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Once more the ill-fated land of Kashmir has turned red with the blood of innocent people. This time the poor victims are the six poor labourers from Bengal, doing labour in the local Paddy fields, who were brutally massacred by “unknown” gunmen in an attack at Katrusoo village in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Ironically, Katrusoo is the same village where the popular Kashmiri Communist leader and four-time MLA from Kulgam, M.Y. Tarigami’s political work began in 1967, when he and his comrades took up the cause of farmers against the forcible procurement of rice which initiated a mass peasant disobedience. Before this gruesome act, nearly five non-local Truckers and Apple traders were also shot dead by “unknown gunmen” in separate incidents mainly in South Kashmir.

The attackers who committed this gruesome act need to realize that the working class can never be equated with any repressive state apparatus; it is itself oppressed and exploited. In any case, the working class always had it hard anywhere and everywhere and the case is no different in either the mainland India or in Kashmir. It is no surprise that the greatest victims of the conflict in Kashmir has been the working class itself whether it is the Kashmiri civilians, rape victims, militants, policemen, Indian security personnel, or now the labourers from the mainland India. It is a fact of this conflict or for that matter, any conflict anywhere on earth, which often gets overlooked. The working class knows no boundaries—territorial, cultural or political. This brings thousands of labourers to Kashmir every year despite the turbulent conditions prevailing here. These people had been working in our locality for the last ten years. And we all are shocked by this cowardly but horrific act which has been taken as an attack against the timeless values of Kashmiri plural ethos and identity. Our solidarity is with them, and as fellow comrades, our deepest condolences go to the affected families.

The Government of India has blamed militants for these attacks, mainly the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), founded and led by Azhar Masood. Freed by the then BJP government after the Kandahar hijacking episode in return for the Indian Airlines Passengers, Azhar has always been accused by the Government of India for directing vicious attacks. It is worth remembering that the current NSA, Mr. Doval, played a significant role in his release and in the most bizarre and ironic turn of events, the lone person who vehemently opposed Azhar’s release, the then Chief Minister of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, has now been imprisoned by the Government of India under PSA for being a “threat to the security and integrity of the nation.” JeM’s headquarters are in Bhawalpur (Azhar’s hometown) and it derives much of its cadre from the poverty infested pockets of South Punjab in Pakistan. Its cadre mainly comprises of teenagers who are themselves victims of the rigid feudalism of South Punjab. At the same time, some informal reports suggest that posters of various militant organizations have appeared in some villages in South Kashmir in which the militants have denied their involvement in the attack.

These highly condemnable attacks like the one on labourers have always gone against the Kashmiri struggle and helped the counter-narrative that Indian state aimed to formulate against it—that of terrorism. Thus it has done little to further the cause of Kashmiri political struggle. Any genuine sympathizer of the Kashmiri political struggle has no choice but to forthrightly condemn such attacks as the one in which poor labourers were slaughtered. Such attacks are highly condemnable; they not only go against the Kashmiri ethos but also against the basic humanity. These attacks never help the cause of common struggling Kashmiris; It only helps the narrative of the Indian state giving it excuses to use more harsh military power and relate Kashmiri political struggle to global terror frame and also wash its own hands of any excesses. For instance, just after the attack, dozens of youth have been detained in the area on the mere suspicion. Quite rightly, the attack is being condemned in the strongest terms across the board. It is heartening to see that every section of Kashmiri society has risen in unison in condemning the attack. There is a growing realization within the large sections of the Kashmiri society that for maintaining the credibility of Kashmir’s political struggle, it needs to be demarcated from the growing extremist consciousness which has the potential of diluting its genuine causes.

Notwithstanding the siege of the last three decades or the utter disregard and humiliation that Kashmiris are witnessing from the Indian state in the aftermath of the abolition of Article 370, Kashmir has always welcomed the non-local labourers who hail from the various Indian states and even from Nepal and Tibet. In fact, much of Kashmir’s labour force is dependent on these states. Unfortunately, the attack has created fear and uncertainty among them and they are already leaving. Many of them had stayed back even after the infamous advisory of August 2019 by the Government of India. They did so probably because of the trust and amity they enjoy with the locals and also paid good wages and unlike the rest of India also provided free meals and accommodation by the locals. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has always been characterized by communal harmony and rich traditions of brotherhood, which have stood test of times even during the most horrendous phases of turmoil in the state. It is difficult to fathom why these poor labourers were targeted? The perpetrators of this attack need a few lessons on how the secular and syncretic fabric of valley has stood despite all the difficult circumstances. They forget the “light” that Mahatma Gandhi saw in Kashmir amidst all the dark chaos of the gory events of the partition in 1947. It is important not to fall prey to the evil objectives of these violent elements. The great fear of political vacuum created by an absence of dialogue and the unilateral abrogation of 370 to be filled by such violent elements seem to be coming true. And if such a thing happens, the common Kashmiris will again be the biggest sufferers.

The attacks on labourers and truckers is in many ways a continuation of the vicious cycle of violence and death which is now the daily feature or sadly the new low of common Kashmiri life. In all this, the Government of India, which continues to boast of an “out of box” solution to end “Kashmir problem” in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370, seems to have completely fallen in the abyss of indifference and insensitivity to the suffering of the people of the state. One should not, however, make the mistake of endorsing the path of violence which militants adopt to vent their anger and exasperation at the apathy and indifference which the current BJP government has chosen vis-à-vis the Kashmiri people. It will be the exact excuse that the state needs and hence would be suicidal as it would allow the state to unleash more and more terror. There are alternate modes of peaceful resistance which should not be renounced at any cost. Peaceful mode of resistance is the best mode to maintain the authenticity of the Kashmiri struggle and answer the grave state repression. One can understand the levels of anger and alienation particularly amongst young Kashmiris, but in these hard times, maintaining political authenticity will make the Kashmir struggle morally more credible. On the contrary, efforts should be made to broaden its scope by making it more plural and comprehensive. That can be done by forming solidarity consensus with other struggling people in India and elsewhere.

Basharat Shameem is a blogger, Writer, J&K


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