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(Violence in any form with any motive can never solve a problem. Unless the senseless violence from all sides is ended soon, it will engulf the entire region resulting in an Armageddon!)

The recent virtual massacre of the civilians in Pulwama has been likened to the massacre in Jalianwala Bagh during the British rule in India by a former judge of the Supreme Court. He has even labelled the present Army Chief as General Dyer of the infamous massacre of the civilians. Right from the time some so called mainstream leaders hugged the ferocious grizzly bear from Delhi, Kashmir has been plunged into continuous senseless violence from both the sides. The irony is that these two leaders won the election in Kashmir with the declared promise of keeping the ferocious BJP bear out of the valley but as an anti-climax they whole heartedly embraced the bear for power and personal aggrandizement. This was the second betrayal of the Kashmiri youth while the first one was in 1987 when another so called mainstream leader rigged the election with the help of Delhi to deny the youth an opportunity to present their view point in a democratic way. The youth were driven to a wall and had no alternative but to pick up arms. The so called sympathetic country instead of supporting this movement, hijacked it to forward their own agenda! The upheaval of the nineties almost consumed an entire generation of Kashmiris. After the cessation of the violence, the generation born and brought up during that turmoil was not left alone but harassed day in and day out by various security and intelligence agencies. Moreover, there was total ban on free expression of any political views. Worst kind of harassment combined with total ban on any free expression was like molten lava of a volcano simmering under the surface. The result was the Burhan Tsunami which was aggravated by the betrayal of the “Bear Hug” between the so called mainstream Kashmiri leaders and the grizzly bears of Delhi.

The most interesting characteristic of the new type of militancy is that it is unlike any traditional guerilla warfare or armed resistance. A few mostly untrained and ill equipped young men some of whom are in early teens are becoming symbols of resistance against a highly armed sophisticated military organization deemed to be responsible for continuous suppression of Kashmiris. One would not blame these youth taking the path of militancy because of the harassment and persecution being faced by them in every sphere of life. Patience too has a limit! The militants are virtually like angry wasps biting a huge elephant called India and on the other side the army is trying to catch these wasps hiding in hay stacks. They have to virtually burn the hay stacks to get rid of them thereby causing extensive collateral damage. The worst part is the virtual butchering of the civilians including even babies. It is a vicious unending cycle of violence! The alienation in Kashmir has now gone beyond the level of redemption!

A few hundred armed youth mostly untrained and ill-equipped for real armed combat cannot dislodge the world’s third largest army fully entrenched in Kashmir with massive permanent establishments, cantonments, airfields and so on for more than 70 years now! They are like wasps attacking a grizzly bear or an elephant. They are mostly causing annoyance and no real damage. On the Army side, it is not possible to kill all the youth now going in hordes for armed militancy considering the fact that more than 35% of the present population of Kashmir consists of youth in twenties and in teens which almost comes to more than three million! There can be no winners in this war! If this senseless violence goes on escalating and dragging our neighbors into it, the result would be an Armageddon not only for thesub-continent but entire South Asia with some of the after effects going all round the globe!

The only sensible path is to shun violence on all sides. No political problem in the entire world has been so far solved by violence. In the end, it is the peaceful dialogue between various parties which has resulted in a permanent solution. The first and foremost requirement is to shun the unrealistic and extreme views and rigid stands from all the sides. One has to acknowledge existence of a basic problem. Denial is not going to solve the problem. One cannot close all the windows and doors in a house and claim there is no light outside! One cannot think of solutions unless the existence of a problem is accepted. Seventy long years, dozens of upheavals and turmoils and even three major wars have not helped in getting away from the basic problem! And the problem is beyond any doubt a political problem. The other problems of lack of governance and unresponsive administration are the consequences of the basic problem creating a situation of uncertainty all over!

If this senseless violence has to end, then the iron lid over free expression in Kashmir has to be lifted. Merely expressing one’s views even though contrary to the governments stated stand cannot change the physical status of a place. The virtual iron curtain on the free expression has to be lifted. The draconian legislations giving security forces unlimited and unaccountable powers to cause mayhem everywhere have to be withdrawn. Witch hunting of the youth has to stop forthwith. People of all shades of opinion are to be allowed to express their views freely in an open debate. All stakeholders are to be allowed and motivated to start an open dialogue to find out a viable solution taking into account apprehensions and misgivings of all sides. Then alone can a permanent and a peaceful solution of the longest and probably, the bloodiest dispute in the recent history emerge. There is no harm and in fact, all parties should have no objection if a neutral country like Norway facilitates a dialogue for peace. As mentioned, the alternative is unthinkable. Mayhem and destruction all round resulting in an Armageddon! Let us hope and pray that does not happen!

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

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