Our Actions, Our Silence Have Consequences
In some parts of south Kashmir, the movement of the jackboots gives a grim reminder of the situation of 1990s. In parts of Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag districts, the Army and paramilitary troopers have scaled up vigil and movement. This has impacted normal life, more so in the late afternoon and early morning hours.
There are reports that people in these districts are asked to go to their homes early. The roads are deserted, making the areas present a scary look. The intensification of patrolling by the security forces has limited major activities only to a few hours of the day.
We Picked Up The Gun, The State Responded
I am reminded of the wise words of my dear friend and senior defense analyst of the country Mr Qamar Aga. In 2016, in response to an observation with regard to the security concerns of the citizens in Kashmir, he said, “You have waged a war against the state. You have brought weapons from Pakistan to fight the might of the state. You should have anticipated the consequences at the time you decided to take arms supplied by the enemy state of the country against its military. I appreciate your concerns, but you are blindfolded to the events taking place across the globe. Wherever and whenever the non-state actors in any region and for any reason take up arms, the consequences are the same – the suspension of the civil liberties. In certain cases it results in suspension of basic fundamental rights essentially because the state, whatever the system of governance, has the right to quell the upsurge by using its resources”.
We have seen many transactions in Kashmir in the last three decades of violence. At times it was the armed militant who would rule the streets and force the people to suspend normal life, follow diktats or face the music. The civilians would be threatened, intimidated and killed for not submitting to the gun-wielding militants and their ideological cousins. Grenades and blasts would occur at crowded places only to make the people submit to them.
When the state forces responded to the situation created by the militants, the civil liberties of the commoners were restricted, suspended and even in certain cases denied. The militant would go in hiding after creating a scene and the state forces would again target the civilians because the militant was not visible.
We have seen travesties and tragedies unfolding. There was phase when the militants vanished from the scene and security forces went back to the barracks. People had a respite from guns on both sides, and had just started tasting the fruits of normalcy and peace. However, this phase too was short lived.
Hybrid Militants – The Invisible Killers
A new era of hybrid militancy has begun. We now live in times that are more uncertain than ever before. A non-designated militant who is any normal youth engaged in normal activities carries a small weapon hidden in his clothing. He hits a target, hides the weapon and resumes normal life.
He has no previous crime history, so the security forces have no record on him. These youngsters are mixed with the people. You don’t know whether the youngster on your left or your right is carrying a pistol and may shoot you.
In the last few months, this disturbing trend has aggravated. You never know who may be the next target, where and when. It could be a policeman at the traffic junction regulating the traffic. It could be a government employee who has just entered his office for duties. It could be a security officer who has gone to the market with his family during off-hours to do some shopping.
It could be someone like Samreen Bhat, a budding women artiste who had just returned home after performing on stage. It could be someone like Satish Singh, a poor driver with three daughters, a widowed sister and an aged mother. He could be killed while returning home after an exhaustive drive of nine days.
It could be a non-local young banker who got married just three months before. It could be a poor vendor from Bihar selling Pani Puri in a street in downtown. It could be a famous chemist who has earned the goodwill of millions for selling quality medicine at subsidized prices. There is no guarantee. It could be anyone.
This is what the situation is. Listed and designated militants are in hiding. Boys with no criminal background are being used for the killings. The state forces are being held accountable for their non-action or for not going after the invisible undesignated unverified hybrid militants. The consequences can only be imagined.
Are We As Parents Keeping Watch On Our Wards?
The police are under tremendous pressure. The Army is being grilled over civilian killings. The authorities have warned that all security forces must pull up their socks. In case of any civilian killing, the forces deployed on ground zero shall face the music.
The noises of jackboots have become louder day and night. The situation is scary. The question which we need to ask ourselves is this – Are we as parents keeping a watch on our wards? Are we trying to observe any changes in the behaviour of our loved sons? Are we wise enough to differentiate between the God-fearing son and the one whose mind has been poisoned by radical thought processes? Do we mourn the killing of all the innocents whose blood is spilled?
People have many complaints against the state. They complain that the state is uncaring. It does not address their concerns. It does not answer their questions. They complain that the officers are arrogant. They have unbridled powers with little or no accountability. The people complain that the state does not seek their approval for the controversial orders issued by it. They also complain that the state has closed its eyes and ears for the people.
But does the inability of the state to build a friendly relationship with the people justify violence or targeted killings by some amongst us? The response of a section of our people to pick up guns against the state has only brought us miseries and suffering.
Our violent response has crippled our wings. Now even our silence has become tainted.
Let us ask ourselves certain fundamental questions before according sanction to the waywardness of our sons. Why are we as Kashmiri parents shocked every time our son picks up the gun or is arrested for being an OGW? Are we questioning those who indoctrinate our child? Are we analyzing what factors in the environment radicalize our child?
We have every right to question the intentions of the government. We are not a banana republic where no question can be asked. We have to find out the ways and means to make the authorities accountable and answerable to the people. At the same time we are under obligation to introspect and anticipate the consequences of violent behavior by any one of us.
Equally, we need to acknowledge that the violence and our silence is creating conditions and justifications for further delay of restart of political process. We should perhaps acknowledge that some part of the control is in our actions or chosen inactions.