Chandigarh, October 17: More than 30,000 persons were killed in Punjab during more than a decade long militancy with first killing being that of Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh on April 24, 1980 resulting from the Baisakhi 1978 Sikh-Nirankari clash at Amritsar. The situation was by and large back to ‘normal’ by 1993. Kashmir has not witnessed such large scale killings over the years but the turmoil continues, in phases. The latest phase that completed 100 days yesterday is the worst ever in the history of the Valley. According to the Kashmniri papers, 94 persons have been killed during this period that includes seven women and several young boys. The worst is the tragedy of blinding due to pellet guns fired by the security forces and the victims include even small boys and girls. A 12 year boy was killed by the pellet gun last week without any provocation.
The so called national media seems to have adopted what can be termed as consensus of silence on Kashmir. The policy of the Narendra Modi government seems to be to tire out the Kashmiris. Now examination is being used as a tool with state government determined to hold the same during mid-November although schools have been lying closed all over the state for the last three months. Curfew has been withdrawn but the shut down in the Valley continues, except after 5.00 pm. The collateral damage that Kashmir is suffering may be too high. Students should not be used as bait by either side.
Kashmir was earlier subjected to ethnic purge with Kashmiri Pandits having been the victims. This did not happen in Punjab although the state witnessed some migration. However, the Sikhs in villages who could afford to have second home in cities shifted too. Going by the crude logic, more Sikhs were targeted by the Sikh militants than Hindus.
The political objective of the militant struggle was never unambiguous unlike in case of Kashmir. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the icon of militancy, never raised the slogan for a separate Sikh state. Kashmirs have one point political objective and it is Azadi. The elected governments in Kashmir have been like that of Surjit Singh Barnala in Punjab that was facilitated into power in 1985. Militants in Punjab never directed their fight against the Indian state. In Kashmir, the fight is against India. But then Sikhs are settled across India and those outside Punjab are better off. The political objective in Punjab was never well defined and Khalistan only remained a slogan without any mass support. The militants were fighting more among themselves than against the India state. It is a different matter that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and chief minister Beant Singh lost their lives in this fight. The sociao-economic-political interests of Sikhs are too well integrated with Indian state and that is not the case with Kashmir that has remained alienated from the very beginning. The struggle of Kashmiris dates back to the pre-partition period. That is part of history.
Kashmir is otherwise part of the broader narrative with highest concentration of security forces. If the Modi government seems to have adopted the policy to tire out the separatists, the Kashmiris have showed no sign of wear and tear. Unlike Punjab, Kashmir struggle has been a mass movement all along. Rather it is militancy that came to be used as a weapon years later.
Not that the Valley is on the boil for the first time. However, This is the longest ever phase. Settlement has to be across the table. The PDP-BJP government in the state headed by Mehbooba Mufti has lost whatever legitimacy it had. When a chief minister can’t go to the people, the alienation is complete.
The defence budget of both India and Pakistan is much more than on health and education taken together. At the root of this continuing conflict is Kashmir.
Significantly, there are more saner voices being heard from Pakistani Punjab. These recordings have gone viral on social media. These voices are anti-war. The latest one relates to Punjabis across the Radcliffe line. Wars between the two countries have been fought mainly on this border with victims on both the sides being Punjabis. People in the region want peace. That might not be possible without settling Kashmir.