Battle of Perceptions

  • GOWHAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: Aug 10 2017 8:56PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Aug 10 2017 8:56PM
Battle of Perceptions

                                                  File Photo: Aman Farooq/KI 

 

Delhi’s Truth is Trith for Kashmir

 

From a Kashmiri perspective, Kashmir is a ticking bomb waiting to explode. Killings have become a daily affair. The abnormal is becoming a new normal.

The mood in the Kashmir Valley is sombre. Anywhere you go in Kashmir an uneasy calm follows you.

On top of it, the vast sections of India’s electronic media are demonising Kashmiris in primetime debates, accusing them of being “terrorist sympathisers” and supporters of “Islamic terror” and of siding with those wanting to establish Caliphate.

Is Kashmir really radicalised? Has Kashmir changed?

A strong view exists in New Delhi that Kashmir has changed in the last decade or so and become more radicalised than before.

“Yes, Kashmir has changed”, says Prof. Siddiq Wahid Radhu, a Srinagar-based historian, author, academic and political commentator. “Because India has changed,” he insists.

As India is heading toward a muscular, militaristic and radical Hindu nationalism, it is but natural for Kashmir to react with something which it is already nervous about; swamping nationalism for instance.

After ascent of Narendre Modi as Prime Minister in May 2014, there is a substantial change in India’s social atmosphere.

Noted weekly magazine India Today in its editorial dated July 24 notes that “India has recently seen a spate of horrific lynchings accompanied, quite disturbingly, by prolonged silences from those in power, at the Centre and in the states.”

With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar falling in Modi’s lap, the crisis for secularists and liberals in India has deepened further. For now, it is a One Man Show in India.

What is happening on Kashmir’s turf? Is Kashmir’s political landscape witnessing a change? Are we seeing religious radicalisation?

It is important to know and understand what kind of radicalisation we are talking about. There is hardly any religious radicalisation in the Kashmir Valley.

However, it is fair to say that there is political radicalisation in Kashmir. This is because the Valleyites are educated, assertive and conscious than before. Kashmir has witnessed a transformation.

“This transformation has not happened in isolation though,” says Prof. Wahid.

Maverick legislator from north Kashmir’s Langate Engineer Abdul Rasheed is of the opinion that “Kashmir has become a laboratory for Hindu nationalists to test various ideas for electoral gains in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere by whipping up religious passions through jingoist corporate media.” He adds that this policy might prove counterproductive in the longer run.

Had Kashmir been radicalised on religious lines there would have hardly been any condemnation of the attack on Amarnath pilgrims on July 10.

The truth is that Kashmiris across the ideological divide mourned the killing of eight Amarnath pilgrims, which included six women, in a suspected militant attack in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

After the outbreak of a popular anti-India armed rebellion in 1989, the first ever attack on the pilgrims took place in 2000. There were other attacks in later years.

There was outrage against such attacks then. There is massive outrage now.

In fact, the latest attack on Amarnath pilgrims evoked a more pulsating response from Kashmir’s vibrant civil society formations for there is a lack of social sanctity to attacks on civilians, unarmed policemen, tourists and pilgrims in the Himalayan Valley.

On July 11, many members of Kashmir’s civil society coalitions, human rights bodies, business fraternity, academics, historians, social activists, poets, journalists and students gathered at Srinagar’s Partap Park to register their strong protest against the attack on yatris.

In their unequivocal condemnation they demanded an independent probe into the attack.

Even Kashmir’s joint resistance leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik expressed “deep sorrow and grief” over the killing of pilgrims. Deploring the attack, the Hurriyat leaders in a strongly worded statement said “this incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos. The annual Amarnath Yatra has been going on peacefully for centuries and it is part of our yearly rhythm and will remain so. Our heart goes out to the families of the bereaved and we express our heartfelt condolences to them.”

Naeem Akhtar, a senior PDP leader and minister in Jammu and Kashmir Government, described the attack on pilgrims as a “dark patch in the history of Kashmir”

We saw similar reactions from Kashmir’s civil society and the new generation when Jammu and Kashmir Police department’s DySp Ayub Pandith was lynched outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid in the month of fasting, days before the Eid-ul-Fitr. Young girls and boys expressed their outrage against the incident on social media.

The strong response by Kashmir’s civil society over lynching of DySp Ayub in Srinagar and the attack on Amarnath yatris in Anantnag demonstrated that killings lack a social sanctity in Kashmir. Kashmiris value dignity to human lives, but have little or no choices to alter what’s going on at the bigger stage between combatants from both sides.

 

This is Kashmir’s reality.

On the other hand, the security experts have their views.

Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police Muneer Khan speaking to this author admitted that the attack on the innocent pilgrims was “indeed a setback for all of us”, but he sounded confident that “we will soon eliminate those behind this criminal and inhuman act.” He blamed a Pakistani national Ismael for planning and orchestrating the attack on yatris. Ismael, according to him, is a “terrorist associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and involved in a number of recent attacks on government forces.” “He (Ismael) is doing all this nonsense. He is feeling emboldened after planning some recent attacks. He is doing all this at Pakistan’s behest,” IGP claimed.

In a secret communication dated June 25 there was an intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag that the militants “have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 yatris and about 100 police officers/officials.” This certainly raises critical questions why then the adequate preventive measures were not put in place.

But the LeT issued a statement denying its hand in the attack.

According to top intelligence officers the total number of militants in the Kashmir Valley is about 230 of which between 145 to 150 are locals. Most of them, according to a senior officer, are operating in four south Kashmir districts viz Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag. The rest of the militants, he said, are active in Ganderbal, Bandipora, Kupwara and Budgam districts.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior police officer with 20 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations told me that “the new-age militants in Kashmir are highly motivated, religiously radicalised and indoctrinated. Religion is playing an important role.”

“According to a flawed understanding of religious matters they are waging a holy war and therefore seeking paradise,” he claimed.

Be that as it may, can Kashmir’s society be judged so loosely? What is Truth for Delhi is Trith (a Kashmiri word for utter falsehood) for Kashmir. That is why the difference between perceptions in Srinagar and New Delhi remains intact.