Stocktaking On August 5
Empower The Young Turks
New Winds Are Blowing, There Are New Windows Of Opportunity
We are just past August 5. The date which came as a stunner for us all. But for people
weary of violence and conflict, gradually hope has built that the tomorrows of Kashmir
shall be different. Building a positive and strong tomorrow is always a work in action.
The UT Administration needs to reach out more to fulfill this promise.
After the abrogation of Article 370, there is space for a new social and intellectual
discourse to take shape in Kashmir. For decades, the old guard of NC, PDP and others
did not initiate any political narrative that would have strengthened the Indian
democracy in Kashmir. They made some stray comment here or there. But the dynastic
and other politicians of Kashmir never discredited or disassociated from the dominant
August 5, 2019 onwards, this old guard steadily lost ground. This is the reason why the
old guard has been raising the hullabaloo against the abrogation in such a shrill manner.
The tired old promises of soft separatism and everything that flows from separatism it is
their familiar territory. They cannot survive outside it where new winds are blowing.
These old players surface every now and then, but parrot-like, they repeat the same old
tired narratives. One of the Young Turks I spoke to called it their same old “ghisi pati
talk.” The reality is that within Kashmir, a sizable section of the population is now
increasingly aware of how they are bearing the consequences of the Pakistan-sponsored
war, and how it has destabilized their life. They are aware of how every day, Pakistan
makes the young blood of Kashmir spill on the streets. Three years after abrogation is
sufficient period to give new social and intellectual affirmative narratives to people, so
that they are able to align with new ideas and new beliefs.
People are tired of the political bluff of the past. The longer the old guard remains out of
power, the more irrelevant they are becoming. People are tired of the same old political
leaders who belied all promises and did not delivered development or growth for over
Bold Voices Need Handholding
After the abrogation, Kashmir has offered a huge window of opportunity. New hope has
emerged that Kashmir is going to witness a positive shift. There is hope that good
governance shall flow. There is hope that the endemic corruption which marked
Kashmir would be reined in. There is hope that meritocracy will rule and nepotism –
which had got entrenched in the governance systems of Jammu and Kashmir – shall end.
A sizable section of the population believes that the dominance of a single party at the
Centre shall fast-track the positive shift in Kashmir.
A vacuum does not sustain. Young Turks with strong conviction and belief have arisen
on the scene. It takes tremendous courage to start a new social and intellectual
discourse in Kashmir. From the grassroots, these Young Turks have started making
themselves heard. They are challenging the politics of separatism and alienation. These
Young Turks speak the language of progress, harmony and oneness with the nation.
Efforts are being made more visibly over the last one year to encourage and strengthen
these young voices. The Indian state needs to do full justice to the urgency of boosting
the new intellectual and social discourse in Kashmir.
Those who propagated this discourse did not get the right handholding from the state
forces. The encouragement for these voices made itself heard only over the last one
year. They need to be protected more.
These new, positive voices that speak of integration and harmony need to be
encouraged and strengthened. They shall be the catalyst for shaping public discourse in
Kashmir. There is space for this new and affirmative discourse. More and more
Kashmiris are seeing hope in aligning with the Indian mainstream. Separatism and
alienation is losing mass appeal.
For over two years after abrogation, such voices were not given due recognition by the
state and were not amplified. Valuable time has been lost. The UT Administration must
provide the required support to these emerging voices.
Within Kashmir, The Green Zone Is Widening
In terms of security, more and more Kashmiris are moving into the green zone. Specific
deterrents against the terror eco-system have moved this shift into fast gear. Starting
last year, the UT Administration terminated the services of those government
employees who had aided and abetted the activities of terror groups in Kashmir. Action
was initiated against house owners who had provided shelter to terrorists or OGWs.
These punitive measures have reined in activities that threaten the security situation.
They have helped the government in providing better living conditions to the common
citizens where their safety is protected and assured.
It cannot apply to the social and political needs of the region
In early 2020, I met a senior officer of the security establishment in New Delhi. He said
that it was impossible to empower any youngsters from the outside. The officer
asserted that whoever wanted to gain in power would have to rise from ground level
and create his or her own space.
Youngsters who have the potential to begin the new social and intellectual discourse
have emerged on the scene. They have succeeded in standing their ground against
fellow Kashmiris who have been fed for decades on a concoction of lies, constant replay
of victimhood and the opium of impossible political dreams.
In this light, I wonder if this officer of the security establishment whom I met was right
in his opinion. In a region marked by jihadi violence, the state cannot sit back and take
the lofty laissez-faire position. Laissez-faire is the policy of leaving things to take their
own course, without any interference. It may apply to capitalism in the US. It cannot
apply to the social and political needs of Kashmir.
These Young Turks are moving among their people and arguing in favour of new thought
processes. The past three years was the time to strengthen this new leadership. How
could they be strengthened? This would have been possible by giving them some
traction within the system.
We are aware that we are witnessing a shift in Kashmir. But even amidst the shift, the
shadow of terror and violence by anti-state forces looms over us. In this backdrop, the
emerging young leaders need to be empowered.
For example, these aspiring leaders come to the Secretariat with 10 villagers who want
some specific civic issues to be redressed. Or they come with a group of youngsters who
had earlier got caught up in the terror eco-system but now want to build a new life. A
kindly bureaucrat or cop may provide the assistance that is sought by these youngsters.
But mostly, bureaucratic apathy thwarts the enthusiastic reach-out.
Bold Voices Face Huge Personal Risk
It must always be borne in mind that the every aspiring Kashmiri leader who mobilizes
people to align with the state to build a better tomorrow faces huge personal risk. The
terror ecosystem does not want Kashmir to witness new positivity and energy that
steadily takes it towards normalcy. The terror ecosystem does not want a happy
Kashmir where the issues faced by people are democratically redressed and resolved.
Anybody who ventures out to facilitate positivity and change is target for the terror
players. Anybody who talks of integration and harmony is a threat to Pakistan’s
destabilization strategy for Kashmir. The aspiring leader exposes himself to the threat of
being identified and harmed by the terrorists. He is vulnerable – he does not enjoy the
security circle of the bureaucrats or top police officers. Yet he answers his inner call to
The state must ensure a better response system to these enterprising individuals who
bring to light the grievances of the people and seek redressal of these issues. Barring a
few honourable examples, the response systems have not made more effective. After
the abrogation, the state has a window open to fully capitalize upon the opportunity for
change. The state must capitalize upon this opportunity.