The secular and syncretic fabric of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, they call it. What they don’t know is that everything secular and everything syncretic about this state, emanates from Jammu and not from Kashmir. Kashmiriyat died in 1989, but they’ve taken a notice of the corpse today. The polarisation in Kashmir is not a ‘recent’ phenomenon. The Kashmiri movement for azaadi was always communal and religiously inspired in its undertones. Because we chose to ignore the grander religious overtones of ‘azaadi-nama’; 18 years later- here we are, blaming wahabi Islam for the Kashmir mayhem. The attack on the amaranth yatris is not a new phenomenon. In the last 27 years, ever since militancy took roots in the valley, the yatra has been attacked five times and the causalities figure at a staggering 70 odd lives, which were lost in the bloodbath. Besides the militant attacks, the amaranth yatra has also been at the centre of the political storm which has engulfed the state and served to widen the divide between the regions, the communities and the people. In 2008, the state witnessed a major agitation, wherein the two regions of the state were up in arms against each other over the issue of SASB land transfer. 2008 served to widen the cracks that had already developed due to the majoritarianism that had overtaken governance and rule of law in the state. In 2014 again, the Amaranth base camp was violently attacked by local Kashmiris who burnt down a 100 odd tents and langars and left 50 people injured in the process. Everything that is even remotely related to the belief system of the Hindus in the state, has been attacked, desecrated, resisted or destroyed. The separatists calls for protests against the Kosur Nag Yatra, the destruction of about 208 temples in the valley in the last 20 years, the protests against townships for Kashmiri Pandits and the call for bandhs and shutdowns in the valley over the issue of grant of citizenship to WPRs, are few instances which puncture the over-inflated narrative of a supposed Kashmiriyat in the Valley. Must we pander to the long-dead phenomenon of Kashmiriyat, when what is evident here is a well thought out and carefully executed plan of waging a war against regional and religious minorities in the state? Isn’t it self-defeating to even hope for a revival of Kashmiriyat when gun-wielding, ISIS-loving youth of the valley are threatening old-school political ideologues with violence, lynching their policemen while raising jihadi slogans, killing and mutilating their own lads who dared to choose peace over violence, and attacking innocent unarmed pilgrims? Haven’t the common kashmiris lost this battle over narratives already, simple because they let the likes of Burhan Wani and his comrades to hijack the issue? When the Kashmiri intelligentsia offered support to the violent azaadi movement after Burhan Wani’s encounter, it rationalised Jihadist violence and justified the use of terror as the means to an end. There were pertinent warnings that this kind of support could lead to the start of a civil war-like situation in the valley, but these concerns were blatantly ignored and brushed under the rug, for they did not go well with the set narratives of ‘azaadi’. What we see unfolding in Kashmir now, is it’s descend into an era that will bring consequences for the entire state, worse than the ones experienced during the 1990s.
It is not like we have the Kashmiris to blame for everything. The political vacuum in the state which has led to this civil and social chaos has been caused and exacerbated by the leadership in Delhi. When the BJP came to power at the centre in 2014, and in the state in 2015, its alliance with Valley based PDP offered a significant opportunity for the state to bridge its divide, and work on the issues affecting the common people belonging to all the three regions of the state. Instead, the manner in which the two parties have functioned, has not only worked to widen the trust deficit between the two regions, but also between the civilians and the Government. For peace to have a shot in the state, it is important for the other two regions (Jammu and Ladakh) to gain a greater say in the policy-making process of the state. Because, the other two regions, after all these years of living in the shadow of the gun, have still worked to uphold the ethos of the state, their greater participation in the state’s political dynamics is imperative for peace to find ground. With 25 seats from Jammu, and a sizeable support from Ladakh, the BJP had every opportunity to undo the history of discriminatory politics that had been practiced by the ruling elite of the state. With the support of PDP from the valley, the two could’ve easily worked together to assuage the concerns of the people from the three regions. But that didn’t happen. Rather, a situation has arisen where the BJP has lost the trust of the people from Jammu and Ladakh, while the PDP has lost all credibility in the Valley. The creation of a political vacuum in the state has given a fertile ground to the pro-azaadi, gun-wielding factions who have created a leaderless movement in the valley and are slowly but steadily pushing the state into its darkest phase.
What is the solution you ask? The solution is the same as was 27 years ago. For peace to find a real chance in the state, the actual secular and syncretic regions of the state will need to spearhead its political process. The Government s at the centre and in the state will need to encourage the moderate factions from the three regions to sit and talk about their grievances. Development of a genuine dialogue process based on a common thread running through the three regions will work to create a people-to-people partnership and provide a bottom-up rebuilding of the peace process in the state. The trust deficit between the commoners needs to be bridged and the initiatives will need to come from Jammu. This will only happen if Jammu is given its due share of representation in the governance and administration of the state. Developing genuine empathy towards each other’s concerns through shared experiences of death, persecution, terror and destruction is the only way in which the state can kick-start a meaningful dialogue between the genuine stakeholders of the three regions. For a peaceful resolution to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the politics of power, greed and corruption, will have to be dismantled and Jammu and Laddakh will have to be given primacy in carrying forward the dialogue between the three regions. The Government will not get Delhi and Kashmir to talk, if it is unable to get Jammu, Kashmir and Laddakh to talk to each other.
(The author is M Phil Scholar International Politics, JNU)