No other question in the Kashmir context, or in case of any other conflict, has generated as much thought, controversy, anxiety and intellectual angst as the issue of use of force by the state as well as the non-state actors. As can be corroborated by history, the perpetrators have all along maintained that their use of force is legitimate. But those on the receiving end obviously have every genuine reason to question the very ‘legitimacy’ of this claim. Without going into the legality of whose claim is right and which one is wrong — for it is very difficult to clarify the circumstances that would give rise to a right cause for using force – it goes without saying that the use of force does not have a very encouraging history of achievements vis-à-vis resolution of issues. And this is something that all the actors involved in the political amphitheatre of Kashmir need to bear in mind.
But for some reasons this has remained a neglected backwater of intellectual inquiry and debate here, and has thus never made it to the popular discourse. This is perhaps why Kashmir has over the years seen that coercion by one set of people has always received both open and tacit support by the patrons of that brand of political belief. To put it openly, government and its agencies have always supported coercion and even violence by the government forces, and in doing so even gone to the extent of concocting reasons to justify it by wrapping in the robes of national interest or patriotism. Similarly, the coercion and violence at the hands of militants has got backing and benefaction from their patrons in both militant and separatist leadership, who too have openly and tacitly condoned it one way or the other, sometimes under the garb of “freedom movement” and sometimes slamming it on the “unidentified gunmen.”
Thus far in the Kashmir’s bloody history of nearly three decades, neither of the sides has shown the courage and resolve of condemning violence unequivocally. No doubt, after every act of blood-letting, condemnations do pour in regularly from the leadership on both sides of the political divide. But like their politics their condemnations too remain overly selective. This has obviously made Kashmir into a very dangerous place.
Here people have been regularly bumped off for their politics, but those at the political helm have always had an eye on the victims’ beliefs to decide whether to condemn it or not. So, if someone is killed for being the member or supporter of any mainstream political grouping, the separatists would prefer to not react to it. The other side too does not share any reasonable record on this count. And what is really unfortunate is that the ordinary people too have somehow contracted this disease of selective disregard and condemnations – condemning violence directed at those representing their beliefs while conveniently condoning the similar violence if the victim’s beliefs do not gel with the popular views.
This sinister selectivity has already taken away much of our collective common humanity, and as such cannot be accorded the privilege of continuity. This bloody game of killing people on the basis of their political beliefs and affiliations has to end, or else Kashmir will never ever be able to deliver itself from the clutches of deadly violence. If killing anyone for the simple reason that his/her politics and beliefs are not in sync with my politics and my beliefs could be seen as being a justified action, then there is no reason why the ‘political other’ too shouldn’t be accorded a similarly justified reason to kill me for my politics and my beliefs. Now it should not be difficult to understand and imagine what it would mean! Simply put, nobody seems to have a right to live here, and sooner or later we all are going to be killed by those who do not share our beliefs and our ideologies, political or otherwise. Is that the kind of Kashmir we want?