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Pulwama and Kashmir: What are we missing?

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There has been a rupture of emotions throughout the country. The political and geopolitical implications of Pulwama attack remains in a nascent stage for any authentic observation. However, in the future, the hindsight would be an essential tool to judge as well as discern what would have been the optimal response to such a horrific act of state-sponsored terrorism. The vulnerability of ordinary Indian citizens does not stem from fear of terrorism, however, from scrawny actions that follow those acts of violence.

The principal cause of these feelings had been the inability of the state to take stern actions against state-sponsored terrorism in the past. In a nutshell, emotions run high across people of a different spectrum. The people all over are stressing that “Kashmir policy is not working.” Well, such remarks are dangerous on two counts. One, there is no official Kashmir policy to begin with (at least not in writing that is available in public domain) and second as this article seeks to emphasize the problem is not identified correctly. And with such critical errors how can one choose an appropriate policy (hard/soft) in Kashmir or how can people debate without knowing the facts of the problem. The question one needs to ask themselves is, what are we missing?

The charged-up atmosphere around the nation is somewhat guided if not necessarily dictated ordinarily by traditional media, the neo-print media and most certainly the social networking platforms. These all being mostly one-sided communications stir no debates but narratives that risk the snubbing of truth and reality. The social media provides a chance to fight back if not preparing a full-on counter-narrative. This limited interaction of people, therefore, soon turns into an unsavory, coarse and accusing spectacle where the first casualty is of truth. One of the things that are appreciated in democracies is discussions. This appreciation for discussion remains relevant as long as it is productive and beneficial to the broader interests of the country. The grave concern in the backdrop of this attack is this absence of discussions that are meaningful and honest.

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The quest of honest and meaningful discussions should be guided by the idea of serving wider societal and state-interests. This would mean to initiate discussions and deliberations that are relevant which in this case would be to identify genuine points of discussions. There have been, in most crude generalizations (which should usually be avoided) two broad groups in India which are anti-violence and pro-violence. This debate of anti and pro appears obvious and legitimate, nevertheless, nonsensical because it is distracting people from the original and relevant discussion.

The discussion should be about the nature of such state-sponsored terrorism. And in pursuance of much needed honest and meaningful discussion, this discussion should be based on evidence, facts, and data. The terrorism directed in Kashmir is masked as a freedom struggle by the anti-violence group which at times legitimizes the attack as “response.” For such people who depict themselves to be uniquely rational makes cases for avoiding generalizations and asserts that intricacies behind such incidents are immense that the general public is missing. It is, therefore, quite ridiculous that they generalize the terrorism in Kashmir as “solely the quest for statehood.” The argument for the pro-violence group is sometimes just product of frustration growing out of indecisiveness of the past, which makes it easier for the “anti-violence” groups to condemn their actions mere heat of the moment.

The argument from the pro-violence group, therefore, should be to identify the additional and perhaps more important factors that expound the nature of terrorism in Kashmir and consequentially a better case for adopting a hard power approach to the attack. The grit of such an argument would be understood through the statement made by Adil Ahmad Dar the perpetrator of the attack in his confession-cum-statement video released minutes after the attack.
The ten minutes long video makes various derogatory and offensive remarks at Indian citizen primarily to Hindus. Nevertheless, one should confront such statements up front.

The need for such confrontation can be questioned and responded in one simple sentence: his statement is a fact, and just because a fact is uncomfortable or offends someone cannot be an excuse to avoid the fact. The video uses phrases like “cow urine drinkers” and multiple other phrases targeting the Hindu population. The means of JeM is neither rooted in the modern state system nor is their end a modern state. It is intrinsically entrenched in Islamic understanding of the world where state and church are the same. These distinctions are somewhat complicated. However, under-discussed misunderstood and at times purposely discounted. Therefore, it is incumbent for people from anti and pro-violence spectrum to have honest and truthful debates and discussions which would help in understanding such distinctions between means and ends of Kashmir liberation movement (domestic as well external).

The solutions of problems cannot be based on subjective understanding but careful deliberation of the problem. The problem in Kashmir is not as simple as ‘individuals distraught by the state have picked up arms and are waging a freedom struggle.’ It is much more complex; as the statement video of the terrorist attack at Pulwama and countless similar statements before it illustrates, there are religious nitty-gritty which are masquerading and misrepresenting the problem in Kashmir into a convenient and straightforward struggle for a modern state.

In conclusion, the need of the hour is not just a clear-cut Kashmir policy by the government, but a well-informed public. The attack, as tragic as it was should also be viewed as a flashpoint, a wake-up call to everyone who remains privy to limited understanding of Kashmir and the conflict therein. Because what could be more frightening than a misinformed public?

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