Friday, 13 August 2010

The Kashmir Problem: Here stones are returned with bullets

Once again Kashmir is on the boil. Teenagers and young boys are being killed in cold blood while those who protest by throwing stones are termed as terrorists.

It is indeed ironical that political parties organise violent protests all over India and nowhere army or police fire at the demonstrators except in Kashmir.

In Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and other Maoist-affected states, CRPF personnel are killed by dozens and their vehicles blown up--like 76 personnel killed by Naxalites in one go in Dantewada--but there is no sense of outrage or voices for reprisal. The Centre refuses to send army or order air-strikes against the Naxals.

But the same CRPF personnel can't tolerate stone-pelters in Jammu & Kashmir? At least, they can show slight restaint and avoid shooting in the head and chests. But attitudes are hard to change.

Politicians, public and the paramilitary forces consider Kashmiris as 'others'. In rest of India, violent demonstration are dealt with cane-charge or rubber bullets but in Kashmir, youths are shot dead in cold blood.

But this pain of Kashmiris is not understood properly in other parts of the country. One of the reasons is the biased coverage of events in a section of media. While demonstration and even violent protest is considered a sort of democratic right elsewhere, things are seen differently when it comes to Kashmir.

Congress and BJP workers organise 'bandhs' and go on rampage. But when Kashmiri youths protest, media term them 'militants' and it is alleged that the young stone throwns are acting on behalf of Lashkar or HuJI terrorists.

Kashmiris have been facing this media discrimination for decades. Linking ordinary boys to terrorist groups is even more criminal. While media should be sympathetic to families of kids who are hit with bullets in the chests, instead, the jingoist journalists look at Kashmir from an altogether different patriotic prism.

Mainstream Indian media is sympathetic to Kashmiri Pandits (KPs). But they should rather ask Congress and BJP that what the two major parties did for the KPs. They also forget that the Pandits were not killed by Kashmiri Muslims.

There was no such genocide in J&K. Sikhs, Christians and Muslims have also faced mass killings in Delhi, Orissa and Gujarat. Migrants are attacked and killed in Maharashtra, Dalits targeted in Haryana. Which community hasn't suffered?

Thousands of Kashmiris who have died in the insurgency in the last few decades are mostly Kashmiri Muslims. The Kashmiri Muslim has been suffering at the hands of militants and has also endured the excesses of police and army.

Sadly, everything petaining to Kashmir is communalised. Kashmiris are looked at with suspicion outside their state. For students, it is extremely difficult to get accomodation in Delhi, or even faraway Mumbai.

Other than job or business, Kashmiris want to be treated at par as citizens of the country. They should get the feeling that they belong here and rest of India must stand by them. They are Indian citizens and should be made to feel like that.

Contrary to the much-hyped special status for the state under Article 370, in reality Kashmiris feel that there is no respsect for their feelings. Even their lives are not considered precious enough.

But the real problem of Kashmiri is that not just others but their own leaders also let them down. Does Omar Abdullah appear angry when youths are shot dead on the streets of Kashmir? No. He isn't. And here lies the misfortune of Kashmiris.

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