Saying No To Violence
The Shift Is At People’s Level
It Is Here To Stay
How much has the political and security landscape in Kashmir valley witnessed a change post abrogation of Article 370? This is for the observers and researchers to analyze. What we are witnessing at ground level is that the behaviour general public has transformed to of the unimaginable levels.
Notably, no security or administrative measure could have transformed Kashmir to such greater levels. Going by the shift in public perception and response, violence seems to be a thing of the past. Any act of violence in the future seems to have been forbidden by the people – inconsequential to the political and security situations that may arise.
There is a definite change. This is certainly a positive change in the overall behaviour of people, which bodes good for the society. Nobody can claim the credit for this transformation except the people themselves.
The Undercurrent That Heralded The Change
The change in the ground situation is not abrupt. It is not solely because of the events of August 5, 2019. There was an undercurrent which heralded this change even before that.
The introspection started soon after the deadly violence of 2016 in the aftermath of the killing of the Hizbul poster boy Burhan Wani. The narrative at that time propagated by the terrorists and terror apologists was, Abhi Nahi Toh Kabi Nahi (Now or Never).
After the death and destruction witnessed in every nook and corner of Kashmir valley during that deadly violent phase, people started realizing the futility of such violent means. One could see early signs of rejection of the irrational political narratives. The undercurrents of this rejection started resonating, though not so vociferously.
The mood of the people changed thereafter. Now there was disillusionment with violence. People were fed up with the irrational political sloganeering of the political leaders.
What Laid The Foundation For The Transformation Of Kashmir?
Looking back, one can ask some straight questions. What laid the foundation for the transformation of Kashmir? What provoked the thought processes towards change? It was the one question that people started posing to the separatist leaders and their ideologues.
The question which baffled the minds was this: Whose blood was being spilled on the streets of Kashmir? In these violent protests, was there anyone here from the families and relations of the separatists or their ideological cousins?
This one question alone actually led to the transition that we are witnessing today.
In support of this argument, we need to carefully analyze the events which unfolded post the Burhan Wani agitation. Two parallel thought processes got streamlined after the agitations which were engineered after the killing of Burhan Wani.
One was undoubtedly the higher radicalization of a section of vulnerable youth. For the first time in the history of violence in Kashmir, a fringe turned towards the global jihadi ideology. They became more lethal and deadly.
At the same time, the larger population got disenchanted with violence and violent means of agitation. This could be easily measured by the response of the general public to certain events. Let us study them below.
Geelani Died, People Didn’t Care
Hardcore extremist separatist Syed Ali Geelani lost appeal among the masses. Those working within India or abroad to inflame Kashmir kept selling Geelani’s name. They kept projecting him as the leader of the people.
But at ground level, people turned their back towards him. He was no more seen as Kashmir’s iconic leader. His popularity suffered huge huge blow.
This was borne by what we saw in Kashmir in the aftermath of Geelani’s death in September 2021. There was no upheaval, no strike, no stone pelting, no protest rallies and absolutely no prayers in absentia.
When the news of his death came late night on September 1, 2021, I called a senior police officer. I suggested that the curfew and restrictions should be limited to Peerbagh area around Geelani’s residence, and a few spots in old town Srinagar. I was convinced that nothing would happen. People were unwilling to create any kind of law and order situation.
Here is the bare analysis. People did not mourn the death of Syed Ali Geelani. If one may be brutally honest, one may say that Geelani’s death had no impact on the people. His iconic image had been washed away four years ago. He was in the midst of controversies now. He was being questioned for his monumental role in leading our youth, our innocent children on the path of death and destruction. He was being questioned for snatching the lives and livelihood of people. In his last years, people saw Geelani as an egoistic man who has no roadmap to come out of the mess that he had created for the people.
People Realized That Violence Is Self-Defeating
The behavioral change is not abrupt. Kashmir and Kashmiris have gone through the worst times. We suffered self-inflicted wounds. At times people were driven by false hopes. Public temper would go high. Their expectations were raised sky-high by the separatists, but in the process, the people only suffered deep wounds.
At times, people would get carried away at the whims and fancies of the so-called leaders. Blinded by anger, people would harm themselves. Globally, no state can ever suffer prolonged civic unrest. In the terms of response, the state would sometimes go wrong. Sometimes the state response would be irrational and unwarranted. This would result in more violence, more death and destruction. At the end of the day it was the common man who would suffer.
Finally, it was the people who realized that in this fire that was lit by the Pakistan proxies in Kashmir, it was they and their children who were suffering. People realized that violence is self-defeating. Gradually, people started withdrawing from it.
The events of August 5, 2019 strengthened the belief that irrational and illegitimate political narratives were leading us nowhere. The abrogation of Article 370 acted as a catalyst. The simmering had been there four years before the abrogation.
The security measures, the administrative actions and the developmental activities also played a role in containing the violence. The UT Administration has tried to provide efficient administration. These efforts have contributed towards a positive image building of the government. People have felt that the government is trying to deliver, and is serious about the development and welfare initiatives.
It is a global truth that any change becomes real and catalytic when it is at the level of the people. So it is with Kashmir. Let us appreciate that it is the people of Kashmir who became the agents of change in the Valley. This needs to be acknowledged. They must be given credit for it.
The Calm That We Witness Now
Popular Shia leader Moulvi Abbas Ansari Laid To Rest After Most Peaceful Funeral Procession In Last One Decade
The disillusionment with separatists and with the separatist ideology was gradual. People have grievances, and they seek the resolution of their problems. But given the shift that we see in Kashmir, there is no question of resorting to violence. Perhaps for the first time, we can say that people are calm. That old dictum that was used for Kashmir no longer holds good – that there is uneasy calm.
The calm that we witness was seen recently when popular Shia leader Moulvi Abbas Ansari was laid to rest in Srinagar. Moulvi Abbas Ansari was the founder chairman of the separatist political amalgam Hurriyat Conference.
Thousands of people attended his funeral prayers, but this was the most peaceful funeral procession in last one decade. There was no sloganeering, no flag hoisting, no drama. This reflects on the mood of the general public in Kashmir valley.