Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Using the Shopian Tragedy to Make a Point

Even when the rape and murder of two young women in Shopian remains unproven and even less certain is if any security forces were involved, Mehmood sees political ramifications that go beyond the two unfortunate victims

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 36, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir, having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

Theorizing Shopian

What happened in Shopian, and the events that preceded and followed this incident, can be explained by using various theoretical frameworks that have emerged after an in-depth study of the conflict zones, periods of intense violence and the crises that develop when conflicts become chronic and violence, instead of being an event, becomes a condition.

The first thing that strikes in this incident is the overwhelming presence of state forces in the midst of population. Living in a state of fear entire populations are subjected to humiliating treatment every time they conduct the routine of their life. No area of their life escapes the evil eye of ‘security’. The placement of CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and the District Police Lines in the entire area, where the incident occurred, gives a fare idea of how those passing through that area must have been feeling. A perpetual state of fear gripping an entire population over many years and a complete sway enjoyed by the personnel belonging to different security agencies makes an ideal situation for extreme cases of violence like the one that happened in Shopian. It reminds us of Linda Green’s study about socialization of terror in Xe’caj, Guatemala. Like in Xe’caj, towns and villages of Kashmir are faced with the subordination of political authority to the local army commander. In such situations violence is bound to happen as Scheper–Hughes emphasize that ‘violence is intrinsic to the military’s nature and logic’.

Impunity is another theoretical proposition that throws light on what happened in Shopian. Since Shopian was not the first case of rape and murder in Kashmir, many having happened before, those who committed it knew that none before was punished. The impunity enjoyed by the State forces under the twin cover of special laws and the practice of state over all these years, makes it easier for them to think of such horrible crimes. Like in all the conflict zones, the ‘dual issues of impunity and accountability are obstacles in the way of peace and social justice’ in Kashmir. The deliberate attempts of the government machinery to suppress the details of the incident and let the culprits go scot free is a fit case for lack of accountability and availability of impunity. When in one of the villages of the same district of Shopian, some years back, an incident of mass rape happened no one was punished for that. How could that not set a precedent among the security camps situated in the same locality.

So the heavy presence of troops, breakdown of local political authority and the absolute impunity enjoyed by the troops make an ideal atmosphere for incidents such as the one that occurred in Shopian, to happen.

The first thing that came to surface after the incident was the state’s brazen denial. This way attempt was made to exonerate the security forces who represent the Indian control of Kashmir. Since people directly connected the incident to the Indian oppression, Omar Abdullah’s statement was typical of a quisling behavior. Omar also spoke about the people’s lack of trust on government machinery. All this fits into the conceptual framework provided by Hannah Ardent about power, violence, opinion and quisling governments. In pure states power and violence appear distinctly as in the case of foreign invasion. Had there been a direct military rule or its subtle constitutional substitute, governor’s rule established in J&K, instead of a civil government, it would have been difficult for India to defend her forces at international level. Since a local government is in place violence turns impure and hence refuses a clear vision. In this situation the real source of violence, oppression and military presence, get off from the vision and it all gets projected as an administrative or law and order problem. This is how the government did in this case.

The admission of the chief minister that people do not trust government institutions and any inquiry conducted into the matter will have to face this difficult situation, shows that the power no more belongs to the government and its excessive use of violence becomes understandable. From the heavy presence of troops to the acts of rape and murder violence rules this place. Since power comes from people and requires opinion and numbers, this government is powerless. The shrinking of power, according to Hannah Ardent, automatically gives birth to violence. That power belongs to people when they act in unison becomes manifest in what happened after the incident. What could have been hushed up so easily by the police and civil administration became impossible for government only when people rose against the incident and the entire Kashmir burst into protests. The same government which flagrantly denied rape and called it a case of drowning was compelled to confess that ‘something has happened’ and established a commission to look into the matter. This theoretical framework of power being inherently present in the group and a government denuded of public opinion resorts to violence aptly describes the behavior of government machinery towards the incident of Shopian.

Another theoretical proposition that fits here is the subjectivity of women. Vena Das’s work on violence, gender and subjectivity throws good amount of light on this incident. The notion of masculinity is boldly present in this whole affair. Every time a protest rally marches on the streets there are only men shouting slogans and thus trying to speak on behalf on the pain inflicted on women. The group of local elders that now spearheads the agitation in Shopian, Majlis-e-Mushawarat, has no women member in it; this ‘makes visible the imagination of the nation as a masculine nation’, and brings into sharp focus the ‘subjectivity of women’ and ‘gendered acts of violation such as rape.’

These theoretical allusions used here in the context of Shopian can be used extensively in all the cases of terror committed by India. This can help develop an academic critique of the India’s presence in Kashmir.

For facts regarding the "Shopian Incident," please check:

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