BY ANWESHA RAY CHAUDHURI
“Never underestimate the power of youth to change the world. The young have forever spurred revolutions and rebellions!!
I am Egypt tonight!!!”
A wave of revolution is sweeping the Arab world, and it seems time for democracy to prevail in a region historically governed by autocracies. The above quote was a friend’s Facebook status.
He is Kashmiri, but sitting thousands of miles away from the madness; he still empathises and identifies with what can now only be called a pan-Arab movement. He empathises since he comes from a region in the throes of a violent and bloody conflict aimed at bringing true democracy to the valley of Kashmir, a region claimed by India, a democratic nation, as its “atoot ang”, its inseparable part. The population has suffered the worst, its numbers decimated, and yet they are resilient, striving to bring about the change they want to see.what was promised to them. A similar pattern emerges from both places. These are regions set apart by geography, culture and customs, and yet the desire to end years of oppression irrevocably binds them.
The events of the past month or so have taught us that technology has enormous potential for creating a liberal space in otherwise stifled political environments. The question remains, though: will modern technology and emerging global civil society render our current world geopolitical structure redundant? In Kashmir’s context, will it inspire yet another uprising in a region already strife torn for 64 years? Could it be a movement that will change the dynamics of South Asian politics forever? Because regardless of what is unfolding in the Arab world, Kashmiris continue to live under severe restrictions, afflicted with a political structure that is inherently a paradox, remain nonplussed about the future.
Last summer’s unrest in the valley, and the mass killings that characterised it, predictably lost steam as the population grew weary of getting precisely nothing for all their sacrifice; nothing that is, apart from the appointment of a team of three interlocutors, mandated to “listen to the people of Kashmir”.hogwash perpetrated by the Government of India in an inane attempt at underscoring its ‘earnest desire’ to resolve the Kashmir issue.
Young men, little children, women, young and old, all took to the streets; fought pitched battles with police, paramilitaries, even the regular army, striking out, at something, anything, only to be killed. Memories are fresh, wounds are open. Protesters, armed with stones, wearing armour of passion.without ammunition like the forces of oppression, spilled out of their homes, marching towards a beacon: that freedom from injustice.from long years of serfdom in the cloak of democracy. The scenes from Cairo’s Tahrir square are reminiscent of the ones from Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, but on their part, Egyptians demanded merely the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and his 30 years of oppression. Till about a month ago, Arab regimes gave the impression of being strong and secure, backed as they are by a monopoly of exceptional violence. With odds like that, striving for democratic change seemed a losing battle.Tunisia, then, was decisive. It indicated that the seeming invincibility of authoritarian regimes is illusory; they can fall. One would be forgiven for believing that to catalyse that change, all you need is a liberal dose of ‘people power’. After all, there safety in numbers.
In appearance, at least, both uprisings are similar. Increasing oppression has made both sets of people restive, and they are no longer ready to tolerate it. At a macro level, this is an alert for all polity about the importance of democratic norms and justice. Further, in both contexts, it is mostly – though not exclusively – youth who’ve been taking to the streets. No particular ideology is driving the uprisings, other than an intense thirst for freedom from authoritarian rule and insensitive policies. There are also pro-democracy, anti-globalisation and radical Islamic elements present in both contexts. In Kashmir, however, the pitch for demands for the democratisation of politics and institutions is much louder, since the last twenty years have made these institutions dysfunctional. That being said, as alluded to above, the information revolution has provided a platform to people for venting their outbursts, and this holds true in both places. Protestors, not just in Egypt and Kashmir, but all over the world, have used blogs, social networking sites and so forth to organise themselves and their resistance.
Now that Mubarak is gone, the peoples’ struggle stands vindicated. Its triumph, however, holds lessons for Kashmiris.lessons they would do well to internalise.that people, whether secular or religious, must not raise unnecessary slogans, a phenomenon all too common to protests in the Valley. In so doing, movements acquire communal, radical or Islamist tags. The issues at play are therefore very different.that Kashmiris are protesting publicly against the status quo, as are people of Egypt, is where the similarity ends.
In Egypt, their discipline and the peacefulness of their protests have paved the way for their triumph, although discipline and peacefulness alone could not have secured it. In this regard, the role of the armed forces has to be mentioned. Comparing forces in Kashmir and Egypt, one immediately notices that they stood by their people in Egypt and did not open fire on protestors, unlike in Kashmir, where armed forces including the police routinely shoot directly at protestors, with the government refusing to intervene to fix accountability. Another vital aspect the victory of the Egyptians over oppression has made clear is that of the role of leadership. The people’s movement in Egypt was against its system but within its boundaries: unlike Kashmir, it was not for secession, although in the unfortunate case of Kashmir, it cannot even be said that that is the one political goal that the entire political leadership strives to achieve.
From the analysis preceding, one may reasonably argue that Egypt and Kashmir are entirely different. Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan where Egypt is a case of freedom from autocracy. On deeper analysis, however, it is clear that the philosophical underpinnings of both movements ultimately call for a change in the status quo, demand freedom from years of injustice; decry human rights abuse and repression. Herein lies the lesson for the government and the people of Kashmir: that violence and oppression on both sides need not be the tools needed for democracy to prevail; the power of resilience goes a long way.
(The author has done her Masters from the School of Oriental and African Studies in International Studies and Diplomacy and is presently working in Delhi based Institute For Defence Studies and Analyses as a Research Assistant)Source:KT
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