Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Vicious cycle of violence
The centre does not appear to be in a mood to engage people in Kashmir for restoration of peace and normalcy
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The outpour of angry students from colleges and schools, protesting against the horrifying killing of Pulwama college student, in different parts of Kashmir Valley on Monday should have demonstrated that the phenomenally high levels of alienation and frustration in Kashmir cannot be tamed by physical repression. No amounts of curfews, jackboots, killings, torture, arrests, restrictions and banning the cyber skies are enough to address the problem. Announcements like plastic bullets to be used and keeping 'pellet guns as a last resort', that was made by New Delhi on the same day, are also futile, not only because of the ambiguity of 'using pellets as a last resort' but primarily because military might is not the only way to combat anger of such disproportionate dimensions. If New Delhi fails to heed the extremely dangerous and chaotic descent into which Kashmir is slipping, it is further going to embolden a generation of people who have been born and grown up in the conflict, have seen atrocities and human rights abuse as a part of what has become normal in Kashmir and have completely lost their sense of fear of the security forces they see as a brutal force. Monday's protests were significant not only for the huge outpour of anger of students across the Valley but also for the visible participation of girls and women from different colleges, marking a departure from the past when women's agency has evinced itself primarily through domestic activism, mostly as attempts to protect family members or seek justice for the brutalized and victimized dear ones. It shows that public anger not only continues to be on the rise but also that it is no longer can be suppressed. Having been pent up for years, this anger now unfolds itself not only in reaction to oppression by security forces but also in the operations of the security forces against militants.

These fresh trends of public responses in the Valley need to be factored into the Kashmir discourse to be able to find a way ahead from this unending vicious cycle of brutality and violence. Clearly, military methods alone are not sufficient to check both the militancy and public unrest. There is need to begin a process of engagement. But New Delhi appears to be in no mood. Having first emphatically defended itself against brutal forms of warfare against civilians like pellet guns, the Attorney General seeking to lend legitimacy to the use of civilians as human shield, which can be easily construed as a war crime, shows that the Centre is not thinking beyond the option of military jackboots. Such responses of the government reveal not just an appetite for brutality but also that it wants to ensure that the pattern of impunity is complete and non-negotiable. Ideally, New Delhi should also view Kashmir from a humane lens. In the absence of such response, it is incumbent upon the PDP-led state government to speak on behalf of its people and continuously engage with New Delhi in a bid to ease the tensions a bit. Alternatively, the state government should be quick in bringing down levels of anger not by clamping down on the public but by vehemently condemning the wrongs being perpetrated by security forces and police. Its cryptic silence on the issue of unjustified entry of military and police vehicles inside colleges and university campuses, the resultant protests in Pulwama College and the killing of a student by police amounts to an endorsement of such brutality. Not only does such criminal silence have the potential of further dwarfing the popularity of the government but also further pushes the Valley to yet another bout of violent protests and extremely brutal repression. A timely condemnation and apology, if nothing more, could at least minimise the damage. By failing to counter New Delhi's rigid posturing and allowing itself to become a virtual shadow of His Master's voice, the state government is just as culpable.

News Updated at : Wednesday, April 19, 2017
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