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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 32 New Delhi July 27, 2019

The Stupidity of Repeating Failed Strategies - Playing games doomed to be a zero sum game

Saturday 27 July 2019

by Amin Sofi

Never to learn lessons from a long list of mistakes it already stands accused of having committed in Kashmir, the Government of India is at it again, repeating those worn-out tactics which have singularly failed to achieve even a semblance of peace and normalcy in Kashmir. Whether it involves looking at the K-issue exclusively from a security perspective that is entirely of our neighbour’s making, a law and order problem exacerbated by a lack of development on the ground with the attendant lack of avenues for employment of the educated youth of Kashmir, or the manner in which Kashmir was handled by Pandit Nehru at the time of Partition, these are all red herrings with no bearing on the ground situation in Kashmir. Reading restoration of normalcy in the deceptive lull that may be visible on the ground right now could be extremely counterproductive as we had learned to our cost in the upheavals that had visited us in 2008, 2010 and more ominously in 2016! For all there is to it, Kashmir remains a highly inflammable tinderbox that has in it to explode without prior warnings, with devastating consequences for whatever little may be pretended to have been done in pursuit of peace which only genuine and well-intentioned measures and policies would help achieve!

As part of these failed strategies, the view that subjecting Kashmiris to oppression involving wanton killings of Kashmiri youth, devastating their properties, nerve-breaking hardships and indignities of the most heinous kind would dent their resolve for an honourable and dignified life comes across as the most ill-thought-out and horrendous. In this connection, the ‘highway hamhandedness’ involving the blocking of roads during the frequent movement of the Amarnath yatra is a case in point. It’s not only vastly inconvenient, irritating and nauseating; it’s also awfully disgraceful—being stopped in the middle of the road while crossing to the other side or while travelling in a vehicle! This disgrace which continues for a cool twenty minutes on an average, and several times each single day on the roads of Kashmir, has been inflicted on the people here to ‘facilitate’ the movement of Army convoys and of Amarnath yatra caravans, never mind the pain and embarrassment thus being caused to the people living in this god-forsaken part of the world. On the one hand, the government does everything it takes to ensure hassle-free yatra and, on the other, despite such hardships being faced by the local Kashmiris, they leave no stone unturned to do whatever it takes to facilitate the yatra in all way possible. The sad part of the saga is the manner in which the government and its agencies reciprocate such friendly gestures by the public by not letting even the medical ambulances pass through, thus leading, in some cases, to the death of several critical patients having been reported in the past few weeks who were being ferried to speciality hospitals in these ambulances.

A similar torture was caused when following bereavement in the family of a colleague at the university, a minibus carrying a group of university teachers had started its journey to the colleague’s hometown which is barely a 45-minutes-drive from the campus. Come to think of it, it took the bus no less than four hours to reach the destination as it was stopped on the way while the teachers were subjected to frisking and even interrogated at several places by the men in uniform. And all this to ensure the ruse of ‘smooth movement’ of Army convoys accompanying the Amarnath yatris! And compounding these problems by not letting truckloads of fruits to move, thus resulting in millions of tonnes of it to rot on the roads appears to be part of another devious strategy to cripple a great source of the Kashmir economy.

Equally traumatising has been the pain, agony and anguish being experienced upon being accosted, confronted and sometimes even interrogated by these hordes of government forces breathing down our neck in every nook and cranny of the Valley, including in the small lanes and by-lanes leading to our residences. This loss of the right to a life of honour and dignity and of the right to privacy of those living here is again the result of the government’s (non-) policy that seeks to skirt the real issue by addressing it purely as a law and order problem.

