From Himal Southasian: “Children of the Tehreek”
“Yet July was haunted by echoes of the early years of the tehreek, the movement for self-determination. As a brutally imposed lockdown curfew entered its fourth day, there was no safe passage past the paramilitary checkpoints – not for ambulances, not for journalists. For those four days, Srinagar’s newspapers were not published; local cable channels were restricted to just 10 minutes a day, and still had to make time for official views. SMS services remained blocked the entire month; in some troubled towns, cell-phone services were completely discontinued. But Srinagar still reverberated with slogans every night, amplified from neighbourhood mosques: ‘Hum kya chahte? Azadi!’ (What do we want? Freedom!) and ‘Go back, India! Go back!’”
“The real barometer of the panic in the Indian establishment, though, was not the army’s flag march. It was the frantic speed (and dismal quality) of the attempts to obscure the crisis. In place of politics, it was once again left to disinformation to staunch the hemorrhage.”
“While the spin generated by New Delhi probably has an impact on the middle-class viewer of the mainstream Indian media, it has little effect on people in Kashmir. On the ground, they continue to make sense of their own reality. The inability, or refusal, to comprehend this has become endemic to all arms of the Indian state. An exaggerated, even fluid, notion of reality takes its place, in which perception is everything. This was underlined forcefully in June when the chiefs of the army, navy and air force announced the new ‘Doctrine on Military Psychological Operations’, a policy document that aims to create a ‘conducive environment’ for the armed forces operating in ‘sub-conventional’ operations such as Kashmir and the Northeast. The doctrine reportedly provides guidelines for ‘activities related to perception management’.
“As the taped phone conversation provided by the Home Ministry was being celebrated on TV, in only a few hours a more accurate translation of what was actually an innocuous conversation was burning through the Internet. This phone ‘evidence’ evaporated under the heat of scrutiny, its effects felt even in Delhi newsrooms. Such a speedy deconstruction of a suspect claim is only the latest in the deeply political use of the Internet by young Kashmiris. These are children of the tehreek, born and brought up in the turmoil of the last two decades. They have not, and probably will not, become armed mujahideen. But thousands are out on the streets, throwing stones, occasionally drawing blood, often taking hits, but in any case successfully paralysing the increasingly bewildered security forces. What armed militant could achieve more?”