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Wake Up And Smell Kashmir's Undying Resistance

21/07/2016 11:34 AM IST | Updated 28/07/2016 8:47 AM IST
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Danish Ismail / Reuters

After Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen fighter was killed in an encounter with the Indian forces, Kashmir plunged into mourning and rose to respond with a relentless show of resistance. A massive crowd joined Burhan's funeral at Tral, his home district. Every city, town and village in Kashmir came together for in-absentia funeral prayers. Masjid pulpits rang with freedom songs and Azadi slogans. It has been more than two weeks, but the mourners continue demonstrations; they have bled and died willingly at the hands of Indian forces. The people of Kashmir are once again reminding the world of their intense desire for independence. The 2016 summer uprising is reminiscent of years past -- 1931, 1965, 1989, 2008 and 2010 -- when Kashmir made its intentions clearer than usual.

The youth are portrayed as angry at India for "human rights violations" or lack of "development"... How about Azadi? Anyone?

The Indian regime, as it often does, has responded with disproportionate use of force, the price of which have been 47 Kashmiri lives and counting, 100-plus blind due to pellet guns, more than 1600 wounded. Curfew is on; there's a clampdown on media, mobile and internet. The Indian troops have fired bullets and pellets on protestors who are only armed with stones. They, along with the intensely militarized Kashmir police, have barged into communities and hospitals firing and lobbing chilli gas at unarmed men, women and children. The demonstrators, at their end, have also struck police stations and other symbols of Indian presence on Kashmiri soil.

This current uprising is an important moment in Kashmiri resistance because it once again makes explicit the failure of the Indian government's machinations to curb the demand for independence. It especially showcases the utter waste of the Indian regime's intense focus on the Kashmiri youth. Since the 2010 uprising, young men in Kashmir have been at the receiving end of ceaseless WHAM (Winning Hearts And Minds) programs and many other sly "de-radicalization" projects. These WHAM operations were carried out across communities by the army and administration working in tandem. The intention was to "engage" the youth and pied piper them away from seeking Azadi.

The street demonstrations... are fuelled by a historical and definitive political ideology for freedom from India, and no one should mistake it for ordinary rioting.

Yet, in this most recent uprising, the Kashmiris without caring for their life or limb have once again shown India that nothing has changed. The writing on the wall is clear -- authored by young men such as Burhan with his AK47 and his brethren on the streets who are armed only with stones and rage. Even then, the puppet regime in Kashmir and the central government in India continue the charade of labelling the current uprising in the hackneyed shorthand of being Pakistan-sponsored ("Sarhad paar ki chaal"), or the youth being "disenchanted," "unemployed." In other laughable faux-analysis of the situation, the youth are portrayed as angry at India for "human rights violations", or that they resent the lack of "development", or they are not seeing the kind of "democracy" they want. How about Azadi? Anyone?

In wake of the current protests, the Indian regime's representatives (the likes of Mehbooba Mufti, Naeem Akhter, SM Sahai) continued with the historic charades they play in Kashmir. This time they interestingly invoked parenting ethics while addressing Kashmiris. In separate media appearances, they made imperative that Kashmiris, as parents, should ensure that their wards stay "safe" (away) from joining the protests.

In this narrative the Indian regime was attempting to do the following -- one, bring the protests at par with street crime, as if the protestors were ordinary hooligans preying on unsuspecting children; two, separate older Kashmiris ("parents") from the younger ones (read protestors), suggesting there was an inter-generational rift and no shared goal of Azadi (hence keep your children away).

Some media reporting also occurred around the specific theme of "Kashmiri youth and anger": an analytic, which can conveniently mask the history of seven decades of resistance instigated and nurtured by the "older" Kashmiris. Thus, to be noted: it is not only the current youth but also everyone else (older and younger) in Kashmir who is and has been angry at India, always.

Older Kashmiris may not be seen in such large numbers on the streets, but this does not mean they are outside the uprising.

The street demonstrations and stone-pelting battles are fuelled by a historical and definitive political ideology for freedom from India, and no one should mistake it for ordinary rioting. These demonstrations often are local and visceral ventures, commandeered intuitively and propelled by young bodies more fit mentally and physically for street battles. Over the last one decade the street battles have become a prominent motif of the culture of resistance that historically prevails in Kashmir; its own home-grown 'intifada' against India.

Older Kashmiris may not be seen in such large numbers on the streets, but this does not mean they are outside the uprising. Importantly, the Kashmiri youth being on the streets today is a continuation of every previous generation of Kashmiris who have been at it: in every decade since 1947 and before.

If Burhan is doing the dying, it is his father Muzaffar who holds steadfast to the ideal of Azadi that his son fought for. If Burhan laid down his life today, in the 90s it was Ashfaq Majeed, and Maqbool Bhatt in the 80s (we can count equivalent sacrifices winding down till 1947 and beyond). Burhan, and the fighters of street battles are products of sacrifices that all Kashmiris -- martyred, maimed, disappeared, muted, orphaned, widowed, young, new, old, unborn -- have made and are making collectively for Azadi and nothing else.

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