A paradox in the Valley

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The crimson-decade that began with more than 500 conflict-related killings in the year 2008, finally ended with almost an equal number of fresh corpses in Kashmir last year. That brutal summer of 2008, after the Amarnath land row, inaugurated a new age of mourning in Kashmir.

This brought to the fore new patterns of mass resistance, new modes of street protests and new tools of state repression. The Hurriyat’s politics got a fresh lease of life and the space for the political mainstream began to shrink, yet again. Social media became an extended battlefield. Yet another generation of Kashmiris was inoculated with the germ of defiance, which manifested itself a few years down the line in the form of “scholar-led” militancy, with unprecedented social approval.

Outrage over the Shopian rape incident, invocation of collective conscience during Afzal Guru’s execution, the capture of the newsrooms in Delhi, the sanctimonious politics of rescue during the September 2014 floods, a North Pole-South Pole alliance in 2015, pellet-gun-related mass blinding during the Burhan Wani agitation were some of the major provocations during this time that pushed Kashmiris towards a suicidal upsurge against the Indian state.

However, in the 2008 assembly elections, around 60 per cent polling was reported in the state, which was astonishing since the million-people marches, barely a month earlier, were ostensibly indicative of an out-and-out boycott. In the 2014 state assembly elections, the participation was even higher at 65 per cent. Ironically, true to the nature of cyclic turbulence in Kashmir and merely three years later, a voter turnout of 7.1 per cent was reported in the Srinagar by-poll. The absence of a correlation between electoral participation and people’s resentment with respect to the Indian state adds an important layer to the complexity of the multi-layered quagmire of Kashmir. Meanwhile, the central government sent a special representative to listen to people’s “grievances” but no one seemed interested in bartering “aspirations” for “grievances” and the dialogue couldn’t take off.

Read Full Article in The Indian Express

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