National

Kashmir: dry stone gives no sound of water

The boulder and the stream solution of Kashmir spells out need for patiently bearing the paramilitary and not confronting the forces. If the people of Kashmir accept India and march forward it would bring great benefits to them. This realization or epiphany of a seer is charming to observe in the bucolic sylvan setting of the valley but not in the narrow meandering lanes and bylanes with shop shutters down and streets deserted and stones strewn all over. As a reminder of the previous day’s or an earlier day’s engagement with the soldiers it is a heap of images of waste, the valley has become the wasteland.

The valley was beautiful and quiet when the soldiers were only guarding the borders and were confined to their barracks. Now the whole valley has turned into a garrison and you have to negotiate every check posts not though like the Palestinians who take days and weeks to reach their relatives just across a stretch of a few kilometres away. Are we also turning Kashmir into another West Bank and Gaza? Yes, if this is what the valley has become then surely the paramilitary forces have transformed it into an occupied territory and it would remain so for good because it would legitimize what India and Pakistan want: turning line of control into a recognized border. Whither autonomy, then? There would be none.

The boulder and stream tantalizing also belies the fact that the valley was traumatized by the two upheavals of the mainland: the seismic upheavals of the events around 1992 and the Gujarat 2002 pogroms of Muslims. It would be foolhardy of anyone to ask the people to continue living halcyon days of pre-1989 as if nothing has happened.

How much is viable Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's advice that “The developments over the last decade or so clearly indicate that, in today's context, Kashmir's benefit lies not in independence or in joining Pakistan, but, rather in being part of India and in abandoning the path of violence in exchange for peaceful reconstruction and progress"? The shift in situation on ground in Jammu and the rest of the country is not helpful to the Kashmiris. The ascendency of the rightwing Hindu groups does not want to see even the article 370 retained. In times of trouble the blockade of Kashmiri goods from entering into the rest of India and essential supplies reaching the valley threatens the existence of the people. Those who enforce the blockade know that their action economically cripples the valley and has no visible effect on India. What prospect does it hold for the future? Similarly, people hesitating to visit Kashmiri shops in Delhi on account of the identity of the shopkeepers is not a result of insurgency in the valley but rather a fallout of the misconceived perception that all Muslims are terrorists. Justin Hardy mentions that even Japanese hastily withdrew from Mohammad Dar's shop in Delhi.

As far as development is concerned, if 600,000* Kashmiri youths are unemployed, Omar Abdullah's now asking the centre to create 50,000 thousand jobs is not so enviable an offer. But more pertinent is to ask why so far the jobs were not created? If economic plight of the ordinary people fuels protest on the street it is supplemented by sometimes 27 days-in-a-month closure of shops due to inordinate curfew and the consequences of continuing death toll of the young people. Sometimes it is not the boulder that obstructs but the man-made policy of commission and omission. Is there any sign of change? Despite, the ten percent growth!

*The figure of unemployed is given in TIME August 21, 2010 under the heading "Kashmir's new warriors".

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