On third day of Eid, July 8, 2016 when the whole of Kashmir was busy with festivity, the evening came with the news that would go on to alter the entire situational paradigm of Kashmir. The Hizbul Mujahedeen commander and a widely popular militant Burhan Wani was killed along with his associates in an encounter with government forces at the picturesque resort of Kokernag in South Kashmir. Since then, protests, killings, pellet injuries, mass blinding by pellets and continuous shutdown for over a 100 days has defined life in Kashmir, turning the valley into a war zone.
The 100-day shutdown that has crippled life in Kashmir has been reported as the second longest shutdown in modern human history with Palestinian shutdown of six months against British in 1930s being at top. Gagging communication, including a complete ban on mobile Internet and often snapping mobile services, has been a regular tactic in the last three months. As a result of gagging of mobile and Internet services, a number of business activities have collapsed. Online businesses and trade affiliated with e-commerce in Kashmir have faced losses worth over hundreds of crores of rupees in the last three months.
Censorship and scuttling has been followed with impunity. Irony could not have been more pronounced as on October 2, 2016 on the eve of the International Non-Violence day, and on the birth anniversary of the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, the leading English daily Kashmir Reader was banned by authorities. The state government on that day ordered printing presses to stop publication of the Kashmir Reader, and warned that in case of refusal to follow the order punitive measures under various sections of different laws could be invoked against them. The order, issued by the district magistrate of Srinagar, says that publication of the newspaper can “easily incite acts of violence and disturb peace and tranquility.”
The majority of Indian journalists and TV channels who engaged in genuine chest-beating on the issue of Pakistani journalist, Cyril Almeida, did not utter a word on the ban on Kashmir Reader, silence that depicted their hypocrisy.
With this unprecedented worsening of situation, the number of people with mental stress problems has grown as we have hardly enjoyed one night of tension-free sleep during these 100 days. Conflict has taken a toll on youth as around 1.8 million people in Kashmir, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the valley’s adult population, show significant symptoms of mental distress, as reported by a recent survey conducted by the Médecins Sans Frontières.
In the midst of that, the pellet-blinded people and the dead eyes of victims define the state tyranny. The killing of young children in actions of security forces action has given rise to enormous outrage. As many as 1,000 eyes have been damaged; two million pellets have been fired during the agitation by state forces. Insha Mushtaq, a 14-year-old girl — who has both her eyes damaged — has emerged as the poster child of state brutality, reflecting the plague of dead eyes caused by pellets in Kashmir.
Small children have bore the brunt of the conflict. Recently, Junaid Ahmad, a 12-year-old resident of Saidpora in downtown Srinagar, was killed after being hit by a shower of pellets outside his home. There are many such examples.
Arrests and detentions have been the only response to calm down tempers as the Public Safety Act has been profusely used to curb dissent. Over these 100 days Kashmiris have felt that they are just like ‘hunted’ beings that do not have anyone to see their pain, while the international community glorifies their hunters. It is time this worst human tragedy of our times — Kashmir — is looked at with compassion, composure and farsightedness to prevent radicalisation and extremism.
After this current upheaval and since long Kashmiris believe that common Indians need to question why killings of civilians, pushing the youth to wall, blinding people, raping women, stabbing of democratic systems by governments and a draconian system in Kashmir have never been punished and debated despite India being world’s largest democracy.
The onus is on the Indian state to approach Kashmir with proper political confidence building measures, and not to waste time in propaganda and efforts to warp reality. It is heartening to know that a section of good-hearted people in India have been calling for a humane review of the Kashmir policy; their stand is deeply appreciated here in Kashmir.
Statistically speaking, 92 dead, 13,000 wounded, 1,000 eyes damaged, millions of pellets fired, and hundreds of crores of economic loss have been traumatising the soul of the Kashmiri nation in the past 100 days.