Kashmiri Muslims Need Help Not Bullets!

It is time greater attention is paid to view crisis in J&K from the angle of Kashmiri Muslims. Disturbance, unrest and/or tension of any kind spell severe problems for daily routine of the Kashmiris in the state. From no angle, the majority would want disturbances to continue for too long a time. After all, these hold their present life and also future at stake. Ignoring or sidelining the possible viewpoints as well as approaches of Kashmiri Muslims implies an incomplete analysis of the crisis as a whole. The worst sufferers of the unrest in any place usually tend to be the local residents of the area. It would be erroneous to assume that these sufferers would also contribute or want to prolong the unrest and would not want normalcy to return in their areas. Sadly, the general assumption held about Kashmiri Muslims is that they are pro-militancy and pro-Pakistan.

This assumption, over a period of years, has only contributed to aggravating the situation further. This assumption has led to innocent Kashmiri Muslims being suspected as militants and targeted by security forces. True, at times, during encounters with actual militants, innocent persons have been apparently unintentionally killed or injured. These incidents have only contributed to increasing suspicion between Kashmiri Muslims and security forces. Priority should be given to removing wrong assumptions leading to a negative approach about Kashmiri Muslims in general. Communication error arising from a major communication gap between people and security forces can hardly ever be expected to resolve conflicting approaches entertained by them towards each other.

Not too long ago, Prime Minister Modi said that Kashmiri youth should choose between tourism and terrorism. What does this indicate? Clearly, this supports the point made earlier about the assumption held about Kashmiri Muslims’ inclination towards militancy. If the assumption had some credibility, an increasing number of Kashmiri Muslims would not have opted for giving civil services examinations. Among these, Shah Faisal topped in 2009 and Athar Aamir-ul-Shafi Khan came second in 2015. Their success has been welcomed whole-heartedly by Kashmiri Muslims. This has been indicated by large number of Kashmiris visiting these and other successful candidates’ homes to congratulate them. There are also reports of successful Kashmiris helping others in J&K to prepare for these examinations. In addition, quite a few study for these examinations at coaching centres in Delhi.

Civil services are not only the career that Kashmiri Muslims have opted for. Apart from medicine, business, law, politics and other areas, recent past has been witness to their standing out in field of sports. Eight-year old Tajamul Islam succeeded in winning gold medal for India in sub-junior category of World Kickboxing Championship last year in Italy by defeating her rival from US. Parvez Rasool is the first cricketer from J&K to play in the Indian team. It may be noted, these Kashmiri Muslims have stood out in their respective fields in recent past. The same period has also been witness to the hype raised about the militant Burhan Wani.

The point made about the hype raised about Wani is supported by the limited success he achieved during his brief role as a militant. He is said to have influenced around 60 Kashmiri youth to join militancy during roughly half a decade’s time. His “success” is apparently gauged by the popularity he gained as a militant. He used strategies, such as videos and posters to influence Kashmiri Muslims. His popularity apparently rested less on their willingness to support militancy, but more on Kashmiri Muslims viewing him and his problems similar to theirs. Wani may not have joined militancy had he not suffered at the hands of the security forces. Apart from his being beaten up, his elder brother had died after being thrashed up by security forces. For an ordinary Kashmiri Muslim, he was one of them, who had faced sufferings similar to theirs. Not surprisingly, they were enraged when he was killed in an encounter with security forces. It was compounded by their being targeted while reading funeral prayers for Wani.

Their feeling sympathetic for Wani and thus showing their anger does not suggest that they had also chosen to join militancy. The possibility of their taking to streets and throwing stones on various occasions may have taken place due to a reason that needs to be given serious consideration. They may have been provoked to this stage, not because of their choice but because of their fear of militants. All of them cannot stand up against militants. Nor do they trust security forces. It may be noted, Faisal’s father was killed by militants in 2002.  

In context of Faisal’s success and others like him, a hype has been raised about Wani’s militant-drive. Had the latter really been a great success, a greater number of Kashmiri Muslims would probably have joined militancy. Let us accept it, Kashmiri Muslims are caught in a helpless situation, fearing bullets of militants and security forces. Crisis in Kashmir can end only if genuine attempts are made to help them, without targeting them. 

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