Kashmir: Routine Existence Under Crackdowns


Co-Authored by:- Ayaz Nabi Malik/ Muhammad Asif Shah

The normal life in Kashmir has always remained an unfulfilled desire as it continues to be threatened by the two Asian nuclear giants- India and Pakistan- who claim it as their territory. With the result, concepts like peace and normalcy became far-fetched notions here as our routine existence continues to be haunted and dominated by oppression, destruction and human loss.

Since 1947 India has been forcibly controlling and oppressing the valley of Kashmir through its military might, which has caused inexplicable damage and loss in terms of destruction of property, loss of human lives and loot and murder of our human rights. With the rise of the armed insurgency against India’s brutal, unjustified and illegal military occupation of Kashmir, India tried to counter it by taking recourse to several harsh measures to nip the evil in the bud. These harsh tools included an unprecedented and unknown practice of what came to be known as “the Crackdown”.It was an infamous and a cruel suppressive state apparatus to inflict harm both physically and psychologically upon the cracked-down Kashmiris.

While executing this practice, the notorious Indian Army would forcibly and illegally drag the village Muezzin (Islamic prayer announcer) to make a sinister announcement on the local Masjid loudspeakers asking the sleeping and tired people to assemble in any open place in order to make way for the Forces to conduct door-to-door searches to locate the hiding militants, if any. Usually the men-folk were asked to gather outside the village in any open space while the women-folk were asked to gather outside the homes within the house compounds. What followed this dastardly practice is barbarism and inhumanity personified. During this nasty colonial design of oppression human dignity of the oppressed people, privacy and property were caused irreparable damage by the brutal and barbaric forces. During these horrific events, lot of cases of rapes, molestation and thefts were reported to have been committed by the forces. These incidents were marked by gross human rights violations by the security personnel with clear impunity granted to them through the shielding laws like the APSPA. To identify the militants and their supporters from the helpless gathering, a long line would be drawn with an army vehicle in front of it hiding a masked identifier. These lined people would be asked to show-up one-by-one before the vehicle for the identification parade and if the masked identifier would press the honk of the jeep, suddenly the “identified one’’  would be ripped off and taken to the notorious torture cells to be tortured and interrogated. Most of these tortured victims were not returned to their respective families thereby disappearing them by force. Still there are thousands of such cases of enforced disappearances in Kashmir. This way of identifying and enforced disappearance would create panic among the beleaguered gathering.

This bizarre colonial practice was basically aimed at destabilizing the overall socio-economic structure of our life, thereby making us dependent both educationally and economically as this routine shutting of educational and economic institutions would result in destruction to our education and economy.

With the decline in militancy and militant related activities, these crackdowns went into hibernation only to return and evolve in more dangerous, horrific and brutal forms with the renewed resurgence in armed uprising of the present times. Nowadays the erstwhile crackdowns have evolved into new terms called CASOs (Cordon and Search Operations).Like in a crackdown, a comprehensive siege is laid around a particular locality, all entry-exit points are sealed-off and immediately the Internet and mobile connectivity are blocked to literally disconnect the cordoned area from the rest of the world. To intensify the search operation and to intensify the panic among the besieged people, more and more forces are called in, choppers and even drones fly low around the particular area. Amid these horrifying developments, the routine life is forcibly paralyzed. Theentire social, educational and economic institutions are forcibly closed down for an indefinite period. This results in uncertainty, fear, anxiety, destruction and loss among several others. Since these CASOs are as frequent as the daily sunrise, so naturally we have grown accustomed to them and we have to manage our existence amid these horrifying developments as new norms of our daily life. The direct and inevitable internalization of these frequently used euphemistic terms of torture and destruction has been seen among the students/youth in particular. Instead of a holistic learning craze, our students are forced to pick up these bleak and dark terms of a dark aura imposed upon us like the Crackdown, Cross-firing, Lathi-charge, Stone-pelting, Pellet, Teargas, Shelling, Rakshak, Casper, Mujahid, Shaheed(martyr), STF,RR, CRP, Mukhbir (informer for the army) etc.

As a camouflage, the army forcibly takes private transport operators with their vehicles to participate in the anti-insurgency operations, thereby making them as human-shields and jeopardizing their life and property. This amounts to a brazen violation of human rights.

During these anti-militant operations, the security personnel go berserk and rampage as even our religious places like Masjids, Shrines and graveyards are not spared. They enter these places and desecrate and damage them to the full which hurts our religious sentiments.

Since there is absolute communication blockade, whatever nasty and barbaric human rights violations are committed, they remain unnoticed and unknown to the rest of the world. As a protocol at the end of the Operation, the concerned force chiefs brief the media about these operations wherein they deliberately hide the actual damage caused by them to the people.

The natural reaction of the victimized youth to these unending draconian oppressive practices is that they find a hope in the gun solution to their daily trouble at the hands of the oppressive forces. Though it is a concern that educated youth should pick up gun as a solution to their problem, but the people at the helm should realise “when the water starts boiling, it is foolish to turn off the heat”.Kashmiris have always been peace-loving, but since violence and injustice has been inflicted and imposed upon them, obviously the response would be the same. “People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that is how they will react. But if you say, “We want peace, we want stability”, we can then do a lot of things to contribute towards the progress of our society”. (N.Mandella)

Kashmiris have always managed to survive despite having to face daily existential threats at the hands of the belligerent security forces and have somehow managed to live their lives under the shade of gun and bullets and consider it as a normal affair for existence. The fear of death, gun and bullet has gone with the wind.

The strategic purpose behind these draconian practices as deterrents has completely failed on ground as the popular sentiment of freedom from Indian oppression has ironically been strengthened and the fear of the Indian military might has totally vanished. Therefore these practices serve practically no purpose other than winning the animosity of Kashmiris which even the so-called Sadbhavna (Good-will) Operations cannot turn into friendship.

The authors are from Pulwama, currently doing Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism & Mass Communication and can be reached at:[email protected]

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