Of students, sleuths, scribes and ‘security’: 2017, the year of new-narrative building

Kashmir’s news industry was booming when FressPressKashmir made a comeback this spring. Then, New Delhi and its regional counterparts were busy restoring the Valley’s ‘calm’, unsettled by the fiery student protests.

The campus mobilisation marked by bunny bags and basketball threatened to change spring into seething summer—otherwise, synonymous with Kashmir’s rage.

Once the campus ‘calm’ returned, Indian Home Minister and the Indian army chief unveiled their K-plans at a time when the latter was patting his major’s back for using a Budgam weaver as human shield. Rajnath Singh’s Permanent Solution seemed in sync with Bipin Rawat’s Op All Out. The general might have blurred the distinction between stones and guns during his never-seen-before TV talks, but it was IGP Kashmir, who repeatedly made “militants without weapons” out of Over Ground Workers.

This was perhaps a newfound ‘security’ vigour, promising “militancy-free” Kashmir sooner or later.

Infact, the vintage counter-insurgent chief lately decorated with ADGP stars repeatedly vowed to decimate the militant leadership in a bid “to stop recruitment” amid surrender offers.

In the face of this sharpening anti-militancy campaign characterised by cordon and search operations and growing human intelligence, top guns including Yaseem Yatoo, Qayoom Najar, Abu Dujana, Sabzaar Ahmad and others were killed during different gunfights.

New camps that cropped up in parts of South Kashmir only reflected New Delhi’s military strategy for Kashmir dissent at a time when Musa, Musa became a debatable addition in Kashmir’s sloganeering.

However, not many had anticipated that after reaching to its lowest ebb in 2007, militancy in Kashmir would face another deadly anti-militancy operation ten years down the line in 2017. Despite its kill campaign, the surged insurgent numbers this year made even the army top brass to bat for a political rather than a military solution for Kashmir.

But perhaps, one of the major highlights of 2017 remained how New Delhi Media played judge, jury and executioners on Kashmir.

Other than issuing open threats through their jingoistic content, some prime time anchors and guests even questioned the skin colour of Kashmiris while peddling extreme and colonial views on Kashmir.

While it amused a lot of people in Kashmir, the way the sectional ‘national media’ apparently drove the NIA raids to hound the Hurriyat camp alarmed many. From airing ‘sting’ operations to broadcasting “forged” footage, the TV studios seemed a clear extension of the Indian State. It only took JKLF chief’s firm-handling of an intruding anchor inside his bedroom to halt this ‘studio storming’.

By 2017 fall, the ebbed out braid-chopping incidents that made certain quarters to dismiss Kashmiri women as “mass hysteric” only recreated Kashmir’s ghost days before failing as a “discipline instrument” akin to NIA raids and the much-talked about “Doval Doctrine”. As it paved way to the ex-IB chief Dineshwar Sharma as a new Kashmir ‘interlocutor’, the exercise only ended up resurrecting the same old guards of conflict management.

After being snubbed by Joint Resistance Leadership, Kumar met anybody who thought they’re somebody in Kashmir. But beyond the obvious, many saw it an attempt to create new “stakeholders” in Kashmir at a time when some Hurriyat leaders alleged “pulls and pressures” for talks.

Amid all this, the ruling PDP-BJP government tried rebranding itself from “unholy alliance” to the developmental pack.

But after demonetization, the coalition’s nod to the controversial GST only made it Delhi’s “local league” in Kashmir. From giving a freehand to NIA and to act like a sitting duck over Article 35A storm further made it a forgettable year for PDP.

The only saving-grace came from the Amnesty to stone pelters. It was shortly followed by another ‘son rise’ in Kashmir politics, when the former cinematographer became Mehbooba Mufti’s tourism minister.

In between, the Opposition National Conference made hay while the sun was shining in the Valley. By holding a big party convention in Srinagar, Kashmir’s grand old party tried to stage a comeback banking on its opponent’s failures. And like always, glitzy Farooq Abdullah continued stirring the hornet’s nest to chagrin of Delhi and his political opponents.

When all this was happening, the PDP’s alliance partner, BJP was on new narrative-building exercise, openly denouncing the historicity of the Kashmir Issue. This exercise was perhaps never so focused and organised as in 2017.


Bilal Handoo is the features editor at Free Press Kashmir.

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