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When the Kalashnikov came into Kashmir in the late eighties, people were told that azadi (freedom) was “just round the corner.” However after three decades of armed struggle which has consumed thousands of lives one realises that nothing has really changed. During the 2016 summer unrest triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter with security forces, Syed Ali Geelani also expressed a similar sentiment by saying that “never before have we been so close to freedom,” but two years later we once again find that except for a sharp increase in violence levels and number of fatalities, nothing has really changed and we are as far (or as close) to azadi today as we were in 1948!

A sudden rise in the number of educated youth taking to militancy post the 2016 Burhan Wani killing led many to believe that this trend would prove to be the proverbial straw that would ultimately break New Delhi’s back. Some even prophesised that since more educated boys had started joining militant ranks, they would use their knowledge to give militancy a ‘makeover’ by adopting a strategy that would differentiate the armed struggle in Kashmir from terrorism. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened and incidents of militants abducting and killing Kashmiris serving in government forces and civilians suspected of working as informers for government agencies have shown a phenomenal increase in the last two years.

Hizb militant Manan Wani, a PhD scholar from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) who was killed in an encounter on October 11 had been a militant for merely ten months and one day. Though he was luckier than PhD scholar Mohammad Rafi Bhat who was killed in May just a day after he joined the Hizb, still Manan had a very short life as a militant. And this is particularly so as he was assigned the comparatively much safer job of inspiring the youth in north Kashmir to join militancy and wasn’t involved in the much more hazardous task of attacking security forces.

Nothing changed when Hizb militant and PhD scholar Rafi Bhat was killed five months ago; nothing will change now that PhD scholar Wani has died. We may keep talking about how the blood of martyrs will nourish the freedom struggle and bear fruit but with due respect to those who have laid down their lives for the sake of azadi, the harsh reality is that in today’s world violence can never achieve an ideological objective. In fact this is the reason why the pioneers of the self determination movement in Kashmir took pains to ensure that violence doesn’t assume the dominant role in this struggle. Unfortunately, ever since militancy took root in Kashmir, the self determination movement has become synonymous with violence!

Islamabad, the Hurriyat and militant groups may believe that use of retaliatory force against extreme provocation or denial of rights is justified and legitimate but the international community doesn’t share this view. Geelani sahib may be convinced that “In 1990 when people rose against the military control of India, the entire world was shaken off the slumber; Jammu and Kashmir attracted an unprecedented focus from the International community.” However, the fact is that the decline in international support for the right to self determination movement can accurately be traced back to the advent of militancy in Kashmir.

Even though we continue to lose our boys in gunfights with armed forces nearly every day, no one pays any heed to our pleas for intervention on humanitarian grounds and instead, the world continues to see New Delhi a victim of terrorism. What is most unfortunate is that despite experiencing international isolation, our leaders still refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. Accusing the international community for adopting a partisan approach on the Kashmir issue and blaming vested interests to overshadow international obligations is a diversionary ploy that may provide some temporary solace. However, an enduring solution to end the bloody chapter in Kashmir can only be found if we seriously introspect on whether the armed struggle can really get us azadi or is it (in Hizb supremo Syed Salahuddin’s words) only meant to “fight Pakistan’s war in Kashmir”?

Tailpiece: In 2004, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq spoke of how the armed struggle in Kashmir had “not achieved anything other than creating more graveyards.” Fourteen years later, while speaking after Manan Wani’s death his father echoed the same sentiment by saying “We need to introspect. Should we only fill our graveyards? Haven’t enough boys died already?” 

Will somebody answer?





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