October 2016 News

'Us Versus Them' Narrative Spreads Wide And Fast

16 October 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: A few days before Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8, he had circulated a video, saying, 'Kashmir is for Kashmiris,' and warned of direct action against all those working against his goal of setting up of a caliphate in Kashmir. This message, which became his last, was seen as a counter to the fact that one of his close aides had surrendered to the police and helped the forces to neutralise some of his associates. But that his death would spur some kind of a calamity for the Valley was unimaginable. Now July looks like a distant century. Everything has been turned upside down. Kashmir is not what it used to be and it would never be the same again. The Valley has seen many tragedies in the past over 26 years in terms of deaths by bullets, graves of the children and surreal life of shutdowns and curfews. These tragedies were laced with a particular narrative, in which there was a weird convergence of anger and aspiration titled as demand for 'freedom.' It is much more serious. The narrative has transcended the 'azadi' slogan - now it is purely and purely religious and fundamentalist in which non-Kashmiri Muslims have no space but the idea of Pakistan as a Muslim state is more welcome than it was even when the streets used to reverberate with full-throated slogans, 'Kashmir banega Pakistan.' Call for political 'azadi' has been superimposed by the fundamentalist thoughts and actions so much that opening of schools is considered as an act of treason. Kashmir had never forgotten the haunting images of deadly encounters, cross-fire, massacres, burning of houses and shops and mass migration of minorities. A place where many temples never heard the tolling of bells and the mosques were converted into bush telegraph for resistance. But the images of the young getting blinded or killed by pellets - Insha of Shopian and Junad Akhoon, 12, of Srinagar - have got imprinted on the minds of everyone, particularly the young. Something very different has happened. There is a renewed awakening about political, diplomatic and internationality of the Kashmir issue. Five or six-year-olds are feeling empowered with stones in their hands and believe that they can challenge the Indian might by hurling these missiles on the Army camps and convoys. The images of the blind and the neighbhourhood boy being lowered into graves is just giving logic to the little minds that they must do their bit by throwing stones, unmindful of the lethal consequences. This generation is growing. It is swamping the Valley. In its eyes, not only the soldiers or policemen are in the frame of adversaries who necessarily and compulsorily need to be targeted, but also defeated. Their anger is also growing against those who have deserted them. The students and parents who have shifted outside the Valley looking for peaceful space for undisturbed studies have become a source of hatred for them. Since this class has shifted outside the Valley - known as 'India', the lexicon they learnt from their parents and grandparents and now being fuelled by separatists, they view them as Indians or Indian sympathisers. 'If we could sacrifice our schools and studies, they too, could have done the same,' this chorus by the stone-throwers is quite often heard. Beneath this is hatred and anger over the affluent class that could afford studies of their children outside the Valley. Likewise, anyone driving a car is an automatic target. It has graduated to the class war. It is one set of 'us versus them.'