The Resilient Kashmiris!

kashmir azadi

(“The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” Kalhana)

Recently the Army Chief challenged Kashmiri militants saying that they cannot get Azaadi as they cannot fight his Army. “I want to tell Kashmiri youth that Azaadi isn’t possible. It won’t happen. Why are you picking up weapons? We will always fight those who seek Azaadi, those who want to secede. (Azaadi) is not going to happen, never.” It seemed odd that the Chief of the third largest Army in the world with thousands of tanks, guns rockets and even nuclear weapons having almost a million troops in Kashmir is getting upset with a couple of hundred teenagers, mostly untrained and ill-equipped. Probably, he is facing a strange kind of Guerrilla War in Kashmir which has no parallel! A few armed teenagers are being protected by thousands of unarmed civilians at the cost of their lives. In every army operation, the civilians try to protect or help militants to escape who probably visit these houses to have a meal! Due to this civilian interference in military operations, there are more civilian casualties than those of the militants! Incidentally, in an earlier column the fight was likened to the biblical episode of David versus Goliath. On this a friend had remarked that in the end it is David who wins the fight!

Earlier the General had said that neither the militants nor the Army can solve Kashmir problem through violence. Well, that is really true; the General had, in fact, spoken the truth. Violence begets violence and no issue can be resolved by mindless violence. Ultimately, it is an unconditional and open dialogue which solves all issues. As regards the persistence of violence even after huge losses, it is the genetic resilience of the Kashmiri. Historically, Kashmiri has always been a resilient person. Dictionary meaning of the word “Resilient” is: “a person able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”.Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir in Sunlight and Shade” observes that the amount of oppression Kashmiris have undergone over the ages, if the British had faced the same, they would have lost their manhood!

This resilience is actually the survival instinct of a Kashmiri. For over last four centuries, they have been oppressed by Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. They were reduced to virtual wretches and lost all their good qualities. They did rebel to change their destiny many times but failed. The main misfortune of the people has been their betrayal by their own kinsfolk. There have been and there continue to be “Black sheep” within the Kashmir society ready to sell even their mothers for a price. All the foreign oppressors got a foot hold because of these local collaborators. The external oppressors always scout for ready collaborators by patronising the weaknesses of character in a person. They bring out the worst and suppress the good qualities. During last 70 years people on both sides of the divide have exploited the weaknesses of the Kashmiri character to keep them in perpetual subjugation.

In recent years, the worst suppression was during the turmoil of the nineties of the last century. There were massacres, rapes, virtual kidnappings and the population faced probably the worst trauma in their lives. Such a brutal treatment can reduce any people to worst form of depression and despondency. The people were truly traumatised. In fact, the teams of “Doctors without Borders” (Medicins Sans Frontiere) that visited Kashmir after the turmoil of nineties reported that almost every second Kashmiri is facing a psychological trauma. Their counsellors did try to help by touring and interacting with the people in different parts of the valley. In fact, the well-known local Psychiatrist Dr. Mushtaq Margoob to help the people overcome the trauma started a counselling project, “Rainbow in Haze from Canada to Kashmir”. It was conducted with the Canadian assistance.The district Ganderbal was taken as a pilot district. They did achieve a considerable success in normalising the traumatised people. They had intended to take up many more districts. However, the attitude of the Delhi rulers and their collaborators from 2014 onwards has eliminated every need of counselling or treatment. The people, because of their inherent resilience seem to have overcome all the traumas and are out on the roads everywhere to face even the bullets!

In the turmoil of nineties, people were very much scared of the gun. During any encounter or even cordon and search, they would immediately leave the area to save themselves. No one could even think of defying restrictions or curfews. However, the situation is totally changed now. The fear of the gun is totally gone. During any encounter or cordon and search, the people instead of running away, try to storm the area to afford militants a chance to escape. Many times the militants trapped in a cordon and search operation have been successful in making good their escape because of the people rushing in large numbers towards the site. As a result a large number of civilians have either been killed or injured in these operations. Apart from the fact that the people have overcome the trauma of fear, they appear to have developed extreme alienation from the mainstream. As one journalist has put it, they were earlier anti-Indian but now they hate India! Even the veteran politician Yeshwant Sinha has opined that India has lost Kashmir emotionally! The present possession is physical only. How long can one keep physical possession without emotional involvement? The only way to involve people emotionally is to cease all violent action on all sides and start an honest unconditional dialogue. It is impossible to physically obliterate a whole nation by military force. Hitler could not do it with Jews in spite of killing six million of them! On the contrary his Third Reich disappeared and he committed suicide in an underground bunker! Here, one would like to repeat Kalhana’s saying about Kashmir and Kashmiris. “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” So the sooner the spiritual side is taken up, the better for one and all!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired)(Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir)


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