Disequilibrium: Need for a messianic saviour
Preservation of Kashmiris as a sub national identity needs to be guaranteed by Delhi
Take a weapon of murder and wanton violence and call it deterrence that is the undiluted view from the Valley. People always look for a messianic saviour and while it may not conform with Darwinian evolution, great leaders, particularly those who head nations, qualify for this role. PM Modi had a chance at providing the breakthrough benefit after the tragic events of last year in Kashmir.
Like others before him, he too spoke of reconciliation and a settlement within the four walls of the Indian constitution, but alas, he appears to have failed to actualise his vision. The winter lull is when he should have got all the stakeholders to the table and tried to resolve some of the key sticking points. On the other side of the Banihal Pass, the separatists are like weeds, pull one out, another one grows. The dreaded Masrat Alam, ideological heir to Syed Ali Shah Geelani may well be incarcerated, but a lowly Burhan Wani has even managed to unify and embolden the separate factions of the Hurriyat namely Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq and Yasin Malik. People are not able to comprehend the Burhan Wani phenomenon and why he has become a symbol of war against the Indian state. As far as I am concerned, he was a terrorist who took up arms and misguided or otherwise fought the security forces and was killed. To romanticise this persona and turn him into a purported freedom fighter seems to be the theatre of the absurd playing out before our eyes. And yet, he has caught the imagination of the Kashmiris who have turned a terrorist into a hero and his funeral has become the talking point of the Valley for even the sitting chief minister who passed away - Mufti Saheb -could not pull in a tenth of those humongous crowds.

Kashmir valley's recent flirtations with blood lust and violence have reached a heightened level where it appears that the Rubicon has been crossed. A deep subliminal sense of anger, hurt and alienation afflicts the people of the valley, mainly the unemployed youth. Long years of drilling a particular message by a handful of vengeful Svengalis secured by Indian forces and funded by both sides of the border, coupled with Wahabi political Islam overriding religious Islam slithering across the cold pipes of the Internet has changed the thought process of the citizenry. Syed Ali Shah Geelani's long years of withering opposition with his theological identification has finally paid off. The mockery over the conduct of the Srinagar Lok Sabha by poll and the cold-blooded violence initiated to terrorise one and all is seminal. Not even in 1999 and 2004 when polling dropped to 12 and 18 per cent respectively has one seen a complete boycott of the rule of law and franchise. Of course, the marionettes orchestrated the violence and ensured that people simply did not set foot outside homes, but Kashmir Valley 2017 has undergone a dangerous change, the mood is indignant, the drift painful and India has once again become a foreign country. The sense of victim hood has scarred and brutalised psyches, the violent and bloody summer of 2016 a watershed.
With CM Mehbooba Mufti's own brother Tassaduq Hussain Mufti standing for election from Anantnag calling off the poll, which was scheduled for last Wednesday, the erosion in the democratic and political structure has been undeniable. Imagine the CM cannot guarantee polling in her own constituency. What does it tell you about the situation on the ground? It means that either the state administration has lost complete control or is willy nilly a part of what is now an armed struggle. For India this is litmus test, which it cannot fail. For if we fail this brutal catechism, we will lose the people of Kashmir, a travesty of epic proportions.
There have been many flash points in Kashmir, each time, one has waited for the scars to heal and the return of the people to the mainstream, but these last 6-8 months have changed the people who inhabit the Valley. The Sunni majority has won the war of babble, its shrill voice overwhelming the saner minority, which believes in rationality and India. The minority Shias reduced to enclaves, except in Budgam, where they are in a majority have lost their voice in the noisy din and clutter of azadi. The 293 km distance between Jammu and Srinagar is now interminable. Kashmir, it appears, has chosen not to return to the mainstream, it has chosen soft separatism and mainstreamed violence itself. A zero sun game is costing both sides - India and Kashmir. While we retain territorial sovereignty, a byproduct of a controversial accession, we have not managed to reach out to the people of the Valley, the old subsidy model now failed. The rancor and bitterness at no direct engagement with Delhi has sent Kashmir into a death spiral. Old methods of dealing with the Valley and its people ossified and antiquated, a function of political Islam giving Kashmiris a new sense of belonging.
By making a strong visual reference to combat fatigues and a systematic targeting of security forces both by the intifada of stone pelters and buddy paired militants from Pakistan, who are locking and loading at military installations to demoralise the morale of our fighting men, the strategic arc of the new gunfight at OK Corral is dangerous and deadly. Keep sending armed militants to attack security forces and test the limits of their endurance working in conjunction with locals using stone pelting shields to outfox them. Then there is fatigue as an infinite and incessant war wages against our men on the ground. The waves are unceasing both of terrorists being pushed in relentlessly by Pakistan and local support which had been stamped out by men like super cop SM Sahay in the past. Repeated targeting of the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in Pampore, schools (as many as 32 of them were destroyed) and other institutions, which represent democracy and rule of law is part of a larger tactical game plan. India, meanwhile, should have used the winter hiatus to talk to various players including the despicable Hurriyat, which has now managed a larger swathe for itself. We have to talk to all the political parties, the rebels, soft separatists through a meaningful dialogue and create a charter of milestones to bridge the trust and employment deficit. It is imperative that this is done for Kashmir teetering on the precipice will be lost forever, at least its people definitely.
Rhetoric has to give way to dialogue. Yes, Kashmir is an integral part of India. Yes, the Hurriyat is up to mischief, obsessed as it is with azadi. Yes, Pakistan wants the vivisection of India and is waging war through proxies. All these facts are unalterable, but equally what is an inescapable reality is that the constant kerfuffle has put Kashmiris in a bitter blue funk. Obviously there is no question of azadi, a handful of people living in a Valley 135 km by 32 km long and wide. PDP initially coined the narrative - "Goli se Nahi, Bholi se masla hal hoga", which according to me was bang on, for that is the only way to deal with people with fissiparous tendencies, bring them to the negotiating table, set a terms of reference and discuss things threadbare. Rising Kashmir in a recent write up by Ashok Bhan described the new age youth upsurge - Security forces engaged in targeted counter terror operations are being distracted to operate, despite the stern warnings by the security forces. The funerals of the slain militants are being attended by thousands of local people. A renewed wave of protests is in the offing. The civil society and the peace-loving Kashmiri community argues that the present unrest is a manifestation of people's assertion for protection and promotion of its sub-national unique identity within the larger entity of Federation of India and sub-continent." The table awaits a series of confidence building measures, which will hopefully alleviate the pain and suffering of the Kashmiris. Twice now in the last couple of years, one has seen a unique paralysis of the state administration, first during the floods, when the entire apparatus went missing and now during the Srinagar bypoll violence. The Indian deep state has to understand the nuances of the Kashmir problem and how complex they have become after last year's unrest. Kashmir has overcome the disappearance of the Moi e Muqqadas, the Amarnath row and even Afzal Guru's hanging, so why is this temblor different? Therein lies the problem and its solution. Preservation of Kashmiris as a sub national identity needs to be guaranteed by Delhi.

