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The Kashmir valley has seen yet another spate of violent clashes between the security forces in Kashmir and protesters from almost all regions in the valley, after the death of Burhan Wani, the head of the militant group Hizbul-Mujahideen, on July 8 2016.Thousands of people were injured in the process and almost 100 have lost their lives so far. On his funeral, there were hundreds and thousands of people who attended. To put that into perspective the former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s funeral saw comparatively fewer numbers of people! The cry for protests and anti-Indian slogans came from many militias and invoked in people a fire that has now consumed the entire northern region. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the head of Hurriyat, a parent organization of all the separatist groups in Kashmir, and Yasin Malik head of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) called for protest rallies against the Indian security forces and the government in the wake of Wani being killed in an encounter with the latter. There is no doubt that Wani has been idolized and glorified incorrectly but New Delhi must search for the reason behind this.

Do the Kashmiris want Azaadi? Yes. The important question is freedom from what? One may argue it is freedom from human rights violations committed by army and security officials and the police. But, what about the freedom from the irrational and radicalized views of many separatists and militants? The mindset of these people is what baffles me. The popularity of Wani among many Kashmiri youth and them supporting his ideology is not shocking and new but certainly disturbing, irrational and acts as an incitement against the Indian military. If people like him encouraged more youngsters to join such institutions, what would be the possible outcomes? Everybody in Kashmir would be revolting, protesting, fighting and forever criticizing the Indian government. Is this how the people of Kashmir pursue peace? Are these the circumstances under which the Indian government can afford to repeal AFPSA? If there is an impetus on the Indian government to control the militancy and bring back normalcy to the valley there is an equal impetus on the people of the valley to help accentuate the process.  They sympathize with Pakistan’s reference to him as a ‘martyr’ rather than the blatant reality of his existence as a terrorist. The militants and the separatists groups like the Lashkar-i-Taiba and All Parties Hurriyat Conference are major players in disseminating the ideology of an independent Kashmir or a complete accession to Pakistan. But such kinds of people are not doing Kashmir a favour by promoting anti-Indian sentiments. Instead of funding, supporting, planning and conducting terror activities, can these people stand up for Kashmiris in the real sense by talking about pressing issues like economic, social and political development? Can they promise or talk about the region’s possible future apart from standing up against the Indian government. Do they have plans ready or schemes that can help uplift the constant influx in the state of Jammu & Kashmir? Or are they exploiters of deprivation trying to further political gains?

Everybody is entitled to education in India; these youngsters in Kashmir are too. But participating in protests, pelting stones, joining the militancy and separatist groups is all that lies in store for them? This also points to the scenario of the weak educational infrastructure in the valley. Some of these are ready to die and, in fact, have died in some of these protests. They seem to be forced and lured into the false propaganda of these separatists and militants. They believe they are helping the cause of their people by engaging with the separatists.  Many people in Kashmir want a peaceful life and want normalcy to be secured again in the region but with the incessant negative and hate filled responses from some Kashmiris, this situation cannot be ensured. The more we confront such questions; there is a better possibility of addressing these problems.

There are countless allegations against Pakistan supporting, funding and promoting these events in the valley. They talk of the right to self-determination of Kashmiris. But how can Kashmir decide for itself when it is heavily under the influence of separatists, militants and terrorists and of course the attempts of Pakistan. Can we say that the decision a large number of Kashmiris to participate in the protests were solely their decision? Don’t people like Burhan Wani, Geelani, Farooq Abdullah, and Yasin Malik seem to be some among many others trying to influence and spread a false idea of an independent Kashmir or Kashmir as a part of Pakistan? So can Kashmir exercise its right-to self-determination? Why aren’t instances of people appealing for peace in the valley seen more? We always hear and see people revolting. The evidence that there are innumerable and constant LoC violations and Pakistan commemorating Wani’s death and observing a ‘Black Day’ clearly points out to their propagandist ideology. There seems to be a lack of awareness in Kashmir towards the repercussions of becoming independent or even joining Pakistan. Yes, that’s the main point of emphasis. With these difficulties and claims it has always been an impossible task of India and Pakistan discussing with each other on this issue. The idea here is not to praise India’s efforts and malign Pakistan’s image. The point is to realize hypocrisies and false claims and act on them. It has always been an extremely challenging task of holding bilateral discussions between Pakistan and India on this burning issue.

The Kashmiris can’t be lamenting the death of Wani for long. While many Kashmiris want to live peacefully and have no connection with terror groups, there is the other small population of people, like those who participated in the rally, who are making a big difference by their cynicism. Complete demilitarization and the repeal of the AFSPA Act are not the solutions to this issue. The problem needs to be dealt with rationality and logically. The existence of AFSPA doesn’t mean that the number of human rights violations will be ignored over the years or put aside.  The recent Supreme Court judgment in relation to AFSPA is a positive step to bring accountability to this necessary law. Many things need to change. In the All Party Delegation in Srinagar on 4 September, important political leaders met to discuss matters pertaining to the state. Ideas suggested by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitely included banning of pellet guns and less harmful measures, reconsidering changes in AFSPA and release of more funds from the Centre. However, top separatist leaders refused to even attend the meeting, let alone talking with the political leaders. On one hand, they say the Indian government is adopting incorrect measures to resolve this issue. But they seem to have little interest in dialogue to rectify them. Consequently, these people have no right to openly denounce the government’s policies, protest, carry out terror activities and instigate the Kashmiri youth.

According to me, only a political solution, a pragmatic solution, can resolve the years of ongoing tension in the Kashmir region. It is not a battle of religion over humanity. It is not a war on humanity. It is a war on terror and religious radicalization. It is an effort to bring peace and harmony back and re-build a better political, economical and social scenario in the state. Government bodies can do nothing if they do not have the support from the Kashmiri people. Unless India has the support of Kashmir, Pakistan and other international, it can’t alone bring about a positive revolution. Developments don’t happen in isolation without the support of other institutions. If India needs to take positive steps so does Pakistan. For that, it must look at its own failing policies on military infringement and terrorism issues. The time to time cross border violations have also become way too often and Pakistan needs to put an end to it. There are highly polarized views on development based suggestions for Kashmir. Even if India is still trying to take steps, it must see to it that it takes the right steps. Issues regarding AFSPA also need to be deeply looked at. We can’t certainly do away with or afford to repeal the Act because of human rights violations. Involvement of military but without causing harm to civilians should be the main motto but for that a lot of time would be required to invest in considering an amendment of the Act and changes in the way the military is functioning there. The implementation and allocation of funds in the state need to take place in a more transparent way that ensures less levels of corruption at the government level. The state receives adequate funds from the centre but these resources are not being used effectively to serve different political, economical and social needs. The educational infrastructure also needs urgent attention and significant improvements. These institutions are always adversely affected when riots and protests hit the valley. Considering the constant violent eruptions and disturbances in the valley it very difficult to say how solutions can be applied and tested. The problem lies with the unstable nature of the region. But, it is time for big measures and reforms apart from merely holding talks with various political and non-political leaders. In short, we can’t be limited to ideas, suggestions and delegations. A greater action is imperative.

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Written By Aastha Singh

I am currently a Third year Mass Media student and I have a wide range of interests including development issues concerning all countries.

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