Kashmir is supposed to be an “integral” part of the world’s largest democracy but in reality, there is hardly anything democratic here
India prides itself to be the largest democracy in the world. Even though many people have reservations about it being a real democracy in practice, yet in the overall context, it does function as a democracy. There are general elections both in the centre and the states to elect peoples’ representatives. There are many upright institutions such as the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and so on which oversee the functioning of the democracy at all levels. The most conspicuous weak points are the treatment meted out to Dalits and minorities especially Muslims. Moreover, the democratic set up is overshadowed by upper castes and the corporates. In fact, Arundhati Roy calls it an “Upper caste Hindu corporate Republic”! The Upper caste Hindus of a specific geographic area known as the “Cow Belt” have been mostly ruling the Republic since its creation. In order to keep their hegemony, they have created a fear about the threat to the integrity of the country. To safeguard this so called integrity of the country, after having first agreed to its dismemberment on religious lines in 1947, they have created the phobias called the “National Interest” and the “National Security”! Any wrongs done by the State are covered under these fig leaves! Having said that, India is still functioning as a vibrant democracy compared to many so called Banana Republics and a number of countries in South Asia. There is definitely some accountability when it comes to the violation of basic human rights in different parts of India. However, there is a stark exception!
Kashmir, also called the crown of India and claimed to be an “Integral Part” of the Union, is that unfortunate exception. All democratic norms, laws and rights cease at Lakhanpur, the entry point to Kashmir from the mainland India. Right from 1947 when the State is supposed to have acceded to the Union of India through a most controversial Instrument of Accession, the democracy was given a go by. Sheikh Abdullah was installed as the Prime Minister after supporting the accession and he got an assembly “elected” with all 75 members unopposed! After using him to strengthen the hold, he was deposed and imprisoned. Then followed a line of pliable rulers who helped in the integration. Incidentally, Sheikh Abdullah was again installed as a Chief Minister in 1975 after he jettisoned his struggle for Plebiscite even without being a member of the assembly which had a Congress majority!
After the armed uprising of 1990, every pretension of democracy vanished. The AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) even took away the right to life of a Kashmiri. Any soldier can kill him on the mere suspicion of being an ANE (Anti-National Element) and can destroy any dwelling on mere suspicion of being a hide-out. There are other draconian legislations like the Public Safety Act, Disturbed Areas Act and so on. The right to free expression has been permanently shelved in Kashmir. Section 144 prohibiting assembly of four or more persons remains permanently in force under the label of “Restrictions”.
Now, let us come to the present uprising which resulted after the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, called by media, the poster boy of the new wave of militancy. Being tech-savvy and on Facebook he had built a romantic image of a young guerilla who could stand against the might of India. His killing acted as a trigger for the pent up anger built up due to the oppression of his generation which had grown up in the turmoil of the nineties. The outburst was not a militant uprising but a mass movement in which everyone took part. His funeral itself was attended by hundreds of thousands of people and funeral prayers were offered at 40 different places. The authorities instead of allowing the pent up feelings to pour out as demonstrations, brutally suppressed these. The result was clashes everywhere. Bullets and pellets were used against stones! 70 people are dead. More than 8000 are injured. 500 are having pellet injuries in their eyes and more than 200 may lose eyesight. In fact, Bhim Singh was compelled to say that Kashmiris are being killed like pigeons. In spite of the curfew being lifted after 51 days, the clashes continue.
A question arises? In which part of India unarmed demonstrators are showered with pellets and bullets? In which part of India 51 days continuous curfew without any relaxation is imposed? In which part of India mobile services and internet are suspended for months on end? In which part of India security forces enter homes of the citizens, beat up inmates, and destroy household items? In which part of India over 2,000 young people are picked up without any warrants or obligatory legal procedures? In which part of India for any upheaval allegedly created by 5% people, the other 95% are very harshly punished? The Human Rights Watch Director has been compelled to declare that the Human Rights record in Kashmir is abominable! In view of all these facts, can one still say that Kashmir is an integral part of Democratic India or the crown of India? One would say that it is rather becoming a crown of thorns! It would be more appropriate to call it a colony held by brute force. Even the British were not so harsh on India!
After 51 days, there is talk of delegations upon delegations coming here to start a dialogue with all the stakeholders to solve the basic political problem. It is a positive point that the Government and the people have come out of the denial mode. It is also a positive development that people and media in many parts of India have seen the reality of Kashmir Problem. But with whom are these delegations going to meet? The present uprising is leaderless. It is a peoples’ revolt. It would be no use talking to the “Political Vultures” who have been living on the dead bodies of Kashmiris for a long time now! It would be more sensible first to bring this place to the level of any other part of India as regards basic human rights by the most urgent confidence building measures. Peace cannot be restored by bringing in more soldiers with more deadly weapons like chemical chili grenades. Let for a change, Kashmir be brought on par with other parts of democratic India in regard to basic human rights. Full and complete freedom of expression needs to be restored so that everyone is free to come forward to put forth his view point. Let a conducive atmosphere be created first, then alone one can look for final solution to the basic political problem, once and for all.