Jammu & Kashmir Uprising Threatens To Descend Into Chaos21 December 2011
New Delhi: Owing to the two-decade-long bloody conflict, a culture of violence has seeped deep down into the body politic of Kashmir. Or ‘resistance against repression’, as separatists conveniently describe violent means of agitation, has induced a highly intolerant attitude among Kashmiri youngsters. Whatever, the sum total is that Kashmir has lost its unique character; the gracious and accommodating nature of the Kashmiri people, known to the outside world since time immemorial. Tariq Ahmad Bhat, 24, a shopkeeper at Nowhatta, downtown Srinagar, died in a local hospital last week. On December 3, he was mercilessly beaten with a cricket bat by ‘miscreants’ for defying a call for shutdown. In a more civilised society, an innocent person being devoured by senseless violence would have normally triggered a process of introspection. And it was more incumbent upon the leadership, irrespective of any ideological divide claiming to represent the people, to ponder over the latest turn of events: why and how bloody chaos is threatening to replace the popular uprising? Instead, Tariq’s unfortunate death has stirred a political controversy, with politicians and separatists engaged, as usual, in a blame game. As expected, Omar Abdullah, so far Jammu and Kashmir’s most inefficient chief minister and besieged with a plethora of controversies, was quick to start a wordy brawl. Omar squarely blamed the separatists for the death of Tariq: ‘A peaceful and youthful person of Nowhatta is the latest victim of your outlook.’ Warning them, he thundered “One day, you have to apologise to the people for this sort of attitude.’ He had a valid point while condemning the separatists’ highly irresponsible behaviour in introducing violent means of agitation when he said, ‘If you want to fight, you should fight politically and not by means of hooliganism, highhandedness and muscle power.’ However, in an effort to score a point, Omar sought to trivialise the entire Kashmir problem by blaming separatists for hoodwinking ‘people by slogans and fear.’ It can be argued, and rightly so, that separatists for their cheap vested interests over the years have exploited the sentiments of the people. But to describe the complex Kashmir problem as mere sloganeering would tantamount to misrepresentation of history. Either Omar is oblivious of history or else out he is indulging in sheer political vindictiveness. Fact of the matter is that the present breed of separatists - the small fry in comparison to the colossal Sheikh Abdullah, Omar’s grandfather and the original inventor of the Kashmir problem - are the product of the situation rather than originators of the problem. Putting the entire onus on separatists amounts to providing them a larger-than-life image. Confusing the situation momentarily might be helpful. Eventually it will lead nowhere. Similarly the separatists are not prepared to accept even a shred of the blame. They have developed a holier-than-thou attitude. Tariq was killed by the boys apparently linked with separatists’ sentiment if not directly belonging to any separatist organisation. Yet hardliner separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, completely washing his hand from the incident, has asked, “Let the CM tell who is involved in the killing?” Hitting back at the chief minister, Geelani has claimed, “We have been maintaining that our movement is peaceful and there is no justification or space for using force or violence for achieving the goal. Who is putting our teenagers and minors behind the bars?” There are no two opinions that at times the state machinery applies brutal measures to suppress public uprisings. That teenagers are booked under the Public Safety Act is not an accusation; it is an established fact. Omar, after the merciless killing of more than hundred teenagers in the streets of Kashmir in 2010, has no moral right to castigate separatists for Tariq’s tragic death. However, it is the separatists who are solely responsible for introducing violence in Kashmir’s politics. Geelani may condemn violence today, he used to take great pride for being described as the fatherly figure of the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. And lately henchmen of Geelani freely branded the critics of stonepelting - the most uncivilised way of agitation - as Indian agents. Comparing stonepelting with the Palestinian Intifada, didn’t the separatist intellectuals defend the ugly phenomenon of stonepelting “if suppression is ugly, resistance can’t be beautiful.’ Irrespective of any suppression, urge for freedom is the cry of the soul, a beautiful moving sentiment. What is ugly is always ugly. Alas but without any ambiguity, Tariq’s murder represents the darker side of Kashmir.