectable army in the world. Is the In­dian Army em­pow­ered to en­croach upon the hu­man dig­nity and ex­ceed in its author­ity? Can the Army en­croach upon hu­man dig­nity? The ques­tion may not go well with the na­tion­al­ist sec­tions of the coun­try, but to save my­self from the hor­rors of the brand­ing tra­di­tion re­cently gain­ing mo­men­tum in the coun­try, I would like to say that I stand by the Army. How­ever, what we need to un­der­stand is that we are an or­ga­nized in­sti­tu­tion. We live by a Code of Con­duct where safe­guard­ing the lives is not the only duty, our re­spon­si­bil­ity is to equally pro­tect the dig­nity and rights of ev­ery ci­ti­zen. So, the main ques­tion is whether cre­at­ing a sense of an­i­mos­ity is tak­ing us in the di­rec­tion of re­solv­ing the Kash­mir is­sue. Daily, we see in­ci­dents where we form an opin­ion on whether it is ac­tu­ally re­solved or if it is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing fur­ther. When we wit­nessed the clash be­tween the armed forces and civil­ians over the killing of Burhan Wani, we formed an opin­ion that these are the peo­ple who stand by the ter­ror­ists, but on the other hand, when we also see that thou­sands of Kash­miri youth en­rolling in the armed forces de­fy­ing the lines of the sep­a­ratists then we form an opin­ion that these are the peo­ple who be­lieve in “One In­dia”. There­fore, my state­ment can be con­cluded in a man­ner that our opin­ions are based on the in­ci­dents we see in the Val­ley.

Delv­ing deeper into the “Val­ley” Form­ing opin­ions upon these in­ci­dents does not de­ter­mine our stand on the Kash­mir is­sue. We are of­ten mis­taken when we re­fer to es­tab­lish Kash­miriyat. What we need to un­der­stand here is that our ap­proach is re­stricted in main­tain­ing the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, and this feel­ing of pres­tige does not al­low us to have a broader ap­proach to­wards re­solv­ing the real is­sues. Let us turn to an ex­am­ple. Re­cently, Kash­miri stu­dents were threat­ened in other parts of the coun­try due to the ris­ing un­rest in the val­ley. So, does that mean that our sole at­ten­tion is to up­hold the pride that “Kash­mir is an in­te­gral part of In­dia”. Or, should it not be that Kash­miris are a part of In­dia? I equally un­der­stand the strate­gic im­por­tance of the Val­ley, but we also need to un­der­stand that more than the land­scape, the peo­ple out there are of vi­tal im­por­tance. My con­tentions may seem to be against the In­dian norm, or may be de­feat­ing the feel­ing of na­tion­al­ism, but be­ing an In­dian, I think it is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to un­ravel the truth and our psy­cho­log­i­cal mind­set. I of­ten hear in many dis­cus­sions and de­bates that the peo­ple protest­ing in the streets of Kash­mir must be de­nied there rights and strict de­ter­rent mea­sures shall be taken against them. Here, my ref­er­ence is not to the ter­ror outfits, but to the stu­dents and the youth who are turn­ing hos­tile. We say that In­dia has the vast po­ten­tial to grow due to its youth pop­u­la­tion, but does this ref­er­ence over­shadow the youth of the val­ley? We be­lieve in an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety but, is that in­clu­sive­ness re­stricted to the peo­ple fall­ing in line? Or should it not be open to those who are an­gered by their griev­ances? Is it not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the In­dian State to re­dress the griev­ances? My pur­pose of these ref­er­ences is to pro­vide a mea­sure where we can try direct en­gage­ment with the youth of the val­ley. The prob­lem with our ap­proach Our ap­proach till now has been per­tain­ing to ap­peas­ing the sep­a­ratists and other lead­ers, but we need to pri­or­i­tize on whom we need to en­gage. I be­lieve the Govern­ment must take ad­e­quate mea­sures on hold­ing dis­cus­sions in schools and col­leges co­or­di­nated by their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which would help them to un­der­stand the ground level griev­ances, and es­tab­lish the rea­sons on what is turn­ing them hos­tile against the State. Shut­ting down col­leges and schools or deny­ing ac­cess to so­cial me­dia or other things are de­ter­rent mea­sures with short-lived ben­e­fits, but to achieve far-reach­ing re­sults we need to es­tab­lish direct en­gage­ment with the youth of the val­ley. En­cour­ag­ing and hold­ing de­bates and dis­cus­sions in the schools and col­leges of the Val­ley may de­velop a sense of one­ness amongst the youth, and they may feel se­cure in putting for­ward their opin­ions which they were de­nied ear­lier. This would also set an ex­am­ple of the tol­er­ance level in the coun­try, and it would be a more re­sult-ori­ented ap­proach to re­solve the is­sue. My ref­er­ences may raise some ques­tions about my one-sided out­look of the is­sue. I can be ques­tioned on fail­ing to men­tion that dur­ing the year 1948, it was the In­dian Army that safe­guarded the val­ley from the mer­ce­nar­ies or on my fail­ing to men­tion the griev­ances of the Kash­miri Pan­dits dur­ing the ad­vent of the mil­i­tancy in the Val­ley, or any other such is­sue. So, to all these ques­tions I would like to say that I con­demn the oust­ing of the Pan­dits, but does that give us the right to stereo­type the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the Val­ley. I stand in sup­port of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the Pan­dits back in Kash­mir, but we should also give have a fair ap­proach in look­ing at both the com­mu­ni­ties from the same prism. Our pref­er­en­tial ap­proach whether in favour of the Kash­miri Pan­dits or Kash­miri Mus­lims has marred us from tak­ing con­struc­tive steps. Suc­ces­sive Prime Min­is­ters and po­lit­i­cal par­ties have vowed to re­solve the Kash­mir is­sue, but I feel sad­dened to see that the res­o­lu­tion is re­stricted to the ter­ri­tory. Our com­mit­ment should be in re­solv­ing the is­sues of the ci­ti­zens. Such an ap­proach would also go against the Pak­istani pol­icy of con­stant in­ter­fer­ence in the Val­ley. But, for this all we need to be­lieve in the feel­ing of to­geth­er­ness which is only pos­si­ble when we lend the first hand by over­com­ing the self-styled pres­tige. Un­less we de­velop this feel­ing of one­ness and in­still a sense of se­cu­rity and ac­cess to equal rights, the un­rest in the Val­ley would go on for an­other 50 years or more. And, as per my un­der­stand­ing of pa­tri­o­tism and na­tion­al­ism, I be­lieve in not rul­ing the peo­ple but serv­ing the peo­ple.

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