The Divided Valley : Whom to Blame ?
[The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Collective.]
On 30th April this year, I went to cast my vote in the West Bengal Assembly Election. The area was cordoned by the Indian paramilitary forces. Section 144 was activated which is a section of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973, empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than ten people in an area. The CRPF jawans were everywhere. They were helping the old people reach the booth and silently (and occasionally with sounds when needed) keeping an eye on everything. This is the first time in years West Bengal has seen such ordered and strict Armed Forces’ activities during Elections. Frightened people who were prohibited or threatened by different political parties were assured by the Forces and it turned out to be a successful electoral process (though unavoidable occasional mishappenings happened in various areas) and people were delighted.
But of all people I did not know how to judge this gesture of trying to accomplish the desired duty of Armed Forces during an Election as Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly Election, 1987 stood in front of me as an exact opposite example. The officially rigged election which provoked armed conflict in the valley which is still going on. In the last three decades more than 70000 people were killed, tortured, raped, sexually abused in the valley. Between 1989-2009, more than 8000 people became victims of enforced disappearances. And also the evacuation of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley which is said to be an organized exodus by the authority under the then Governor Jagmohan, a pro-Hindu minded personality, to organize a clandestine genocide on Kashmiri Muslims. If Indian Government officially consider Kashmir to be ‘’an integral part’’, then why do we have to see this contradictory pictures of Armed Forces’ activities during elections in two different Indian states? And who do we or more precisely whom should we blame for this?
Noam Chomsky in one of his articles, describing US policy under Bush-administration, said, ‘’After 9-11, often with questionable relation to terror, the Bush administration claimed, and exercised, the right to declare people- including US citizens- to be ‘’enemy combatants’’ or ‘’suspected terrorists’’ and to imprison them without charge or access to lawyers or family until the White House determines that its ‘’war on terror’’ has been successfully concluded..’’ (emphasis added) But it would be a travesty to think that the ‘’war on terror’’ program by the US administration started only after 9-11. Since Second World War, US has killed more than 20 million people in 37 forcefully victimized countries, at least 174000 killed in Iraq alone. And the paranoid police force is responsible for reaching 1000 deaths inside US territory in 2015 alone. In the Kashmir valley, the equally destructive ‘war on terror’ is going on in the name of democracy. On 5th of July 1990, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was implemented in the valley. According to this act, the Armed Forces have the power to, ‘’After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order, and ‘’To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.’’ And the most destructive and inadmissible point was ‘’Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.’’ How would an Army officer decide what is ‘’reasonably suspected’’ or what are the laws of giving ‘’due warnings’’? In the recent incident in Handwara, where a girl was allegedly molested by an Army man, emboldened protests and 5 youths are killed till now in Army and Police firing. Later a video was released by the Army claiming that the girl has confessed of their innocence. Few years ago, arguably in the most controversial Supreme Court verdict ever given, the hanging of Afzal Guru, a similar ‘video confession’ was released by the Delhi Police where the detainee ‘confessed’ of his crime. Later Supreme Court reprimanded the Delhi Police for such action. The Handwara-girl’s mother later said that the girl was pressurized to admit the lie in the video which was later confirmed by the girl herself. One does not need to learn from the past when one enjoys impunity.
The great social theorist Michel Foucault once said, “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” There can hardly be a better way to describe the actions of Armed Forces, instructed and controlled by the authority (obviously! It wasn’t Armed Forces’ independent decision to quarantine the valley), in Kashmir. In another place Foucault said, “Death as the destruction of all things no longer had meaning when life was revealed to be a fatuous sequence of empty words, the hollow jingle of a jester’s cap and bells.” The promise of the famous plebiscite, started from the Nehru-era, which focuses on demilitarization and goes on with empty words like ‘’…the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people.”, has erased the word ‘life’ from the lifecycle of the people of Kashmir. And when they decided to avenge, another nation Pakistan came running and deceive them with false hopes while handing them weapons. One cannot be partial with the idea of freedom. A country which massacred the people of East Bengal (nowadays Bangladesh), killing an estimated 300,000 and raping more than 200,000 women, cannot be expected to consider ‘freedom’ without considering its own profit. Pakistan, an orthodox Islamic country, pretends to help Kashmir not because they believe in freedom, but because they believe in opposing India whatever the reasons are. And India, a self-proclaimed secular country with an unabating history of pro-Hindu riots against minority communities is holding onto Kashmir as it depicts how powerful Indian Armed Forces are.
Malcom X once said, ‘’you can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Revolutionary history of the world has showed us that armed rebellion or armed resistance is sometimes inevitable. People took up arms to prevent oppression and suppression, not because they want to become oppressors themselves. In Marxist ideology, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is a well referred and explained phrase of a revolution ‘’between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other.’’ This words do not mean that the working class will turn into bourgeois as ‘’the program does not deal with this nor with the future state of communist society.’’ Kashmir’s inclination towards armed resistance had not emerged out of their desire ‘’to be feared than loved’’ as Machiavellian ideology paints. It came into existence in their minds out of their everyday dealing with crackdowns, frisking, disappearances, the right to killing and raping with impunity etc. It came into existence from their self-perceived helplessness in the hand of a nation with nuclear power.
When such laws and actions are implemented in a territory, a violent outcome becomes inevitable whether people want it or not. They were forced to be oppressed and which forced them to take refuge in armed resistance. We were told that the Partition of Indian subcontinent diminished the colonial rule and made us the people of two free countries which can now freely grow. The primary blame cannot be put upon the Armed Forces. It is the result of the Government policies of two nations which emerged only to create a platform of endless conflicts. And the geographical location made Kashmir the best platform/issue to continue that opposition. Armed Forces are just the pawns used by Governments to enrage the oppressed and ensure the occupation while looking for ’conducive atmosphere’. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh quoted saying ‘’I pray to god that such a situation develops that there is no need for AFSPA in the country.’’ If the Central Ministers start giving up and wait for some divine intervention, then how could we blame when a Kashmiri teenager embraces a stone for the sake of freedom from oppression? The people of Kashmir are tired of waiting for divine intervention as they have seen so much of earthly (Indian Army, CRPF, BSF, State Police, Pakistan-sponsored tribal invasion etc.) interventions.
And by the way, which god did the Home Minister mean?
Written by Sayantan Dasgupta
Edited by Manisha