Anuradha Bhasin

From Kindle Magazine: Examining Essays Written in Bubbles

In the summer of 2010, the response to Kashmir’s anger erupting onto the streets was not just brutality but also an Indian nationalistic narrative claiming that the stone pelting mobs were sponsored by militants. In 2012, as Kashmir braces for another summer, in the intervening period marked by the invisibility of anger, a fresh narrative has taken over – that Kashmir is moving on or must move on. The source of the 2010 narrative was official circles; the 2012 narrative emanates from Indian intelligentsia who are busy manufacturing consent about ‘anger transforming into optimism’.  The arguments may sound new but are a morphed version of the traditional paradigms of ‘normalcy’ and ‘peace’ used in the past. Even during the peak militancy years, when local Doordarshan channels would broadcast news, the scorecard of daily violence and casualties always ended with the one-liner: ‘However, there was complete normalcy across the rest of Jammu & Kashmir.’

Now, as the government decides to maintain a cryptic silence, after vain attempts by parliamentarian groups and Kashmir interlocutors to feel the pulse of the youth, it is the jargon of intellectuals that has taken over. Everybody is keen to reinforce two points – that Kashmiris must move on and that they are happy – trying to drive home a theory of ‘the existence of peace’. The official exercises after the 2010 agitation, it is now clear, were not meant to address Kashmiris, but were for the purpose of creating camouflage and constructing an image of Kashmir that may not be agreeable to its people. Among the supporters of such theories are former RAW chief A.S. Dulat and former chief information commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, both drawing their conclusions from the prevailing calm and flourishing tourism, inferring that people of Kashmir have a stake in this ‘existing peace’ and thus that ‘they must move on’.  Dulat even claimed that Kashmir in this backdrop of ‘normalcy’ can be solved ‘overnight.’

But just how does one move on? The Valley today is not just a place awaiting an estimated influx of 2 million tourists, or where people voted en masse in panchayat elections, it is also a place where issues of justice have been buried forever.  How do those who lost their sons and daughters during the 2010 agitation move on, without the government even trying to investigate the cases? How do Kashmiris collectively move on when public campaign against the Shopian rapes and murders of 2009 was met with such apathy and attempts at cover-ups? How do they move on when the country’s apex court, the last hope of Kashmiris in the Indian legal justice system, recently directed the Army to deal with the guilty in the Pathribal fake encounter case, in which they were accused of kidnapping and killing innocent men and then passing them off as foreign militants for promotion and reward? How does one expect victims of human rights abuse, having been wronged by official security agencies and then denied any form of legal justice, to just forget the past and move on in pursuit of a peace that is a mere façade? While the Indian intelligentsia is sketching rosy pictures of flourishing tourism and optimistic youth, the government is on its toes executing crackdowns and effecting large scale arrests and detentions in fabricated cases of what is called ‘Facebook terror’. Atrocities and happy tourists go side by side; peacefully coexisting in a Valley defined as ‘normal’ and ‘peaceful’ when in fact, even the most mundane of protests over development issues and jobs have been met with brute force – from water cannons to point blank firing – resulting in more deaths. Each and every protest is scuttled as if the fundamental right to protest has been scrapped from the law books…

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