“Death and destruction continue to in Kashmir. And politicians have failed, their speeches are bogus, it’s time for civil society and academics step in and help lessen the violence and its aftermath”
(By Humra Quraishi)
Is there a Kashmir policy, a sound framework to contain the crisis erupting in the Valley? What is this government’s Kashmir policy? Does this government realise the extent of anger triggered off by the ongoing killings of the hapless civilians of the Kashmir Valley? Why are the civilians getting killed in such a targeted way, bullet injuries in the neck, head, mouth and chest? Why are all the youngsters being killed in the ongoing Army operations labelled and branded ‘militants’, are they all actually militants; after all, where is the much-needed transparency and accountability? Why are the civilians in the Valley crying out the inevitable, why does it get so easy for the security forces to kill and hound them?
Why are the rulers of the day sitting like mute spectators, witnessing these horrifying realities? Is it adequate to just come out with routinely worded condemnations and hollow assurances about setting up an enquiry or two? Isn’t it time that the real killers were booked for their crimes, for killing their fellow citizens? Whatever happened to all those political promises of zero tolerance towards civilian killings? Where on earth is the slightest trace of insaniyat and jamhuriyat that Prime Minister Narendra Modi harps on, whilst giving speech after speech on the Kashmir situation?
I’m writing this column in the backdrop of last weekend’s killings in Pulwama’s Sirnoo village, where 7 civilians were killed and 36 were injured in a firing by security forces. The Medical Superintendent of the Pulwama district hospital, Abdul Rashid Parra, said most of the civilians died of bullet injuries to the head, neck and chest. And most of these civilians were young.
One of them, Abid Hussain, 26, a resident of Karimabad, is survived by his Indonesian wife, Wiwiak, and a three-month-old child. The others killed were 14-year-old Aaquib Ahmad Bhat, 29-year-old Tauseef Ahmed Mir, 17-year-old Liyaqat Ahmed Dar. The list of the dead and injured is long, with entire families ruined and the atmosphere surcharged with anger and sorrow. Can peace ever be expected to hold out and prevail in this atmosphere, where violence holds out, where civilians are getting targeted and killed like never before!
Though the separatist leaders have given a call for a three-day strike and a protest march to the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters at Badami Bagh, Srinagar, over the killing of civilians after the latest encounter in Pulwama, but wherein lies the actual and permanent solution? Not to be overlooked is the vital fact that there is military might holding sway in the Valley. An atmosphere of siege prevails in the Valley.
Politicians in New Delhi have failed. Their speeches and promises sound fake and hollow. The political lot will have to rethink their strategy of using the military and paramilitary to crush the rebellious voices within the Valley. Political dialogue has to begin immediately because only a political solution will settle the mess that has been compounded over the years. The ‘war crimes’ on the civilian population are quite obviously increasing because of the impunity provided to the forces under AFSPA.
If the government in New Delhi was serious about settling the crisis in the Valley, it should have started off with an immediate dialogue with the Kashmiris and their Hurriyat leaders. It could have also started by implementing several measures that were suggested by Yashwant Sinha. He along with four other members of his team had visited the Valley, soon after the pellet gun injuries and killings had compounded the situation in the Valley in the autumn of 2016. This occured after the security forces’ fired on the funeral procession of militant Burhan Wani and the aftermath of which that had continued for months.
“Across the cross section of people we met, there was anguish about India not recognising that Kashmir was a dispute. The refusal to see Kashmir as a political issue, people claimed, had resulted in the present situation because a political issue cannot be solved through law and order measures”
Yashwant Sinha and his team members had met with a cross section of leaders, including Hurriyat’s Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. This team had submitted its detailed report and some of their suggestions could have helped in the ‘healing process’; that is, if they were implemented by the government of the day.
After all, the team had suggested the release of first-time offenders and minors arrested under the PSA, re-starting dialogue with the Separatists and a judicial probe on police excesses. It had also suggested compensation to kin of the civilians killed and those wounded, rehabilitation packages for those permanently blinded by pellet guns and the setting up of a blind school in Srinagar for children blinded by the pellet guns. It called for a judicial commission to look into the excesses of the police, especially their use of pellet guns.
The team had also focused on the fact that the search operations were resulting in a destruction of property in Kashmiri homes, “Apparently electrical and electronic gadgets are destroyed in the name of search operations. This continues even when the search operation yields nothing”
Most significantly it had stressed on this basic factor – “Across the cross section of people we met, there was anguish about India not recognizing that Kashmir was a dispute. The refusal to see Kashmir as a political issue, people claimed, had resulted in the present situation because a political issue cannot be solved through law and order measures.”
It seems quite obvious that the government is no mood to solve the crisis in the Kashmir Valley! What is the point of giving speech after speech when the killings are ongoing, when civilians are getting killed by security forces, day after day! An apology wouldn’t do. Ask the devastated and ruptured families of those killed by the unending violence!
Death and destruction continue to hold out in the Valley. And as politicians have failed and their speeches are turning out to be bogus, it’s time for civil society and academics step in and help lessen the violence and the aftermath of this violence.