Imagine you and your family sleeping at home in the night and suddenly there are sirens indicating that everyone — wife, husband, children and parents — have to come out in the cold open and line up for checking. Imagine you are in your country and an occupying force is conducting the search with guns pointed towards you and your family and they want to find a militant among you all. You might be able to imagine but you won’t be able to feel the fear going through your spine, the fear of abuse, the fear of being shot at, the fear of losing a family member, the fear of seeing blood on your street — again!
This is not usual fear, this is terror! It is terror because it is done repetitively! It is terror because every day or every night, some soul has to be snatched away from its worldly remains in your locality, to keep the god-of-terror living and dominant.
This game of terror is not new to Kashmir; it is a regular year-on-year feature. The Bi-Annual HR Report by JKCCS, a Srinagar based indigenous umbrella organisation, published in July 2020, reported 229 killings, 107 cordon and search operations, 55 internet shutdowns, 48 properties destroyed in the first half of 2020 in Kashmir. Earlier, JKCCS reported 2018 to be the deadliest in the decade, with 586 killed, including 160 civilians; at least 275 cordon and search operations leading to at least 143 encounters; and at least 120 cases of damage to civilian houses.
Search Cordon Kill Destroy; several tactics are combined to keep the agony of oppression fresh upon the people; such as Area Domination Patrol combined with the works of National Investigation Agency, an intelligence service formed specially to tackle with alleged terrorists in several of India’s states where separatist movements are active. Kashmir is NIA’s favourite, it has been conducting dozens of search ops every day. Only on August 8 and 9, it reportedly conducted searches at 61 locations in 10 districts of IIOJK.
The increasing frequency of operations does terrify and agonise the population, but does not, as declared by the Indian side, intimidate the so-called terrorists; rather it adds to the fire of rebellion in the hearts of the Kashmiri youth that is ready for mutiny in the face of oppression. The web of the so-called terrorists is in essence the web of the whole Kashmiri society that has learnt to constantly modify their ways of resistance and survive under hostile conditions in modes that retain a certain amount of defiance as they go on in their daily lives. Many of the people have turned into underground workers and the rest assist as overground workers — all Kashmiris are defiant; all are terrorists in the eyes of the Indian forces.
Adaptation and modified behaviour, from individual occasional attacks to organised periodic ones; from street processions to stone-pelting events; from complete underground work to tech-savvy social media activism — the modes of resistance have constantly been changing. In the recent years funerals of the martyred have increasingly become larger, as tens of thousands gather in each funeral making it a celebration of heroism and a social media event shared around the world — this unnerving phenomenon has been the reason why the Indians disallowed a funeral for Syed Ali Geelani, which was bound to pull in Kashmiris in the millions. Another emerging phenomenon has been of ‘disruptive crowds’ wherein hundreds or thousands of locals force upon a cordon and search operation with stone-pelting and other assaults, forcing them to flee the scene and resulting in the ‘victory’ of the militants.
All this clearly depicts that the Kashmiris are not ready to assimilate with an Indian identity; they have not accepted the Indian aggressive attempt of fusing Kashmiriat into Indianism by terminating Articles 370 and 35. Rather, in the face of extreme measures of internet and print media shutdowns, prolonged curfews, increased military presence, enhanced counterterrorism activities, and everyday encounters and letting of Kashmiri blood — the Kashmiri freedom-lovers have only learned to evolve further.
Recently, Kashmiris have retaliated by organising attempts against the Kashmir Pandits. This was when Indian leaders were generously inviting Indians to come and buy land in Kashmir. In retaliation, people decided to make life difficult for the existing Hindu community in the Valley. The onus of this atrocity falls back upon the Indian side who have constantly upped the ante against the Kashmiri people, from suppression to an attempt of annihilating the identity of the people.
The Kashmiri Pandits have reportedly started fleeing to India. But for each attack on the Pandits, there are dozens of counter-attacks. Hardly any day goes by without news of a search and cordon encounter. Kashmiris are massively being detained every day. Only on October 11, 2021 the police detained over 900 overground workers; on Oct 28 alone, search and cordon operations were conducted in 17 locations in seven districts by the NIA. Area-Domination Patrols are being employed in sinister ways; these are multilayered security operations, using intensive search-drills and long patrols with hundreds of jawans; making surprise checkpoints on roads, and conducting random frisking of vehicles and passengers; and use of drones. Area-Domination is usually used in cross-border operations, one can imagine what it would mean in heavily populated civil areas.
Last month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited Kashmir with a promise of delimitation and elections. Last time he came was immediately after the abrogation of Article 370. Delimitation will help reformulate constituencies in ways that would facilitate win of pro-India candidates and will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. How will the Kashmiri people adapt to this new scheme from the Centre is to be seen, but one thing is clear: human societies are a constantly adapting and evolving organisms; what will direct them is more likely to be their inner passion and sense of identity, not a diktat from outside, saboteur forces!