Kashmir’s Generational Divide and the Anger of the Dispossessed

  • GOW HAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: Jun 11 2017 2:07AM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 11 2017 2:07AM
Kashmir’s Generational Divide and the Anger of the DispossessedFile Photo

Kashmiri youths seem to have lost faith in the political elite which is not only corrupt but has little or no respect for people’s dignity and life

 

What happened in Kashmir in 1989 did not happen in isolation. There was a regional context and also a global framework. Some, however, argue that the popular armed struggle that broke out in the Kashmir Valley then was an angry response to the massively rigged Assembly Elections of 1987, but this is a very naïve and simplistic analysis of a complex Kashmir dispute. Much was happening in Kashmir.

And too much was happening globally. The decade in question was the 1990s and the event was the battle for Bosnia. At the start of the decade the former Yugoslavia was crumbling into chaos and civil war. Germany witnessed the historic fall of the Berlin Wall. The Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) led by Abassi Madani and his number two, Ali Belhadj, was officially launched during Friday prayers on 10 March 1989 at the Ben Badis mosque in the Kouba neighbourhood of Algiers.

Indeed, a lot was happening around various parts of the globe in specific regional contexts. Kashmir too had its own context of various vibrant political movements  (The Plebiscite Front from 1953 to 1975) and transitory armed struggles (al-Fateh) after the Partition in 1947, and the Quit Kashmir movement led by the Sheikh before 1947 against the despotic Dogra regime. As of today, Kashmir’s youths are finding themselves at the crossroads much like the Algerian youths did in 1988-89. 

Not surprisingly, the Kashmir society is beginning to fracture along generational lines as youth are becoming the spectre with an aim to revolutionize the region’s political landscape. They are obviously unhappy with the status quo and think they must do everything under their control to alter it. Their costly expression results in loss of precious human lives because of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s  majoritarian discourse and militaristic and muscular Kashmir policy. 

In October 1988, thousands of youths, mostly school-going students, gathered at Central Algiers. They were angry at many things which included the absence of basic foodstuffs in the department stores, price hike, political uncertainty, and unemployment, etc. They were up in arms against a system which they perceived was humiliating them. 

Today’s youths in Kashmir are feeling choked in a similar fashion on multiple fronts. They are angry at the political elites which more often  than not ridicule their political and economic aspiration and dub them as “miscreants”, “stone pelters”, “rioters” and “misguided youth”. 

Historically, the corrupt authorities have always employed derogatory terminology to deny agency to the youths to express themselves freely without fear of reprisals. For instance the youths in Algeria, many of whom were inspired by the young Palestinians fighting against the Israeli armed forces since 1987, were involved in their very own Intifada against the Chadli regime. In their assessment, Chadli was dishonourable, dishonest and unjust leader. For his anti-people policies, Chadli was denigrated as privileged and self-serving elite.

In a similar style, the Kashmiri youths seem to have lost faith in the political elite which is not only corrupt but has little or no respect for people’s dignity and life, and has no vision for region’s political and economic future. The Algerian youths would coin interesting slogans, which often took the form of rhyming couplets, to ridicule Chadli and his wife Halima: We don’t want butter or pepper We want a leader we can respect In Kashmir’s context too, there seems to be little respect for politicians across the ideological divide for variety of reasons. At this juncture, there are serious question  marks over the relevance of the so-called pro-India mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir while many uncomfortable queries are raised in the wake of latest corruption and money laundering allegations against the pro-resistance Hurriyat leadership. 

Sadly, the political leadership in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is repeating the same experiment of repression that it performed in the early 1990s and the one that President Chadli’s army performed in Algeria. The army in Algeria was given a free rein to shoot indiscriminately into the crowds and to torture arrested youngsters. The authorities banned demonstrations, imposed strict curfews and deployed tanks at strategic checkpoints throughout the capital. Moreover, the authorities in no uncertain terms declared that there will be no dialogue with “the rioters, hooligans and  looters”. The government decided to deal with the problem from law-and-order point of view.

With the result, some five hundred Algerians, mostly young men, were brutally killed. This was Algeria’s Black October. The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir too have been enjoying monopoly over violence since long, carrying out civilian massacres like Gowkadal, Hawal, Zakura, Bijbehara, Sopore, etc in the early 1990s with legal impunity while hundreds of youths have been brutally killed in treet protests since the summer uprising of 2008 followed by two bloody summers of 2010 and 2016. No sincere attempt has been made to engage the youths, to listen to their political grievances. All agency is being denied to them. All spaces for democratic dissent stand choked. Their legitimate aspirations are being criminalised. They are being humiliated, tortured, ridiculed and demonised. This policy of successive governments will have far-reaching consequences.  You can’t ridicule genuine aspirations of the protesting Kashmiri girls, in jeans or inhijab, and boys sporting beard or clean haven.

Denying agency to them is no panacea. Ignoring them will isolate over 60 per cent of the region’s population. Therefore, the need of the hour is to acknowledge anger of the dispossessed and engage the Kashmiri youths in a meaningful manner. In a dignified manner. While engaging them you  can’t ignore the wider context of the Kashmir dispute. Open your eyes to see the big fat elephant in the room. You will ignore the animal in the room at your own peril.