The recent killing of policemen in Kashmir has brought to fore the debate over the role and nature of militancy in Kashmir. It is being asserted in certain quarters that killings of police personnel is unethical and goes against the spirit of the struggle for freedom in Kashmir. The nub of the argument is that violence is unethical and cannot solve the conflict in Kashmir. Burhan Muzaffar, Hizbul Mujahideens young commander, has been singled out for criticism for his remarks after the killings.
The killing of police personnel, doing their duty and earning their bread, is sad and unfortunate. Killings and violence merely generate a spiral of violence and bad blood which further fuels the conflict. But having said this, the argument and the criticism using Burhan as the focal point is self serving and even specious. The argument, if there is an argument to be made, should be why did Burhan, a school-going lad, who should be thinking of things other than militancy, become Burhan the militant commander?
Apparently, police brutality and high handedness became the catalyst for Burhan to become a militant. He along with his brother, Khalid, who was later killed by the security forces, were manhandled by the police over some silly pretext and then assaulted. While this is an experience that many Kashmiris, especially in the past, have faced, and it could be asked why did Burhan make the choice that he did? The reason could be that Burhan was an impressionable lad who could not bear the assault on his brother. However, the larger reason could be the narrative that obtains in Kashmir and how this narrative fed into Burhan and his brothers victimization. The assault probably validated the narrative in Kashmir. The rest is history. Burhan became a militant and is now almost an icon for the youth of Kashmir.
There is a lesson in Burhans saga. It is the larger narrative in Kashmir that becomes the predicate for young peoples attention and drift towards militancy. Blaming militancy and the violence that it generates means putting the cart before the horse. What essentially needs to be addressed is the narrative and discourse in Kashmir. I am not saying that this discourse needs to be met and negated by a counter discourse but rather that the conflict in Kashmir needs to be addressed in all its dimensions and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Prolonging the conflict will merely breed more Burhans and more violence and this saga will be never-ending.
So instead of blaming and criticizing the symptom, let powers that be devote their understanding and measures to the causes of the conflict in Kashmir. If this becomes the locus of understanding and dealing with Kashmir and the conflict it has bred, then there are grounds for hope. Otherwise, if symptoms are treated as a cause, then obviously, there will be more Burhans and more loss of life in Kashmir. The state, the people and other stakeholders to the dispute in and over Kashmir must come together and devise a paradigm of conflict resolution that addresses the root cause of the conflict in Kashmir. This requires prudence, foresight, wisdom and above all will and dedication to take the bull by the horns. That is, address frontally all issues that lead to the conflict. Mere hand wringing and gratuitous criticism wont do. But, if the past is any guide, then , alas, we are likely to see more of the same.
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