Kashmir Intifada: a challenge ahead

Intifada is derived from an Arabic word which means “shaking off or uprising”. It was in 1987 in Palestine that Intifada-I broke out against the occupation of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The immediate cause of the Intifada-I in Palestine was the killing of four Palestinian civilians who were hit by a car driven by Israeli forces. Palestinian people protested against the killing of these four civilians as they thought it was a deliberate action by the Israeli forces and not an accident. The special thing in the Intifada-I was that in the initial months of the uprising, there was no role of Palestinian leadership like from Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Fatah or any other Palestinian organization. It was the people’s movement in which a large number of women and youth took participation at their own will. However, the uprising came under the control of PLO. In order to crush the movement, the Israeli authority used force and coercion and killed many Palestinian civilians by bullets, bombs, and demolition of houses. This was a strong uprising which lasted for at least six years until it gained the International sympathy throughout the world and gave birth to the 1993 peace process which came into existence in the form of Oslo Accord.

Similarly, in Kashmir, it was the evening of the third day of Eid-ul-Fitr in July 2016 that the commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight at Bambdoora village of South Kashmir. The news of the killing of Burhan Wani spread like fire in the contested region. From the same evening, people from all districts of Valley started marching towards his native home in Tral to offer funeral. According to reports, thousands of people attended multiple funeral prayer. The people marching to attend the funeral were stopped by the Indian forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) to make sure that there will be not any kind of gathering by the civilian people. However, people came out from their home in a civil protest with the slogans in favor of “Azadi” (freedom). The people protested in a non-violent manner but due to the interference of the Indian forces and JKP to scatter the civil protest with the use of tear gas, bullets and pellet give birth to the new movement.  This new movement is called the Intifada in Kashmir. There was the direct participation of Kashmiri people from all parts of the Valley. There was not the only participation of men but a number of women and children participated in the movement. There was no leadership in the Kashmir Intifada. People took part at their own will. The situation of Kashmir became like that of Intifadaof Palestine in 1987. The freedom movement seemed at its peak. To suppress this uprising, government authority used unrestricted curfews, detentions, bullets and pellets. The use of bullets and pellets on the innocent Kashmiris resulted in the killing of about one hundred and thousands Kashmiri civilians were wounded. Hundreds of the innocents lost their eyesight – including children and women – due to the use of pellet by the forces. According to All Parties Hurriyat Conference Annual Human Rights 2016 Report, 135 people were killed from July-December 2016.

The state was put under undeclared curfew, which disrupted the values of rule of law and gave birth to the violation of human rights and restricted the fundamental freedom of the people of the Valley. In the 2016 Uprising, the demand of plebiscite, the slogans of Azaadi (freedom), the rage of stone pelting (Kane-Jung) and the raising of Pakistani flags were seen all over valley. The controversial law like Public Safety Act gave free hands to armed forces in propagating cruel and inhuman treatments with the people of Kashmir. The government forces with the help of JKP detained thousands of youth under this law. According to Kashmir Reader, 8,000 youth were detained from 08, July 2016-27 December 2016.

A policeman aims his gun at protesting youth in Kashmir’s Budgam earlier this month.

Before that, there were protests in the year of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014, which did not last long. However, the 2016 Intifada was the first uprising in the Kashmir history which lived for a very long time- near six months. In this uprising, internet and mobile phone facilities were restricted for about four months. Newspapers, TV channels were also restricted for some time.

In this constrained time, people used a new method of non-violence known as “Graffiti” to express their freedom movement before the India and the world. New Islamic Taranas were sung and religious leaders came under one banner and held Azadi rallies in various parts of Valley. The pictures of militants were pasted in every village and in some rallies, the militants also gave their speeches on freedom and Islamic Nationalism. All these events encouraged youth, who supports the militancy openly. At present, the sparks of the Kashmir Intifada are seen on the encounter sites as Kashmiri civilians lead the protest near the encounter sites to help the militants to escape.

The questions arises, why a sudden change came in the scenario of Kashmir conflict and why pro India mainstream parties failed to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri youth. The recent Lok Sabha elections that took place in three districts of central Kashmir proved the alienation of Kashmiri towards the state of India and 7% voting is a fact that speaks volumes about the Indian democracy. The burning of Electronic Voting Machines, polling booths, vehicles are the evidences of the atrocities that are prevailing in the Valley. The question arises why Kashmir issue remains unsettled and why people of Kashmir are not given the right to freedom and expression and why International Committees failed to solve this dispute. If this dispute remains unsolved, the day is not far away that the Kashmir would turn into a complete graveyard.

(Sheeraz Ahmad Sofi & Inamul Haq are doctoral candidates in Central University of Gujarat)