For we Kashmiris, the dignity and the basic right to life appear to become too elusive by the moment. Such is the plight of siege and oppression that has been inflicted upon us. This is more apparent to us who live here in South Kashmir. Another fortnight has passed which has seen innocent blood being splattered with almost inhuman nonchalance. Not only have precious lives been lost, dozens of young lives have been left shattered and amputated. And, appalling as the fact is, it seems all too familiar with a recurring pattern; you never know when and where the next site of blood and tragedy is. Such is the grim story of our daily existence that the pain, tragedy and horror our oppressors inflict on us on a regular basis has got structured into our collective psyche. One is reminded of those profound lines from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “The worst is not so long/As we can say, This is the worst”. But one wonders about asking our oppressors: after all, how long?

While incidents like Kulgam keep happening with regularity (at least 130 unarmed civilians, mostly youth, have been killed and dozens of others injured in these incidents since the 2016 unrest which had seen 100 killings and blinding of more than 1000 people), each time we also hear about the “regret” being expressed by the dirtry politicians and malevolent police and civil officials. All this is nothing but an exercise of crocodile tears and we have become accustomed to this trickery. Leave aside punishing the guilty, not an even FIR is lodged in these incidents and never will be because there is impunity sanctioned by the state through draconian laws, and this impunity is ever increasing under the current dispensation. The cases are often closed by blaming the dead themselves for their death. All this is done to show the dissenting natives their place before the mighty but tyrannical state apparatus. The underlying message is clear: “Behave or we will make you do so!”

What is more interesting is how the state and its apologists then resort to linguistic trivialization in terming a massacre like the one which was committed in Laroo, Kulgam, on 21st October, as a case of “procedural error” on part of their trigger happy forces. One wonders, how much innocent blood will we have to sacrifice at the altar of these “procedural errors”. And then the commotion shifts to a brouhaha about the so-called Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Believe it or not, this is all a manipulation in language intended to trivialize their crimes. But in this, they are failing miserably. The real SOP of the Indian state in operation in Kashmir which Kashmiris have realized is a systematic policy of suppressing the dissenting voices of youth who express their genuine demand for political rights. Sometimes, like in the case of Kulgam and Shopian (in winter and spring) massacres, this SOP is brazenly applied to “exterminate” the “brute” Kashmiri natives. Of late, it seems this SOP is a special clause added to the draconian AFSPA which gives free license to the trigger-happy forces to blind a 70-year-old woman eager to see her dead son and a pregnant woman sitting in her balcony besides the usual targets—the protesting youth on the streets.

Besides giving full impunity to its forces to kill, blind or maim any Kashmiri as is frequently revealed by the rants of its army chief, the Indian state has also resorted to a mass increase in the concentration of army particularly in South Kashmir. Many new camps of army, paramilitary and the notorious SOG have been established at various locations. Many of these camps are giving a lot of trouble to the general populace. They have erected barricades on the roads and one has to undergo a severe tribulation while passing through them. These units also give unwarranted trouble to the people travelling in both public and private vehicles. In the name of vehicle search, they humiliate us on a daily basis. The Anantnag-Shopian road becomes a virtual no-go zone after evening prayers because one such field unit, the batallion headquarters of 62 RR, closes the road for the night and does not allow any vehicle to pass through, not even Ambulances. Besides giving lot of trouble to the people, this has impacted the ferrying of Apples as this road which passes through many areas of Kulgam connects the Apple Belt to the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Public transporters are frequently coerced into ferrying soldiers for operations during very difficult situations, thus putting their lives at risk. From every Bus stand and Cab stand, at least one driver with his vehicle is forcibly made to spend a day and night every week in the nearby camp to accompany the soldiers during patrols and possible encounters. One such cab driver lost his life in Shopian some months ago when the soldiers he was made to ferry came under attack by the militants. During the evening patrols, cordon and search operations, flush-outs, and frequent roadside nakas, commoners are given huge harassment for no fault of theirs. The vandalisation of property is also a frequent characteristic of the Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs). The Indian army has certainly increased its over-bearing and panoptic presence in the rural hinterland; it frequently breaches the privacy of people’s lives by way of its frequent reconnaissance of family homes and keeping a track of the full details of the family members including females. Add to this, there are those notorious Joint Interrogation Centres (JICs) manned by the SOG of Jammu and Kashmir who detain people without any FIR and keep them detained for a long period of time while inflicting brutal methods of torture upon them.

This is really a sordid state of affairs, and imagine the life of a common Kashmiri in such beseiged cirumstances. The ongoing siege and oppression in South Kashmir is of a much higher magnitude than one imagines or what even the reports suggest. Certainly, the Indian “republicanism” ,if there was any, has died a terrible death in Kashmir possibly not to become alive again.

BASHARAT SHAMEEM, Blogger, Writer, Kulgam

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