South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The ravishing Kashmir valley has suffered waves of intense unrest and sporadic violence since 1947. Three generations of Kashmiri populace have witnessed the horrors of conflict. Not only Kashmiris, people of the South Asian region are also the immediate burden-bearers of the turmoil. Any incident happening in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) determines the course of the relationship between two nuclear powers of South Asia-India and Pakistan. Faced with the challenge of shrinking political space, over the last decade, Kashmiri resistance has undergone a serious shift in tactical terms, from civil disobedience to armed resistance. There have been several instances of students, academics, intellectuals and scholars choosing the path of armed struggle, mainly because they see no other way to resist the atrocities unleashed by the Indian military machine. Adil Ahmed Dar, the alleged young suicide bomber in recent Pulwama attack is one of those victims who were humiliated by the Indian forces.

Though the only constant in IHK is suffering, the human rights abuses by the Indian forces have been intensified since Mr. Narendra Modi of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power in 2014. The resistance followed by the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016, is one of the examples of Indian brutalities which led to a major uprising in Kashmir. The UN Report has already condemned the Kashmir’s Public Safety Act (PSA) by denouncing it as a lawless law. The PSA promulgated in 1978 (amended in 1987 and 1990) empowers the State government to detain a person without trial for two years under the pretext of maintenance of public order. Under Section 22 of the PSA, any legal proceeding against officials for acts ‘done in good faith’ are also disallowed. In 2010, India also introduced the 12-gauge pellet shotgun in IHK when major anti-India protests and clashes with government forces left over 100 dead. According to Amnesty International, pellet guns have reportedly killed 14 Kashmiri people and have injured 6000 including nearly 800 with eye injuries since 2010. Among the wounded and blinded Kashmiris have been women and young children. The result of the use of pellet guns for crowd control is now known as the world’s first case of mass blinding or dead eye epidemic.

The decades long state oppression, brutality, rape and massacre are primarily responsible for the youth’s uprising in IHK and it can not be overshadowed by using baseless, irrational and illogical media gimmickry

With each passing day, anti-Indian sentiments are setting the Kashmiri youth on the path of resistance. The iron fist military strategy in IHK has worsened the situation where the masses are alienated to an extent that they are taking up arms against state oppression. The youth instead of pursuing education and career are opting violent means to express their right to self determination. Beside tactical aspects of Pulwama attack where the intelligence failure is obvious there is a dominant social side which the state of India has always tried to hide and override. The state of affairs has exposed the capacity of the Indian army on one side and the hollowness of its society on the other, where Kashmiri students are thrashed and harassed by extremist elements across the country. The post Pulwama attack scenario will further strengthen the conviction of Kashmiri youth that they have no place in Indian polity, and that the struggle for liberation requires an extraordinary strategy of resistance.

The trend is not limited to one odd example but there are instances where youth from different parts of IHK belonging to diverse educational and social backgrounds have been registering their protest through various means and tactics. The message from the populace is effectively being delivered to the Indian deep state that you have occupied the land but you can not win the hearts and minds of the people. The decades long state oppression, brutality, rape and massacre are primarily responsible for the youth’s uprising in IHK and it can not be overshadowed by using baseless, irrational and illogical media gimmickry.

In 21st century it is not possible now for a state to suppress movement of liberation by force and create a false perception through media particularly when youth at such a tender age realizes that struggle for right to self determination is paramount.

It is infelicitous that every single time when Kashmir issue rose to the fore, sanity never gets a chance to prevail thus preventing the international community capable of empathetic investigation from seeking an answer to the simple question: Why would a Kashmiri offer himself as a human bomb? What makes Kashmiris to reject the efficacy of political process in world’s largest democracy?

Incontrovertibly, the Kashmiris are increasingly losing faith in the tools of justice and liberty that this democratic juggernaut has to offer. Sometimes, people tend to pick violence to get rid of violence. If India continues to take hard approach, this trend is likely to inspire suppressed masses and thus become unmanageable. International community, in this regard, is equally responsible to ensure the fair exercise of democracy and human rights in Kashmir.

The writer Gulshan Rafiq works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute, IPRI

Published in Daily Times, February 22nd 2019.