And in the midst of this all, there are these self-righteous “power houses of wisdom” offering gratuitous advice to those who are on the receiving end of mob violence in mainland India and to Kashmiris on how they should learn to live in India. My advice to this clan of educated, but totally ill-informed, Indians is the following: come and spend your holidays here, not in a hotel but in a Kashmiri household, preferably in the Valley’s hinterland and at the expense of your local hosts who are well known to be generous enough to provide hospitality to their guests. Assuming that you are educated, cultivated, emancipated individuals with an objective understanding of things, I for one would take it upon myself to follow your advice in letter and spirit that you would like to proffer subsequent to what you will have learned after your brief stay with your local hosts here! That would also give you an idea of what exactly is it that had brought palpable relief to fellow Kashmiris across the Valley following the loss of India to New Zealand in a semi-final match during the recently concluded cricket world cup in England! Way back in 1987 when the situation was known to be ‘perfectly normal’ in Kashmir, following India’s loss to the West Indies in a one-day international in Srinagar, the entire Valley had erupted in ecstasy, celebrating the loss of India to the Windies! That should serve as an eye-opener to those who don’t wish to see how India has messed it up and how it is being looked upon as the real villain of the piece in Kashmir.

As if all that is not enough, the GOI is now contemplating a Gaza-West Bank type of colonisation in Kashmir, thanks to how the Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) are willingly participating in this death wish! It is a sad fact of life that when a lie is repeated an umpteen number of times, it begins to assume a life of its own—as truth. That is precisely what the people of India have been misled into believing that KPs were hounded away by their Kashmiri Muslim (KM) counterparts in 1989 when militancy had broken out in the Valley. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the unimpeachable truth remains that KP’s had thought of themselves as being on a different page and so couldn’t get themselves to bear with the idea of KMs having welcomed and embraced the calls for azadi that had occasioned the cataclysmic developments in the Valley against the Indian state in 1989-1990. In the ensuing years as the KPs were beginning to lose all hope of returning to the Valley, they decided to sell their properties to the local Muslims out of their own volition. Whereas there remains absolutely no doubt that KMs nurse no ill-will against them and wish to welcome them back to start a new phase of their life alongside their Muslim neighbours, the idea of resettling them in separate colonies to be fortified by armed security on the lines of Gaza and West Bank is a sure recipe for further chaos and unrest in the Valley, with equally baneful implications for India. That is an outlandish approach to a problem which has absolutely no takers from the vast majority of Kashmiris living in the Valley. The government of the day thinking on these lines is obviously playing into the hands of the enemies of the country who want to see the Valley go up in flames, yet again. It’s time to pause for reflection, especially for those who have no idea of what goes into the making of a strong, progressive and a great nation and of what can push the country on a path of ruin and destruction.

The question arises: Which world are these policy-pundits living in who have thought of such outlandish measures to ‘win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris’? How would they hope to achieve that by putting in place such draconian measures which, on the contrary, make every Kashmiri’s blood boil? Leave alone the young Kashmiris who are made to face even worse indignities and humiliations on a daily basis, such indignities have been too much for the taking even by those like this author who are well past their age of exuberance and intolerance? The fact is that Kashmir has been turned into an akhara of bad politics where good sense and statesmanship have been pushed to the background to give way to political brinkmanship! The spectacle of Amarnath yatra as is being ‘imposed’ in the Valley of Kashmir has to be seen more as a statement loaded with politics of the most devious kind than as a genuinely religious activity that would have ensured minimal discomfort to those not directly involved in it. It is a pity that the inborn suppleness and hospitality of Kashmiris is being taken for granted by those who have a strange view of hoping to win their case in Kashmir by riding roughshod over the emotions of Kashmiris. For all we know and have gone through, that is a deceitful hope which can’t wish away the stark ground reality that the state does not wish to accept: That India has lost its writ in Kashmir and that no amount of use of force is going to make any difference to the situation, save a willingness to reach out to those who have been suffering these indignities and to address the issue head on! All else is doomed to fail.

The author belongs to the Adjunct Faculty, Central University of Kashmir (CUK), Srinagar. He can be contacted by e-mail at aminsofi[at]gmail.com

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