Till yesterday, Pakistan was a badge of honour in Kashmir. Today, it is a stigma nobody wants to carry in Kashmir. The stigmatization of Hindustan is a chapter of the past
August 5 marks the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Constitution. It went by peacefully last week. The situation remained by and large normal in Kashmir. There were no attempts for protest.
Especially since August 5, 2019 some leading international media houses have made Kashmir one of their favourite talking points. The lack of any response in Kashmir to the second anniversary of August 5 should have been given equal attention by them. In the urban centers of Kashmir valley, life was 60-80 percent normal. In rural Kashmir, it was a completely normal day. Police reports stated that specifically, Srinagar was 50-60 percent normal. At certain places, police allegedly compelled shopkeepers and other businesses to stay open.
The KZINE team visited many busy areas of Srinagar city to assess the mood on August 5. According to our observation, it was a 50-50 situation. About 50 percent of businesses were open in Srinagar city. The rest were closed. Members of the Kashmiri diaspora sponsored by Pakistan made attempts in the US, UK and EU to organize protests on August 5. In the UK, some people of Kashmir origin and a group of Pakistani nationals protested outside Indian High Commission. Some ISI-backed journalists in exile had started the campaign #Red For Kashmir from July beginning.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has replaced hawkish Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the flag-bearer of the separatist camp. Mehbooba came out to protest the abrogation of Article 370 with all of seven party workers.
Her protest was insignificant because she failed to gather a mass around her. To summarize the second anniversary of the revocation of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, we can say this: There was neither a serious attempt from any side to disturb normal life for the day, nor there was any appetite for such initiatives. This raises several questions about the general mood in the Valley.
There are too many questions, not many answers. Kashmir is homogenous only by faith. Beyond that, Kashmir has many realities.
The Shift in Kashmir
An amazing shift has taken place in Kashmir. This can provide the basis for a very interesting perspective.
Pre August 5, 2019, there was consciousness among some Kashmir observers that Kashmiris are collectively separatists or Pakistanis. Secretly they are Indians. After the abrogation of Article 370, collectively Kashmiris are nationalists. Secretly, they hold a grudge against the state. This is the subtle shift. If this shift is not adjudged in the right perspective, it may be confusing or misleading. The fact remains that the domination of the separatist narrative has seen a sharp decline. Some may argue that it has ended. Nationalism and patriotism is pervasive. It is growing substantially on the canvas.
This may be because the state is on the path of course correction. There is no appeasement of the eminent faces in the terror ecosystem. There is no hobnobbing with the strategic assets of Pakistan. For the first time in 30 years, there is naming and shaming of the people who had taken the state for a ride even though they enjoyed power, privilege and patronage.
The Indian state has abandoned its faulty policies that perpetuated the status quo in Kashmir. Those who abused power, privilege and patronage are paying for their deeds.
The labels that Kashmiris want to flaunt have sharply reversed. Till yesterday, Pakistan was a badge of honour in Kashmir. Now it is a stigma that nobody wants to carry. The stigmatization of Hindustan is a chapter of the past. This is the new normal.
This is precisely what the Indian state has achieved post abrogation. This also provides answers to some of the questions raised above. There were many truths about Kashmir when the separatist narrative was dominant. There are many truths about Kashmir when the same narrative is dormant. Globally, people tend to identify themselves with the dominating discourse – whether political or violent. Starting from August 5, 2019, there may be less to celebrate for Kashmiris. On the contrary, there is much for the Indian state to sell to its local audience as well as to the international community. A very important point which may be considered highly encouraging for the Indian state is that it has finally succeeded in defining terrorism in Kashmir. This definition has been accepted by the international community, though with certain riders.
Points that merit contemplation
- Does business as usual mean that people have left behind whatever good or bad happened on August 5, 2019?
- It was only the second anniversary of the abrogation. Presuming that public memory is short lived, has Kashmiri society transformed in just two years to such amazing levels that it has happily reconciled and moved on?
This may emerge as a major area for study by researchers in order to evaluate Kashmir society. What we see is that the opinion leaders from diverse fields of Kashmir – politics to business to legal fraternity – all are entrenched in the past. They are reluctant to come out of their deceptive fantasies.
- Can we presume that August 5, 2021 was normal because the society lacks leadership either in the mainstream or the separatist camp? Is it correct to assume that currently, Kashmir has no mobilizers? Can we say that mobility has dried up because the law-enforcing agencies have succeeded in containing the political forces that drive mobilization?
- For many years, a section of thinkers have attributed the uncertainty in Kashmir to governance deficit. Has the governance improved to such levels that people are happy with the LG administration and they don’t want any kind of instability?
- Thirty years of violence has devastated normal life in Kashmir. It has come with huge human, economic and socio-political costs. False hopes and false dreams have crashed, particularly with the scrapping of Article 370 and 35 A. The Indian state responded to the cost inflicted upon its people by Pakistan after 30 long years. Do the calm and composed streets reflect conflict fatigue in Kashmir? Are Kashmiris now conscious of the costs of violence?
Where the State Is Wanting
The state seems to be wanting in providing alternate options to the existing political structures. There is confusion in state policy. At places, it seems that there is no policy at all. The state is lost between embracing the old political dispensation and encouraging the new political actors. We come across a new argument. It goes like this: Abrogation was never meant to wipe out the old political forces. It was aimed at correction of the political discourse, and the desired political dividends have been realized. This argument merits both study and introspection.