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Kashmir conflict-revisited

In early1980s, walking through the lush green fields, on crisp spring and summer mornings, on my way from the student hostel to the chemis...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kashmir conflict-revisited

In early1980s, walking through the lush green fields, on crisp spring and summer mornings, on my way from the student hostel to the chemistry department in Kashmir University or while looking out from the window of my room at three peaks of Zabarwan hills of mystifying beauty, my head would be bedeviled with all-consuming Kashmir issue that would linger from discussions with fellow students coming from virtually every corner of the valley. Kashmir has remained one place where one could avoid anything but being political. I grew up with a constant talk of freedom, with processions demanding self-rule and any disturbance anywhere in the world would turn into an issue against occupation of Kashmir by an external power. The perception that early years of 1980 decade were times of apparent tranquility and relative prosperity with Kashmir as a settled issue or so powers to be thought, particularly those in Delhi, was nothing more than a delusional mirage. From my interactions and discussions with people and the place, I had a lingering feeling of a reality that was at odds with canonical wisdom of the time; I harbored perennial doubts about the long term viability of an apparent mismatch that had been fostered on the place through various machinations and historical quirks. The place, to me, seemed like straddling deeply faulty political tectonic plates. The ensuing collision could not be avoided nor could the impact of the impending cataclysm be predicted. And when that collision happened it defied the worst predictions, if anyone had made any. While geological collusions occur through the course guided by forces of nature, the unscrupulous external forces and powers to be with absolute lack of imaginations hastened the eruption of political fault lines in Kashmir and result was a war that engulfed the entire populace. What had completely defied any prediction was an utter fragility and total collapse of the state even when the war was in its infancy; the later regrouping of the state came in form of a strategy based on counter insurrection that out did rebels in tactics and torture and veritably in brutality.

Completely engulfing conflict became all-consuming and not a single demographic group escaped its trepidations and effects; the war obliterated an old order or perhaps that old order failed to see its obsoleteness and that it had outlived its utility. Many from that old order either escaped or embraced new reality and for those whom neither option existed were left to fend for themselves. The armed insurrection of 1989 did not happen overnight and as a matter of fact it had been on the anvil for a long time; it was there to see for anyone who wanted to read signs. The seeds of future conflict in Kashmir were already sown the moment an instrument of accession was signed in 1947; both Indian leadership and representatives of Kashmir harbored visions that were at complete cross purposes from one another. The former more interested in an idea of a monolithic unified Indian state than anything else and the later holding to dream of an autonomous entity. One of the fundamental facts remained that accession to the Indian state never gained acceptance and legitimacy in the valley, which was further complicated by forced and inhumane demographic engineering in Jammu province at the behest of the then Dogra ruler. For Indian state it didn’t take long to lay bare its naked ambitions through dismissal of the Sheikh Abdullah government in 1953 and from then onwards all it did was to run a charade of stage managed democracy in the state. Nevertheless, the decades of 1970s and 1980s, in my opinion, were watershed in pushing the valley into the inferno of 1990s. The changed geopolitics of the subcontinent in early 1970s did not leave Kashmir unaffected and in part led to an accord of 1975 that brought Sheikh Abdullah back to power in the state, albeit, in a much diminished form.

The Indian government with its known propensity to be short sighted failed to perceive changes taking place in the international arena, in particular the revolution in Iran that overthrew Shah and eventually brought Shiite clergy headed by Ayatollah Khomeini into power and global forces unleashed in its aftermath; it continued with its unreformed vehemence in1980s in its dealing with Kashmir after the death of Sheikh Abdullah that not only alienated the people further but led to hardening of opinions against what was now seen as nothing more than an oppressive state. Twin disasters, the state governor in the form of Jag Mohan, twice over, and botched elections of 1987, could be in many ways thought as the catalysts for the disaster that befell valley in 1990s. The increased tenuousness of the situation in the valley accompanied with ever increased brutality by security forces of the state. The question whether rebellion would have been otherwise circumvented is hard to answer; the disaster, nevertheless, always lurked in the shadows owing to very faulty underpinning of the entire enterprise; perhaps the abyss into which Kashmir eventually fell, was avoidable or at least could be cushioned. The war that engulfed Kashmir has seen many narratives enumerating the causes and consequences but most of those utterly failed due to overt tendencies towards linearization and simplifications. History, as a historian friend would always scold me, is more than a mere narration of events; events affect people and they are the ones who live through the times bad and good. As a matter of fact history parallels lives of the people that live through and is best understood through their ordeals and travails. The decade of war that ravaged the valley affected lives of those who were living their ordinary existence and saw themselves caught in the vortex of cataclysmic conflict and affected them irreparably whether or not they had wished for it. The stories of those individuals constitute the history of conflict and its genesis that resulted in a lost decade and cost tens of thousands lives in deaths and disappearances. In the context of struggle, the conflict was motivated for a cause that still remains subliminal.
-Rajiv Kumar