Kupwara Killings and the Kashmiri condition: Why and how violence must stop?

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A certain hiatus and pregnant expectation defines the collective conscious and emotional landscape of Kashmiris as the division enters the 5th day of disturbance. Six people have been killed in the latest saga but as of now violence has not spilled over beyond the centre of gravity of the district- Kupwara.  Yes: there is a spill over effect but it is more in the nature of a psychic one. People are focussed on the events, stricken by grief at the gratuitous killings but have not crossed the threshold of broad based and widespread violence. That violence has not percolated beyond Kupwara is cold comfort for the people of Kashmir. The saga which began earlier this week coincided with what Kashmiri business persons and traders call the “season”. That is, when trickles of tourists start visiting Kashmir and this tourism provides succour to many- both directly and indirectly. The context to the expectation of inbound tourism to Kashmir is the generally poor economic condition of the people. The question that people are asking themselves and others is: what will happen?

Prognostication, given the uncertainty and unpredictability that defines Kashmir is a mug’s game. Nothing can be said with certainty here. But what can be asserted with a degree of confidence is that the “season”, to usurp the trader’s term, has started on a bad and negative note. This is not to imply only the negative after effects in terms of business and trade but the gratuitous loss of life in Kashmir. The loss of life has multifarious consequences: first, it falls , in the psychological continuum  of Kashmir, as a continuation of the past wherein Kashmiri lives do not appear to matter to “powers that be” . The assumption of these powers appears to be that as long as violence does not exceed a certain threshold, all is well. But this is precisely the sort of assumption that feeds the vicious cycle of alienation and violence in Kashmir. Each killing provides validation to the people of Kashmir that Kashmiris do not matter. What matters is Kashmir or more accurately the territory of Kashmir. This is a sure shot recipe for deeper and wider alienation which in turn is a premise for violence- either in the near or the distant future.

Containment or management of the conflict then is a wrong approach towards Kashmir given that it contains within it the seeds of further violence.

Another negative consequence that accrues from the repetition of the killings is that is creates a certain helplessness and despondency among Kashmiris. This is as ominous as can be. Kashmiris instead of looking outward retreat inward and become accepting of conditions that define Kashmir- economic, social and political. This, in turn, leads to a certain insouciance about life, politics and society: a condition which can only mean that Kashmir and Kashmiri society, its politics and political economy will remain static- while he world will move on.

These are amongst the obvious consequences of the spirals of violence that descend upon Kashmir.

The question is : what can be done?

We do not profess to be blow-hards nor Cassandra’s but what we do and will articulate is that the political class of Kashmir can and must take remedial action to pre-empt Kashmir’s slide. Consider the mainstream spectrum political class first. The mainstream political class in power must assert itself both within and without. The former means asserting authority over the various institutions of the state, including the Army. In terms of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this would mean adding weight and vigour to the chief minister’s status and stature within/ in the Unified Command to make it more accountable to herself/ himself and by implication the people. The police and other allied institutions also need to be made responsive and accountable. The Chief Minister must not merely rely on these institutions for policy inputs and information but also lead and guide them in terms of accountability and interface with the people. 

 

In the final analysis, these measures, howsoever important, may be mere palliatives. What will surely eliminate violence and inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity in Kashmir will be the resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir. Admittedly, this prescription is now so hackneyed and perhaps even clichéd that people yawn at it. However, despite the over use of conflict resolution in Kashmir, it remains a valid endeavour and should be the quest of all. There, really, is no other way. 

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