What happens When Nothing Happens?

Naveed ul Hassan

The news of deaths has stopped coming in from Kashmir. People are back to “normal”. Buses are plying. Some schools have also opened for the first time in four months. Literally, “nothing” is happening in Kashmir. Presumably, everything in Kashmir is as good as in Delhi (yes, before demonetisation). The weekly protest calendars are coming from the Hurriyat camp and are seen on paper only. What is then the fiasco about Kashmir? Why did people protest? These are the questions one would expect from the uninititated.

 Well, there is this mixed feeling in almost everyone with return of “normalcy”. Some say it is the result of wrong strategies put to use in the earlier phases of the 4-month deadlock by the resistance leadership, others term it a natural fatigue that has come form continuous stalling of activity in the region. The “normalcy” itself however puts to rest the first two assumptions proving how hard the state has been trying to enforce it. The tactics vary from demoralising the resistance leadership via the media to jailing thousands of young boys who question their writ. Night raids by state forces had gained momentum by the middle of the uprising.

Thus calling the “normalcy” an outcome of fatigue and wrong strategies is just another move to contain the state-proclaimed normalcy. Does it feel like living in peace when a newspaper is banned without giving any specific cause? Are these “normal” times when state forces deny you basic rights of ascertaining the cause of your unlawful arrest? (By virtue of India’s Public Safety Act you can be arrested without specifying the cause. Maximum time under this illegal arrest is about 2 years).

What happens when the news of killings don’t reach the media? The media frenzy is over and it leads to the slow bureaucratic occupation of people. In the times like these people arrested under draconian laws like PSA are made to suffer in silence and the international community is oblivious of the persecution. It is one thing when they kill you, and it is literally another when you are arrested. Your whole family is made to suffer. You are burdened with so many cases that if you are bailed out in one, the police jeep is waiting to take you in for the other.

Now, how does the state proclaim that these are “normal” times? Simple. Unlike what it sounds. Inaugurate some cricket tourneys under Indian army banner and overlook the killing of a cricketer by the same forces (killing of Nadeem Ahmed in April this year). Make the number of tourists visiting the troubled valley a litmus test for “normalcy”. Make qualifying for Indian Civil Services by a Kashmiri a political drum to beat.  

Normalcy is described by paranoid people like the henchmen of pro-Indian political parties as those states of people in which they forget who they are. Just remember what commodities they need. This is the exact version of what is put to use in Kashmir, especially after a continued hartal for a considerable period. In uprising of summer 2010 the same definition was used to measure it after creating it with propaganda.

Now while “normalcy” is achieved, what is happening is a source of dread. Away from the light of cameras there are thousands rotting in jails, hundreds killed, thousands injured grieveously.  

Thus “normalcy” needs a serious interpretation. This “nothing” happens needs a closer examination. While a campaign to promote how things have been controlled is launched by the PR facilities of the state, the “security forces” are busy searching for protesters who questioned their role in the valley. While the state proclaims that the valley got relief from hartals, people question the unlawful detention of Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist in Kashmir.

What really happens in this “normalcy” is that the people are crushed under military boots and the pitch of public address system of government PR agencies is so high that it fails to create an impact. People are to make rounds of courts to free their children, trying to cope with endless terms of judiciary everyday. Examinations of students, the opening of cafes and plying of buses is not the solution to the problem. It on the contrary is aggravating the same. Why would then there be an uprising 2016 after “normalcy” in 2010?

It is time we stop buying the rhetoric of “normalcy” and start looking for a permanent solution to this problem. The uncertainty of future, of life, of security have to be addressed. While admitting that solutions are not found in days, may I argue it has been decades and three wars.

An ordinary Kashmiri would envisage normal times when he would roam around and not disclose identity to every man on the street. The day he would be consulted about his future would be his nirvana. Normalcy would mean a certain future and a guarantee that an armed man is not going to rape your daughter.

Many perceive independence from the shrewd net of Indian occupation as the start for normalcy. But that is a serious question about India’s commitment to the UN Security Council and the resolutions passed over time. Peace is a major victim of the state version of normalcy. Every day we hear about the killing of people across LoC on both sides. Perhaps it is time for India and Pakistan to introspect about their roles vis-a-vis Kashmir and decide for a peaceful arrangement for Kashmiris keeping in view political aspirations of the people.

Normalcy would be a side effect of the settlement of the issues. Let us forget normalcy in Kashmir for a while and try to focus on the larger issues of peace.

This is the best opportunity for everyone to solve it and avert a major crisis in Asia by playing their cards right. Let Kashmir not be an issue of pride for anyone except Kashmiris. We are sick of carrying coffins of our brothers. We do want peace but not “normalcy”.

The writer is a civil engineering student in Kashmir 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2016 on page no. 2

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