Investment in a capital asset or an employment generating project is a must. In the interregnum revival of HMT watch factories in Zainakote and Bari Brahamna (HMT Chinar Watches Ltd), both of which are shut. Zainakote for instance on 400 kanals of land and now utilised by the CRPF, should be restarted post haste. Send the signal that the government means business. The Zainakote factory used to produce almost 8 lakh watches per annum. One doesn't know whether watches are still viable from this factory, but the central government has to use this factory as a CBM. Similarly, one of the largest producers of silk in the world, the famous Silk Factory at Ram Bagh is in ruins due to the failure of successive regimes and official apathy. In absence of any maintenance, the mega British architecture buildings housing cocoon reeling and silk processing units are decrepit and dilapidated. Some of the historic buildings of the factory have been converted into offices of various departments. A visible and tangible expression of good faith can only come through revival of some industrial unit, which promises employment. Or alternatively fast track new investment in a job generating unit, but do whatever is required quickly. The time for waiting is long gone.
As a Kashmiri myself, I abhor this nonsense about independence, it is a fantasy that no Indian will ever allow. At the same time, constructive, all pervasive confabulations about the future role for Kashmiris living and cohabiting in the Indian space, is vital. If it means a level of autonomy, then so be it. Self determination is unacceptable, but regulated self rule can be considered. The bitter schism between Jammu division and the Valley, now even more pronounced as a Hindu-Muslim divide, has to be bridged fast.
How the extreme right of Indian polity (BJP) and the extreme right of Kashmir politics (PDP) meld is something that one has no prognosis for, but a resolution of some sort is required. Time is of the essence for I never thought that Geelani's attritional warfare will succeed, but for some strange reason Burhan Wani's death and the lengthy agitation that has followed has managed to carve out a different and counter narrative in the Valley. The time for debate on whether the Valley represents the state of J&K is also infructuous, for it is the Valley, which is growing more and more distant from India. The wounds and festering sores need quick cauterisation for Pakistan's spin doctors appear to be winning the communication and messaging war. The PM has to play messianic saviour, instead Geelani seems to be succeeding. This cannot and should not be allowed. Plankton avoid the big fish who prey on them and survive. Kashmiris are plankton who need help, India has to reach out. Plankton have the potential to become piranha...

@sandeep_bamzai
Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai
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