- The sound of freedom resonates through the Valley
“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said that, from henceforth, I will devote myself to the liberation of my people. Instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
– Nelson Mandela: “Long Walk to Freedom”
Much has become part of history since the eventful August 5 when the wailing and forlorn Valley of Kashmir was put on a lockdown by the Indian government, confining within the four walls the old and the young, the healthy and the sick, the expectant mothers and the wailing babies, without concern, without care. It is as if the inhabitants of the Valley were stray animals who needed to be kept on a leash to learn how to walk, how to talk, and how to behave in an environment of brutal repression and fear. As in the last seven decades, the incarceration was meant to douse the flame of rebellion which has been burning within for generations, and which has only become more intense with the passage of time.
The growing unrest in the Indian Kashmir has brought the two neighbours within a strike of a horrible conflagration with potential to engulf the entire region, the entire world, in a nuclear holocaust. This is not the first time India and Pakistan have come this close to war. It has been happening with increasing frequency, particularly in the last couple of decades which, on the Indian side, is linked directly with the growing unrest reflected by an indigenous rebellion led by the youth of the captive region. But, instead of espousing the course of talks with Pakistan which is a party to an unresolved issue as per the UN resolutions, the Hindutva-dominated, expansionist mindset of the BJP decided to integrate the most densely militarised area in the world into the Indian Union by revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. This led to a sequence of events, including Pakistan taking the matter to the UN Security Council. The fact that a closed-door session was held after a lapse of more than 50 years showed the concern which members of the UN felt over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.
The plight in the Indian part of Kashmir symbolises a gross human tragedy which has defied solution over decades. Keeping the people of the state on a lockdown will provide no recourse to resolution, nor will the inhuman restrictions imposed, nor any demographic changes forced through under the shadow of the sword. The wounds which have been lacerating for decades have found their communion in the voice of the rebels who call upon the suffering people to rise against the onslaught of tyranny. It was Albert Camus who prophesied thus: “We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes and our ravages. But, our task is not to unleash them on the world. It is to fight them in ourselves and in others.”
But, that has not been the case. The people of Kashmir are being made to pay a collective price for challenging the Indian occupation and demanding their right to speak for themselves which, by all statutes, all norms, charters and resolutions, national, bilateral and international, is their inalienable right, and has been so since the partition of the Subcontinent into the independent states of India and Pakistan.
These voices of rebellion are indigenous, which have become louder as a reaction to the growing Indian atrocities and the use of excessive and brutal force to keep the people hostage. That effort having backfired, the prospect of intensified violence looms and it may be a daunting task to keep blowing away the clouds of war
Two recent warnings are indicative of the growing concern internationally about the pillage of the Kashmiri people’s rights and how it could spark off a revolution in the captive Valley.
The UN experts at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, encompassing the rapporteurs of sections dealing with freedom of opinion, enforced disappearances, right to peaceful assembly and extrajudicial executions, have expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in the Valley after the Indian Parliament revoked the constitutionally-mandated status of Jammu and Kashmir. They have cautioned that the revocation would “exacerbate tensions in the region”. This is in continuation of the extremely critical reports published earlier by the same office on 14 June 2018 and 8 July 2019 regarding the violation of human rights by the Indian forces in the state.
A more alarming scenario has been enacted by Genocide Watch (GW) which has noted that, since August 5, India has deployed over 600,000 troops in the Valley. It also identified ten early warnings of massacres in Kashmir by classifying Muslims as “them”, using documents for identification, Hindu economic domination and sidelining of the Muslims as terrorists and separatists.
Citing the exclusionary ideology of Hindutva as the core reason, GW has pinpointed the instruments of classification, symbolisation (Muslim names, dress, language), discrimination, dehumanisation, organisation (stationing of a disproportionate number of occupying troops), polarisation, preparation (with BJP leaders speaking of a final solution), persecution (including lockdowns, arrest, torture, rape and murder), extermination (with 25 massacres having taken place since partition) and denial as the “ten stages of the genocidal process” which are at an advanced stage in the Indian part of Kashmir. It called upon the United Nations and its members to “warn India not to commit genocide in Kashmir”.
The steps taken by the Indian government to incarcerate and punish the people of the state are not only in violation of its own commitments made, they also represent the onset of a reign of terror whereby young people are being taken away by the security forces in the middle of the night with no information made available regarding their whereabouts or welfare.
The current situation in the Indian Kashmir has not come about overnight. This is a reaction to decades of strangulation of the people, manipulated by the Indian occupiers in cahoots with local collaborators in violation of international resolutions and commitments made by their leadership. The pent-up anger is now finding voice in a million ways and it is impossible for the Hindutva ideology perpetrators to impose their expansionist narrative over a state where the seething murmurs of rebellion are deep-set and widespread. With the secular pretensions of India effectively unmasked, use of brutal state power cannot wish the growing unrest away. On the contrary, with the world taking note of the abysmal human rights situation in Kashmir, these voices are likely to grow further, thus making it extremely difficult for India to maintain its stranglehold.
Moreover, this time around, India will not have a reason to blame Pakistan. These voices of rebellion are indigenous, which have become louder as a reaction to the growing Indian atrocities and the use of excessive and brutal force to keep the people hostage. That effort having backfired, the prospect of intensified violence looms and it may be a daunting task to keep blowing away the clouds of war. That occurrence would unleash an unmitigated disaster whose effects would go well beyond the regional domain.
The hearts of the rebels have been pounding for long. Now unfettered with the legitimacy of rebellion, there is very little that can be done to curb the voices – and the consequent upsurge.