Upward mobility of distress in an age of freeze

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 5/13/2018 1:09:58 PM

Mohammed Rafi, an assistant-professor from Kashmir University killed during an encounter, exactly two days after he joined a militant group highlights the desperation of Kashmir situation where an endless cycle of violence in Kashmir and the blind rage is not only sucking in teenagers and tormented youngsters but also educated professionals whose trust in peaceful resistance stands breached. Is the case of Rafi picking up arms an aberration or does it signal a new trend in the Valley, where students from schools and colleges, on a regular basis, spend more time outside the classrooms on the streets with stones in hand. Girls and women have become part of the stone pelting protests and Kashmir is abuzz with conversations of likelihood of women picking up the gun. Young boys, mostly teenagers have opted for the gun and joined militant ranks, their life spans as militants reduced to just a few months. But the more they die, the more the eulogized deaths inspire others to pick up the gun. This is not the first time that educated professionals have made the choice of leaving their comfortable lives to join militant ranks, inspired either by religion or the unbearable burden of human rights abuse around them. There have been many cases in the past. Yet, Rafi's case stands out.
His friends and students describe him as warm, affectionate, amiable, seasoned and humble. His information column on his Facebook page says, "human first and then a Muslim". His post on April 22, just two weeks before he died, criticized the government order to ban coaching centres on grounds that this would further squeeze the only spaces available for the students. In the same post he advises students to desist from stone pelting to ensure that they do not fall prey to somebody's machinations and use education and intellect as a tool to build their strategy of resistance. It is mind-boggling as to what transpired in that fortnight for him to have taken this drastic step. His case in some ways is similar to Mannan Wani, the Aligarh Muslim University research scholar who picked up the gun after having constantly reposed his faith in peaceful means of resistance and protests. The shock value of Rafi's case is far more enhanced because it wasn't just about knowledge and belief in peaceful resistance that he shared with Manan. He was pretty much established in his career, settled in domestic life having married three years ago and was level-headed enough to be driven so easily by influences of radicalization and anger. Besides, he had a phenomenal peer influence on his students with whom he was constantly engaging with ideas of an alternate resistance; and they listened to him because of the immense respect he commanded.
Such instances are unlikely to become a norm. But what they shockingly reveal is the eroding faith in peaceful resistance and not just shrinking of peaceful space. This shattered belief started with the teenagers and is spreading like an epidemic because of existing conditions. The cumulative and compounding distress of Kashmiris stems from a long pending dispute and also from the high scale of human rights abuse and gross injustices that remain unaddressed. Three decades of repression and torture with abject denial of admitting errors or ensuring a workable legal justice system and in its place the business of branding the victims and the protestors as terrorists adds fuel to it. An adamant New Delhi unwilling to show any signs of going soft on its hardline approach further adds a seal of permanence to this distressing situation. That it has the potential of influencing an assistant professor further diminishes hopes in the Valley's chaos and the possibility of finding ways to engage with the youth.
One of the do-ables in the existing situation, at the local level, could have been the use of educational institutions by turning them into free spaces for articulation of anger, grief and frustration through discussions, debates, art, music and other creative means where teachers could play an imaginative role. The case of Rafi is a manifestation of the shrinking possibility of such an engagement, though it is still not all over and must be tried to enable the youth to understand that survival and strengthening through alternate strategies of resistance is better than closing all doors on themselves and ending up their lives for a cause that may get far more queered by violent actions. The security forces they engage with are all out to crush them. New Delhi has no intentions of starting a process of reconciliation. It is unmoved by the pain and sufferings of the people, also of the security personnel who are dying to satiate the egoistic policy of managing Kashmir purely through military methods. In fact, it uses the blood of the Kashmiris to proclaim victory. The international community or the western powers could not be bothered unless they have their own political and economic interests in Kashmir. So whose purpose do the spiraling figures of casualties of Kashmiris serve?
The State which ought to be a responsible entity has completely abdicated its responsibility in ameliorating the conflict. In the face of that, glorification of gun, violence and deaths by Kashmir's youth is assuming epidemic proportions. Yashwant Sinha had his hand on the pulse when he reminded New Delhi on his first visit to Kashmir as part of the Concerned Citizens Group in 2016 that "we have lost Kashmir emotionally". Kashmir is fast slipping beyond that emotional disconnect. It is simply counting its dead. Even if by some swish of a magic wand would the centre change its tack at this juncture, Kashmir may well be beyond repair. It has reached a situation of freeze where the only mobility one sees is violence, grief and suffering. It requires magnanimity and vision to break the cycle. None of the stake-holders at present exhibit signs of that pragmatism. On the scale of despair, Kashmir is racing upwards. Is there an end-point? What lays beyond that?

 

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