Deceptive lull and Calm in Kashmir: New Pattern(s) of Violence

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A visitor to Kashmir might conclude that all is well here. He/she would see people milling out frenetically on the streets, the calm countenance of Kashmiris broken infrequently by the occasional instance of road rage –all overlaid by the aggressive soliciting of tourists by vendors, shop keepers and other assorted people. The placid calm of the Lake Dal with Shikaras plying in a lackadaisical manner would validate the observation that Kashmir is ‘normal”.  In this schema, the Handwara killings would but seem like an aberration that has been shrugged off by Kashmir. But, alas, this observation would be as deceptive and illusory as the calm and peace that seems to obtain in Kashmir contemporarily.
Almost a week has elapsed since the Handwara killings; Kashmir has slowly limped back to what people think is normalcy. However, it is in the interstices of Handwara killings and the week after that a new pattern of violence in the vale can be discerned. This assertion warrants a context. The various economic strata of Kashmir are hard pressed; there is very little money in circulation in various markets, businesses and businessmen, including small and big are indebted to each other and the bank(s). One of the mainstays of the economy- the handicrafts sector- is in doldrums: these are of a structural and contextual nature. Structurally, the artisans, the backbone and centre of gravity of tyhe sector are migrating to other more lucrative professions and there is now a branding issue with Kashmiri handicrafts. Contextually, Europe, which used to be the “bazaar” of Kashmiri handicrafts is , if not technically but surely, in practical terms, in quasi “ austerity induced recession” . Handicraft sales depend upon disposable income; if there’s none around, people buy less or hardly at all.  Within Kashmir, there’s hardly any public works going on which could potentially take the sting out of the economic misery that has befallen Kashmir. Axiomatically and added up, these factors impinge upon our public finances and savings and investment thereof.
Post the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayyed, there is a governance vacuum with the residual interest in governance and Government almost nonexistent now. There is a comprehensive disconnect between the people, their needs, aspirations and the government. The same holds true for the politics of the state.
In terms of militancy and separatism, the overall sentiment of Kashmiris gyrates to separatism but this has not translated into widespread militancy and insurgency (yet). The reasons here again are contextual and structural.  The active militant rump in Kashmir has adopted a defensive posture; ever since the  attack on Hyderpora bypass, there have hardly been any attacking and offensive posture by the militants.( The JKEDI attack was in a different league bred by a different context- the budding and incipient Indo Pak talks).
The imagination of youth of Kashmir- more educated, more aware, connected and more aspirational than their predecessors but yet constrained again by structural and political factors lends itself to alienation, estrangement and withdrawal.
Cumulatively, all this adds up to a bleak and grim portrait of Kashmir and Kashmiris and their future thereof.
There are both short and long term consequences.
 In the short term, what can be culled out from our collective condition- political and economic- is that a new pattern of violence and peace will take hold in Kashmir. This pattern might denoue in a way wherein there will be short spells of violence induced by killings- either of civilians or militants- and then because of structural and contextual factors- economic desperation and survival needs, veer back to “ normal”( or what is normal in Kashmir). This might turn out to be the new pattern of violence in Kashmir.
Long term, the spiral and loop of this violence, counter-violence and periods of calm in Kashmir will be on the collective psyche and collective unconscious of Kashmir. Each spiral of violence will likely feed into a loop in the Kashmiri consciousness of Kashmiris leading to an overall psychical condition which would render Kashmiris accepting of this condition but also more alienated, estranged and withdrawn than before. The consequences of this psychological condition are not difficult to fathom. But it is the state’s and other stakeholder’s response that will add poignancy to this condition. The state’s default reflex of containing the conflict will not hold and maintain peace in Kashmir;  mainstream politics of managerialism will be a mere patina to put gloss on the real condition of Kashmir. Kashmir and Kashmiris, in the meantime, will gyrate to a different rhythm and momentum and conditions could turn out to be ripe for a comprehensive slide into more intense violence in Kashmir.
The foregoing analysis is in the nature of providing a real and existing assessment of Kashmir and its political and economic condition. The aim is to provide pre-emptory warnings and a plea to all stakeholders to the conflict in and over Kashmir- India, Pakistan and Kashmiris- to take stock of the condition and then take a fresh approach and perspective on Kashmir that redounds to real and lasting peace in Kashmir. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine.

 

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