In a small hamlet in Kulgam, last year, a child was playing on the attic of his house with his toygun. An army vehicle passed on the road and he instinctually pointed his toygun at them. Next day, his father was summoned to the army camp. An explanation was sought following which he assured them not to let his son repeat such things again.
If we imagine the child going on to study in a school, then a college and then applying in a good university for a research degree only to fiddle with a gun again, this time a real Kalashnikov, what we would see is a Mannan Wani of sorts.
This scalar chain of political socialisation is more like an extended continuation of what a newborn baby sees happening around during which, every day, the feeling of subordination gets accumulated inside.
Post the 2016 uprising, the state has improvised, developed newer tactics and strategies to control the population. It continues to revise earlier methods and invent fresh ones to prevent another upsurge from the people. Such events have been difficult to anticipate in a political environment which is always on the verge of eruption. Those in power change their chairs and bring along modified means of subjugation irrespective of the facade that their debates crank up.
The state’s legislative assembly, which is democratic by no means, continues to serve as a stage for the parties to take on each other, essentially on the issue of “who” failed in doing “what” to silence the dissenting people. Successive governments have always tried to outdo their predecessors in the game the “opposition” seldom opposes. It actually claims that it would have done a better job — by killing more people, blinding even more and shutting down one and all. Plus lamenting the state of development they themselves have put the Valley in.
Military tactics in the Valley took an upgradation as well. Army officers can be seen overtly reciting poems full of war and bloodshed while sipping wine. Learning from nuclear warmongers, Indian military has started naming their assaults on people as “Operations”. Operation Calm Down in 2016 and the simultaneous Operation All-out have killed as many civilians as militants.
The figures of death for the year 2017 depict that along with 211 militants and 78 armymen, 55 civilians were also killed. The reasons for civilian deaths ranged from conventional “caught in crossfire” to modern “hit by a stray bullet”. Most of the killings happened during what have been called the Cordon and Search Operations (CASO).
CASO is an improvement over crackdowns. Instead of announcing in the mosque, summoning people in an open area and subsequent searching of houses, CASO is unannounced, quick and usually confined to a specified locality. CASO has proven to be an effective method for some time now. It explains the success of military in cultivation of a local intelligence network which in turn ensures the swiftness and precision of the whole process.
As Operation Calm Down saw an influx of more battalions of troopers into the Valley, crackdowns acquired a huge modification with 20-25 villages being cordoned simultaneously, several times since last year. A new group of military men, called “Marcos” by locals, also appeared on the scene. Dressed in complete black fatigues and faces covered, one could spot them patrolling the Srinagar-Islamabad highway. Their presence was more felt in the rural areas where CASO became a daily occurrence.
They are ghostly in appearance and are equally beastly in their intimidation of common people. New vehicles made their debut too — Panthera T6, smaller than the bokhtarbands but technologically more advanced with 360° viewing cameras and the ability to detect any disturbance within surrounding 500 metres. Faced with an uphill task of “neutralising” an equally determined people, the cost of this monstrous war is expectedly high and more on the people’s side.
Not oblivious to what is happening on other fronts, when an armyman saw my Kashmir University identity card this year, he was quick to reprimand me for the “raajneeti (politics) that university students were involved in lately”. Thus conscious that the opposition to oppression is reaching out to places which conventionally gives them servants to use and subjects to rule upon.
The last couple of years have nonetheless succeeded in presenting Kashmir in clear terms, as it is — a war getting nastier by the day between a Third World colonial child with nuclear power and a landlocked valley with defenseless population. There seem to be lesser chances for India to disguise the war as an “internal conflict” or a case of “democratic failure” due to an open battlefield that Kashmir has turned into.
With the war hitting higher notes, the military power has also instilled fear in people. Around the New Year’s eve, in Jammu, at 3am I suddenly woke up to hear the noise of crackers. Mistaking them for gunfire, I quickly Googled to check news from Jammu anticipating an encounter going on nearby. It took me a while to realise where I was.
The price we have paid, and that we will have to pay further, is enough a memory to torment our future generations as well. Despite all the force coming our way, the state’s overt policy of fighting fire with fire is only going to concretise the rigidity and stubbornness of people for the demand of right to self-determination.
A set of fascist parties has assumed power round the globe exhibiting rays of pessimistic vision for the world order. The solidarity among them — from Modi to Trump to Netanyahu — ensures tougher times for humanity ahead and more tougher for subjugated nations.
There is no hope for peace when those in power are not afraid to use it. The state is leaving no stone unturned to legalise, and legitimise, the actions of its army. Rewarding an army officer for using a Kashmiri as a human shield is an example.
Rouf Dar is a Political Science student at Kashmir University.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.
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