When the recent Awantipora encounter ended with the martyrdom of Riyaz Naikoo, the site’s sight had an uncanny resemblance:- buildings had been reduced to rubble, epicaricacy of Indians was open, Forces were on rampage, another freedom fighter was about to become eternal in the hearts of the natives, the locals were ready to start their ritualistic procession of throwing stones at the satanic Indian forces, which, in a way, is a synecdoche of stone-throwing ritual during Hajj pilgrimage.
After every such encounter, the question that comes to the mind is, What will happen now? How is it going to end? And this is what I shall be answering in the following paragraphs.
The first and foremost thing required to carry forward this struggle of independence is unity. This aspect is the most vital, and yet, the least appreciated and discussed one. Unity is the prerequisite for starting any mass struggle and only a mass movement can make us achieve our desired objectives. When people from Kupwara to Poonch will be on the same page, the occupier will be forced to bend. There is not much of a relationship between the coming of freedom and the number of lives sacrificed for it. It will be quintessentially wrong to assume that the conscience of the occupier will be shaken by the deaths and martyrdoms because, for any occupation, the basic requirement is the death of usurper’s conscience. No matter how many lives we lay, it won’t affect their firmness. To end it, we need strategies and implementations. The role of militancy and stone-pelting is significant for keeping the movement alive, but it will fall short in meeting the objective and anything less than freedom is unacceptable. Take the example of J&K Police. It is one of the cruelest security agencies, with strong intelligence-gathering capabilities. Its strength is driven by the disunity prevalent amongst us. When the movement in Poonch will be as strong as the one in Srinagar, it will take a toll on the police officials as well, for they too belong to this land. But this mass struggle and movements are all easier said than done. It requires a decade of work to instill such mindsets.
Today, thanks to BJP govt, everybody seems to be in the agreement regarding India’s oppression. Even the uninspired ones are furious and burning. But what happens when Congress, with its pseudo-secular optics comes back? Will we all go back to square one? To tackle it, there needs to be an institutional set up to unify people. An organization like ‘All JK Muslim Association’ or something similar needs to be set up which will talk only of bridging gaps between the groups at ground level, nothing else. It could very well do its meetings in different districts to add a sense of brotherhood. We have to mix revolutionary activities with moderate ones, calls of arms with calls of unity within the state fraternity. Both aspects are essential.
To understand its significance, we must know that almost every land of freedom-seeking districts of J&K has contributed to the struggle, every community has played a role at some point or the other, but from a bird’s view, it has been a disjointed effort till yet, resembling the agrarian revolts of Indians of late 19th century. The Indian establishment has successfully ensured that any protest, any revolutionary act remains regional or local in its impact and effect. Its implications are cataclysmic. The occupier is able to deal with everyone with the same, insurmountable energy. It turns the entire effort futile.
Another idiosyncrasy of Occupation is that it is relentless. It will intimidate you with its belligerency, it shall entice you with its faustian offers, it shall encrypt you with its media and it shall engulf you in its culture. It shall use its books to teach you lies about your own self, it shall use stooges to curtail your aspirations and it shall use its state machinery to create a fear so deep that overcoming it assumes a character of divinity. The result is that there is presently, a sense of nihilism amongst many of the masses. It is assumed that India is too humongous to be defeated, that Kashmir is a lost cause, so we must make peace with whatever lollipop India gives to us. The war of 1971, our pusillanimity, and exaggerated extrapolation of Indian power, buying of loyalties through incentives have played its role in it. What we forget is that every colonial power at one stage seems too humongous, too strong to retreat, but like every power, it has a fixed period and after that, it fades away. History is a witness to it. So the belief in our strengths, in the inherent fallibility of the occupier, in the support of our allies, in the impacts of our efforts should never be belittled.
The other stratagem is of Perception building. For Kashmir, it has to be both inward and outward. Of course, it has an economic and geostrategic connotation to it. If Pakistan had a stronger economy, the scenario would have been completely different. At the world stage, the impression is made due to internal dynamics, not external ones. The pacts are not made as much in bilateral meetings as from the conditions before it. Apart from Pakistan to improve its internal mess, the diasporas of Kashmir (which is very strong) and Pakistan must work on war footings. It must be conveyed at every platform, to all people. Facts and figures of the occupation are everywhere, they just need to be highlighted.
Secondly, not many realize that many people have apprehensions towards Pakistan and even AJK. They have been fed with the narrative that Pakistan is a failed state, its social dimensions are feudalistic and Indian society is far progressive than it. This needs to be countered and the common people of AJK, Pakistan must act on it. The people and authorities of AJK must start to address the communities, especially the Gujjar and Paharhis; the people of Gilgit Baltistan can play their roles in the Kargil area as they have historical and cultural ties with them. Social media, even with all its vices, has the virtue of building ties. People to people contact should be triune; within the state, with AJK, and with Pakistan. Perhaps, even Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan can play a significant role. From the past year, he has been a great ambassador of J&K in foreign lands, it is time that he addresses the different sections or the state as well, it shall inculcate a fervor like nothing else.
J&K, like truth and reality, is multifaceted, and no monotonous effort can solve it. The movement must be in ambiance and touch every aspect of life. It should be emphasized that though the epicenter of freedom is in the valley, its route lies in the mountains. It is time to remove the occupational barricades and secure it.
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Author is a civil engineer from Pir Panjal and can be reached at email@example.com