People’s movements are not something new to Kashmir. The political vicissitudes of the conflict provide an environment hospitable for a people’s movement to germinate, grow and prosper. Since 1931, a number of people’s movements have born, evolved and declined. Each movement has been much more diverse, widespread and progressive than its predecessor. Kashmiris have learnt to adapt, evolve, inculcate and innovate new methods of resistance that they are using in sustaining the people’s movements. Since 2008, these movements, uprisings, agitations and intifadas have been a part of the political culture and everyday life of a common Kashmiri. They have witnessed many ups and downs but gained gigantic proportions in the summer of 2016.
People of Kashmir feel that the Indian state is aware of only one response of brutal iron fist policy when it comes to engaging with the people of Kashmir. The Indian state, its government institutions and policy makers all witness Kashmir through the Pakistan prism, as a security issue and law and order problem. They still have not been able to accept and acknowledge the fact that Kashmir is a genuine political problem, usurpation of rights, and need redressal and permanent resolution. Further, the inability to distinguish between a violent armed insurgency and non-violent people's movement have rendered the state to behave in a monochromatic manner of using violence without distinction.
The brutal state response has made many think about the viability of peaceful, democratic and non-violent ways; though it is true that peaceful and nonviolent ways do not depend on the response of the adversary. But here adversary, unlike an enemy state, has a responsibility to the agitating people. And, it is this responsibility which begs this questions that doesn't the Indian state have a responsibility to measure its means of handling protests and agitation commensurate with the democratic ethos and responsibility? Kashmiri people compare the methods state uses against them and in rest of the country in similar agitations and find a huge, radical difference.
Leaving aside the debate about the methodology of resistance, I can surmise a few factual realities and ramifications that will accompany the failure of the current uprising in Kashmir. The word ‘failure’ I use in relative and tangible sense because even if the uprising fails to make the state yield to its demands, still it has politicised a new generation of youth, who have the potential to continue the resistance for much longer a period than we can think of. Kashmir dispute is a persistent reality for each Indian government to reckon with.
The foremost casualty of the failure of this uprising would be the Hurriyat leadership. Hurriyat is going through a crisis since its split in 2004 with two parallel factions headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) under the chairmanship of Muhammad Yasin Malik has also emerged as a strong votary of resistance outside the ambit of Hurriyat conference. They all would be rendered irrelevant because of having failed the people again, like during the previous agitation of 2008-2010. They all have failed to evolve a better strategy except the redundant hartals and reactionary politics. Mirwaiz Umar and Yaseen Malik may use their detention as the face-saving to justify their failure to act, but for the octogenarian Geelani who is under house arrest since last six years, this will be his last political innings. Mirwaiz and Yasin may, later on, adopt a tough stance to stay relevant and gain the political mileage they have receded by their incumbency. So this casualty will cost the state in terms of losing stakeholders with whom they could engage as their grip on youth will further grow frail.
The fragility and weakening of Hurriyat leadership will either lead to the growth of a radical, exclusivist and fundamentalist leadership maybe from the old Hurriyat guard or takeover by a new leadership. A different though rare possibility would be the growth of a leaderless, faceless movement because people’s resistance in Kashmir is not going to die down anytime soon. It will certainly create much more diverse problems for the state, as it would find none to engage with, thus the credibility and legitimacy of state will wane and wither with each passing day. A unique, grave, incomprehensible and new crisis will await the state that will have the power of innovation, mutation and evolution. A good chunk of youth will turn rogue whose aspirations both state and Hurriyat have failed to accommodate.
The indigenous insurgency that has been on rising in the aftermath of 2010 will further grow in arithmetic progression and spread to different parts of Kashmir valley, spilling over to Jammu belt too. This insurgency will be more brutal, ideological and radical in its connotation. Further, the control of Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC) will be more moral than material, having least translation in action. Thus it will be an insurgency that will be independent in its goals and operating procedures. Further, it will be Pan-Islamist in its outlook, as it will link Kashmir issue to the Global Jihad taking place all over the world against aggressors on the Muslim lands. So, foreign fighters will be more than welcome to be a part of this global jihad. Being Pan-Islamist in its connotations it will further try to build ties and networks within India too.
There are obviously violent fringe elements among Indian Muslims, who have taken to the armed insurgency as recourse to settle scores with the system. If these fringe elements join hands with insurgents in Kashmir, then the violence will spread to mainland India. Their networking can reach out to Naxals and Maoists in India too in solidarity for a common cause, Pushing youth to the wall, retrograding the institution of dialogue to a time-buying mechanism and suppressing their genuine aspirations will certainly make the option of gun attractive and viable for them.
The J&K police, who are on the forefront of crushing the people's uprising, have the notorious record of using high-handed tactics in suppressing dissent, illegally detaining and torturing youth. The hate against the police has been escalating since 2010, as they have been involved in many killings, torture, detentions and molestations. Burhan Wani during his last days had started a killing spree of the policemen after warning them of dire consequences if they did not stop from harassing the families of militants. The policemen have been caught up between the devil and deep sea, so the rage will certainly be directed against them both of the common people and insurgents.
During the current agitation, Hurriyat leadership has many times named the police personal in their public statements who are allegedly accused of committing atrocities on people. Hurriyat has appealed the people for a social boycott of such notorious policemen and reprimanded them for giving up their high-handed tactics. It will result in either alienation of policemen from the society resulting in their radicalization or they will resign from their jobs. In the long run, it will polarise the society and result in a low-intensity civil war.
The state and its institutions are yet to comprehend the gravity of the situation, the consequences and aftermath of the current uprising. Certain concrete steps should be initiated by the state to reach out to the youth and also give up its rigid stance whether related to pellet guns or AFSPA revocation.