The first ever report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on the human rights in Kashmir, was welcomed as a sign of hope. Titled ‘Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan’ the document, released on 14th June 2018, called for an inquiry into human rights violations. It is unequivocal in its findings: ‘The focus of the report is on the situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018 over which period allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations were received, notably excessive use of force by the Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties’. Nonetheless, India rejected this UN report by terming it ‘fallacious, tendentious and motivated’.
Any optimism that human rights abuses would begin to be taken seriously was swiftly shattered when a well-known journalist of Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, who had shared updates on the report on his social-media page, was shot dead, along with his two guards on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr. The devastating news shocked everyone and provoked widespread condemnation of the horrific crime. After investigating CCTV footage, three men on a motorcycle, were identified as militants by police and purported to be the alleged assassins of Shujaat. However, for the general public it is still a mystery, like that of the still unidentified killers of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq in 1990 and Abdul Ghani Lone in 2002.
Tragedy was followed by farce with news headlines screaming ‘BJP dumped PDP’. The people of Kashmir could barely contain their laughter with posts on social media filled with sarcasm. The people shared their happiness over this divorce not because the BJP will no longer be in power in the valley, but, that the PDP was cast off. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had made an alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) against the wishes of the people. They reasoned that this was an opportunity for the development of the State. But, what was the outcome of the alliance – where is the development in the State?! Paradoxically, we see a surge in everything that is anti-people.
There is a split in the PDP itself, many of its leaders left the party. The disgruntled PDP legislators openly revolted against the ‘authoritarian’ party president, the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. A senior PDP leader and MLA stated that: ‘Peoples Democratic Party has been reduced to Family Democratic Party by Mehbooba Mufti and all the party affairs are being run by four members of his family’; he has also predicted a political tsunami in Kashmir soon. There’s political chaos. No one exactly knows who joins whom. Maybe the rebel politicians are thinking of making a new government with the BJP, but the BJP demands a Hindu chief minister, if it will really happen, it would be the first of its kind in the State. We have to wait and see how this chaos will take its shape.
Until there will be a new government it is again the Governor’s arbitrary rule that reigns. A special force was sent from the Centre to deal with the incidents that we hear every now and then. In every encounter there is loss of life, both militants as well as civilians, and damage to the properties, mainly the destruction of houses in which militants are trapped. In the skirmishes between militants and Indian forces there has been significant increase in civilian casualties: in a recent encounter in the Shopian district of South Kashmir four civilians, mostly youngsters, including a 16 year old girl, were killed. At least 106 civilians died and many more were injured in forces' firing near encounter sites, since January 2017, according to police records. To protest against the civilian killings the valley observed shutdown in response to a strike call given by the Joint Resistance Leadership on the 11th of this month.
It would be hard to imagine a future bereft of sorrow in this forsaken land. This political chaos conjoined with flood scares and the constant killings and protests leave deep imprints on the psyche of the population. But, somewhere in us is an un-shattered hope that one day all this despair and bloodshed will die and there is a future beyond the power struggles, which keeps us going. We are looking for that day when our struggle will bear fruit.
Muddasir Ramzan is an aspiring writer and a PhD candidate at the Aligarh Muslim University, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.