Force Feeding India To Kashmiris

Estimated 5000 people are injured, an overwhelming majority of them in the age group of 15-25. At least 80 of them have lost their vision. And 45 are dead. This all in the span of 8 days. To be precise from July 9 to 16, 2016. Unprecedented! 

Unprecedented because in the recent past (Since civilian rule was restored) Kashmir has not witnessed this magnitude of casualties in 8 days.

Population of around 7 million is forced indoors. Yes they are virtually under house arrest for last eleven days. Shoot at sight! Meaning work places shut, schools closed and labourers, yes shikarawalas, taxi drivers, hawkers, roadside vendors without their daily wages. Meaning many without their daily meals. In Kashmir families also include, like in rest of the world, children and elderly and in many cases sick as well.

On Friday I got a distress call from a student in Bangalore pleading for help as he had run out of money and could not contact home. Back home all banks are closed, including ATM’s since last one week.

‘Concerned’ government did announce slew of measures and that includes a helpline for medical emergencies.  

But wait, all mobile phone services, barring state owned BSNL, have been suspended. Meaning you cannot communicate. Mobile internet had already been snapped including the state owned BSNL. Wait the newspapers, yes the local newspapers, dedicated to Kashmir and filling the void created by the absence of any alternate medium of information, too have been ordered shut. It is like putting a lid on a pressure cooker. Absence of information or lack of it leads to conflict is the fact that we all know but all of us don’t believe. 

Let them eat cake

But wait, there is 24×7 television, they say. If there is no bread, why can’t they eat cake?

Besides, these TV channels speak a different language. Their Television Rating Points, or TRPs as they are called, come not from seven million caged people but from a billion plus thriving nation of patriots who hate any thing “anti-national”.

It would seem, in their reading, as if here in Kashmir valley all you have is a people gone crazy. They vent their anger at anything symbolising the Indian State. And increasingly these misguided – rather, guided from across the border – people break the law by violating the stifling curfew and hurling stones at these symbols of the state.
And symbols include poor CRPF men, most of them involuntarily drawn into the vortex of complex political mess, that is Kashmir.

There are also cases, yes 100 odd cases, as per official figures, of youth who have even taken to arms, like 21 year old Burhan Wani. Wani’s death on July 8 was the trigger of the current unrest.

So obviously “the nation needs to be told” the reality of the people gone crazy. The people who do not want to be part of an emerging global power must be off their nuts.

Question time
But nation also asks questions some times. Questions like why do these people hate us even after 60 years of largesses and the special status?  

Oh that! the answer is predictable. This is the job of the rogue state next door jealous of India’s rise. Well they have been hell bent on disturbing our peace ever since they came into being. The next question obviously comes what have we been doing to undo their mischief? 

Make Kashmiris behave. 
Yes, behave. Impose extended curfews to stop them from falling in the trap. Block free flow of information as that may include propaganda as well. Allow access to a select channels operated from Delhi so that the people there are fed with the ‘right information’. Don’t panelists on these channels (mostly non-Kashmiris) talk endlessly and often argue on the merits and demerits of giving free choices to Kashmiris. After all Kashmir is not like any other Indian state. it is a ‘sensitive’ state.

As one panelist put it. You should have dumped the body of that 21 year old ‘terrorist’ anywhere instead of giving that back to his family. He meant this would have robbed those 2 lakh ‘misguided’ people of chance to attend his funeral. Or to put it simply rob them of an outlet to vent their anger and frustration.

In the course of debates none asked this simple question. Why have so many people come out to grieve for Burhan? What did he do to achieve that status?

And the right course also includes blocking the ‘wrong’ information.

Force feeding
Thus the range of TV channels Kashmiris are allowed to watch these days are representative of a country of diversity, the nation of India. From Tamil, Telugu, Bengal, Punjab, Maratha, Hindi, English, Urdu but none Kashmiri.

Kashmir, perhaps is the only place left in the 21st century world which does not have a satellite channel.

I have to struggle hard to brief my inquisitive elderly mother of the developments as she does not understand these languages. 

So there is no TV channel dedicated to Kashmir where you have Kashmiri penalises discussing Kashmir for Kashmiris.

Obviously the population is forced to watch channels they are offered and watch helplessly as its the prerogative of the channel editors to decide whom to include in the discussions, if at all there are any, on Kashmir. After all Kashmir does not fetch many TRPs and as one producer told me last year there is not much Bollywood thing happening in Kashmir either these days.

And when Kashmir indeed becomes news its always bad news and nation does not want to hear that anymore.

People in the power corridors in Delhi do not want to hear that either. There are after all enough CRPF and other armed forces personnel dumped in Kashmir to take care of the restless population. And they have been doing their job the way they know. After all they are not trained in the school of politics. 

I was asked by a senior Western Diplomat during a recent chat about my take on immediate Kashmir solution. I said let Delhi treat Kashmiris at par with other states, half of the problem will be over. Rest they can take care later. 

But alas they don’t understand Kashmiri! 


A version of this article first appeared in The & Tehelka 

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