Political philosopher and orator Edmund Burke once said in Parliament in London that ‘an event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.’ This statement was made about two and a half months before the storming of the Bastille in Paris, which was effectively the beginning of the French Revolution. Today, Kashmir is disrupted and I am compelled to look back in time when the word Kashmiri meant both pundits and muslims. There was never any distinction in the minds, we relished the Kashmiri cuisine, attended weddings, all children wore phirens in winters, celebrated all festivals such as Eid or Shivratri as our festivals. The Darbar movement, as many would know in summer Srinagar is the capital of Jammu & Kashmir and in winter Jammu is the capital, which was once a year phenomenon and still is an annual affair, is when the local markets on either side would become more crowded with Dogras, Kashmiris and Ladakhis. Not to mention that tourism was at its peak during those years and Jammu and Kashmir was the preferred location for the Indian film industry.
But as terrorism gripped Kashmir, there was an ethnic cleansing which led to migration of pundits from the valley. Soon, the word terrorism was replaced by militancy, once the unending troubles started. The children born in 1970s and 1980s were probably the last generation of Kashmiris who knew what it meant to be free thinking, had no fear of terrorism, and had no communal animosity. While there have been phases of normalcy—last major unrest in Kashmir had happened in 2008 and later in 2010—the valley is still far from it.
However, since the death of Burhan Wani this year, media has been tirelessly reporting about conditions prevailing in Kashmir and the issue of azaadi. But do Kashmiris really want azaadi? Amidst this growing unrest what a common Kashmiri probably want is to be heard. More so, the youth of Kashmir, now only understood as Kashmiri muslims, have lived in times where communal harmony is an alien thing. Pip in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations says, “In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there’s nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” A child who is now born in Kashmir is devoid of feeling of love by its own people and is not allowed to be assimilated with India.
Post signing of the instrument of accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, Kashmir has not seen emergence of any local party which can truly voice their concerns. Also, the current lot of separatist leaders is also represented by the old guard who have their own reasons to be disgruntled with the way Nehru-Sheikh Abdullah equation worked. Sadly, the youth has been misled not only by our neighbour but also from forces within. If I may ask: why did the killing of Burhan Wani have such an impact? The reason is, the youth, unfortunately, connected with him. It is of utmost importance that the present state as well as central government needs to reach out to the youth than the political parties including separatists. Both the state and central government needs to engage with the youth, which has been deprived of free thinking, free movement and equality.
In the recent past, under the leadership of PM Modi, the central government has dipped into its ample soft power resources in its diplomatic engagements. Time has come to deal with current situation in Kashmir also with soft power without resorting to force and economic inducements. Both the state and central governments must reach out to young students in schools and colleges and give them a platform to voice their concerns. Moreover, the people in our country have more faith in judiciary than political parties. As a way forward, a committee headed by eminent jurists could act as an intermediary between the youth and the government to break the current stalemate. The youth of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh need to sit together and help each other. The elected representatives from all regions need to work in tandem so that all regions are equally represented. The government should create a road map by strengthening and empowering the state police to slowly and gradually call off the armed forces from areas where peace is restored. The wounds have been kept alive only to mislead, than to heal. It is time for all of us to heal and move on. Time is ripe for PM Modi to hear the mann ki baat of youth of the Jammu and Kashmir.
The author, Divvya Kesaar, is an advocate practicing in Delhi High Court and the Supreme court.