State Myopia & Burhan’s Killing

SRINAGAR: Burhan Wani’s death continues to reverberate across the length and breadth of Kashmir. The deceased young man’s iconic appeal has grown by leaps and bounds after his death.  But, alas, the aftermath of his killing has led to the deaths of many people and has left scores injured. In more senses than one, the condition that obtains in Kashmir as KO goes to press is an eerie echo of 2008 and 2010 protests which not only made a cross section of Kashmiris take to the streets but also left scores dead. There then is a pattern at work here. Some catalytic event makes the bottled up anger of Kashmiris rent asunder and the street becomes the arbiter of peace and violence in the vale. If there is a pattern at work here, then Burhan Wani’s killing amounts to throwing fuel to the fire. Kashmir, to use a metaphor, is like a smoldering bale of cotton and all it takes to flare into a ball of fire is a catalyst. Why, the question is, did the state kill Burhan? Is the state , in reality, disconnected from the conditions that obtain in Kashmir? Or is cynicism the operating assumption of the state?

There may be elements of both in the state’s operating assumption, the major component of which is to contain and thereby manage the conflict. In this schemata, what matters is top down control and contain dynamic wherein the aftermath of a certain action taken by the state is to check the spillover of the action. This is what may have happened in terms of Burhan’s killing. But, there is a certain law that defines life-political, social and economic. That is, the law of unintended consequences and the law of physics that every action has a reaction. This is not to bail out the state here but rather point out its flawed and warped approach.

Kashmir is now on fire.

Certain sections point out that all protests have a shelf life and that the post Burhan protests will also fizzle out and die.  Parallels are drawn with the 2008 and 2010 protests and stuff extrapolated from these. These analyses are, however, as superficial as can be for they do not take into account the context that each- especially the post Burhan protests- get incubated and burst out onto the streets. The structuring factor of these protests is what has been called the “New Age Militancy”- a deadly and more effective form and avatar of militancy which has attracted the imagination of Kashmir’s educated cohorts. And as the massive outpouring of grief and protests over Burhan’s killing demonstrate, there is public and popular support for this “new age militancy”.  Any insurgency or counter insurgency manual suggests that these conditions are ripe for widespread insurgency if a few other conditions of a structural nature are met. Post Burhan killing protests then cannot and should not be dismissed.  Yes: the protests will, at one point in time, fizzle but they have an ominous ring and resonance about these.

One peculiar aspect about these protests is their spontaneity which suggests that these are bottoms up protests undertaken by people under a catalytic spur (Burhan’s killing, in this instance). The state or more accurately, the government, has reached out to various shades of political opinion to contain the protests but this may not work given the protests are spontaneous; they are neither directed nor engineered. And a certain disconnect defines the political spectrum of the state- separatist and main stream- and the people. The protests draw their immediate inspiration from Burhan’s killing but there are deeper factors and reasons at play. These pertain to the status quo in terms of a dead end regarding genuine conflict resolution. That is, the conflict over Kashmir is frozen but the conflict in Kashmir is real and extant. This condition where the outer dimensions are sought to be frozen but the inner one contained is a recipe for conflagrations and implosion of Kashmir. Ameliorating this condition calls for revisiting the conflict in and over Kashmir and calling for a fresh approach towards conflict resolution. However, as Burhan’s killing indicates, this plea is unlikely to be heard and will fall on deaf ears which in the final analysis constitutes a travesty, and a tragedy for Kashmir, Kashmiris and perhaps even the world at large.

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