(New Democracy News Service)
21 people have died and hundreds have been injured in police and paramilitary action against protestors in the Kashmir Valley in the 48 hours since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s popular leader, 22 year old Burhan Wani. The killing was in an intelligence led police action. No criminal case was registered anywhere in India against Wani. At the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar alone, 87 cases of civilians injured by pellets came in within 24 hours. Of these, 40 had pellet injuries in their eyes and the Head of the Hospital said that 19 of them are likely to go blind. These pellets, incidentally, were supposed to be used by the armed forces to avoid fatalities. Doctors at the Srinagar hospital said that the injuries are to the head and the upper part of the body, i.e. they were not used for deterrence. Though restrictions to movement had been enforced, tens of thousands of people attended the funeral of Wani in Tral, which was totally peaceful as police had been withdrawn from the area. The funeral prayers had to be repeated 40 times to assuage the sorrow of the gathering. Funeral meetings were held in several parts of the Valley and everywhere thousands wept. One meeting was also organized by Independent MLA Engineer in which 5000 people participated while the Valley observed a complete spontaneous shutdown. In the protests, civilians entered police stations, government offices and ‘security installations’ (which may just mean paramilitary camps) in anger to register protest without heeding the armed forces. While the forces maintain that Wani was not the target in the ‘encounter’ and just happened to be present along with another militant, a senior police officer gave the truth away when he stated that a ‘contingency plan’ was in place in violence prone areas to ‘counter the fallout of Wani’s killing’ ( Hindu, 11th July 2016) but protests erupted in other areas.
The sharpest protests, where protestors entered police stations, govt. offices and ‘security installations’ and where some police stations were reportedly set afire, are in South Kashmir, where the National Conference and the PDP have their areas of influence. This is directly relatable to the hated and inflammatory decision of the PDP-BJP Govt. to build segregated Pandit colonies in these areas and to build Sainik colonies here for the families of armed forces in a State where land cannot be bought by non Kashmiris. As in the earlier upsurge against the diabolical plans for land acquisition to build permanent structures for the Amarnath Yatra, this time too, the perceived threat is to the demography of the Valley. Govts. pretend not to be aware of the deep seated insecurity of the Kashmiri people behind the expression of anger at their design. There is also anger against the PDP’s decision to form a govt. along with the BJP, against the BJP’s position on Article 370 and its Hindutva agenda and against the perceived anti Kashmiri conduct of the PDP- BJP Govt. This admixture also makes it necessary for the leaders of the Kashmiri movement to ensure that anger against the PDP-BJP design of segregation of Kashmiri Pandits does not get misused as and certainly does not become a move against the return of the Kashmiri Pandits, legitimately Kashmiri, to their homes in different parts of the Valley. It will help not a little if Kashmiri Pandits also disassociate themselves with the diabolical design of the state Govt. against the Kashmiris.
The Indian ruling classes are not bothered about how out of tune they are with the people of Kashmir, – tens and tens of thousands of the latter are mourning over the killing of one whom the rulers classify as an enemy. The crux of the issue is not only the killing of yet one more member of the cream of Kashmiri youth. It is also in the offering of one more life for the shared aspiration of self determination. The ruling classes have also not taken any lesson from the recent months, when hundreds of Kashmiris intervened in areas where encounters are going on and threw stones to chase away the security forces. It is the demand of the people for the right to self determination and enshrined also in the UN accord signed by both India and Pakistan in 1948. Though over half a century has passed, it is marked by the failure of successive Indian Govts. to integrate the people of J&K. rather than aim to control the area by communal conspiracies, demographic fiddling and army brutalities. When the movement in Kashmir is low, Indian ruling classes congratulate themselves for success in suppression; when it boils over they meet it with repression and communal conspiracies. This is the most militarized area in the world with the Army standing within the state in numbers like 15 per citizen. Over 7000 people have ‘disappeared’ in the Valley, graves bear testimony to army rule, while the markings on the graves with even the names of the villages bear testimony that the so called ‘foreign’ militants are only Kashmiris- maximally local and a few from across the border. The Indian army has lived up to the term of an ‘occupation force’ with regard to its conduct towards Kashmiri women. The mass gang rapes of Kunan Poshpora stand unpunished; so too the murders of two women in Spore in the name of ‘drowning’ live on in memory and both are so many of a large number of so many such incidents.
The policies aimed at fingering with demography, the communal conspiracies, must be stopped forthwith, Army withdrawn from civilian areas and AFSPA lifted from the entire state. All political prisoners must be freed, PDA withdrawn. Pandits must be allowed to return to their communities and districts. Democratic rights should be fully restored. Govt. must investigate every killing by forces and ensure that armed forces’ personnel who are guilty of rapes and murders must be brought to book. The right of the people of J&K to self determination must be honoured.
The ruling class Govts. are not going to attend to the wounds they have inflicted on the Kashmiri people. It is upto the people of India to rise to the occasion and support the democratic rights and democratic demands of the people of Kashmir.