In the last more than three months we have seen the worst form of state violence against civilians in Kashmir. It is not the first time and it may not be the last time either that people of Kashmir are facing such crackdown after being killed and maimed for speaking about their rights. Dissent is everyone’s right and to express it fully is an equal right. But we are living in the times where dissenters are believed to be violent people who only want destruction and bloodbath. As much as one condemns such brutal state of affairs, it also tells us that the meanings and values of words like democracy and freedom of speech have changed to curfew and ban.
In Kashmir, it is commonly said that the biggest casualty during the conflict has always been truth. We have seen many version of truth – some core truth, fabricated truths, constructed truths and the one that is propagated for the benefit of those who are in power. So, it didn’t even take hours for the government of Jammu and Kashmir to ban mobile internet services, followed by snapping of mobile phone services, ordering newspaper not to print, imposing curfew in all ten districts of Kashmir and then a siege was laid – a whole population forced to remain inside their houses as prisoners. Dissent could be so powerful that it shakes an elected government is clearly visible from the events in the Valley over last three months since popular rebel commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was shot dead on July 8 in South Kashmir.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the fact that Wani’s death has only changed the politics of Kashmir, but it can’t be ignored that the response to this uprising by the government has only paved way for a larger dissent ahead. More than 7000 people have been arrested and we are witnessing the worst ever crackdown in Kashmir since the conflict started. It could only make things worse.
When nothing went well, the government came hard on the messengers itself. A prominent human rights defender, Khurram Parvez, was first stopped from traveling abroad – then he was arrested and now booked under draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) and sent to a jail in Jammu. Following on its policy of complete gag, the government also banned local daily newspaper Kashmir Reader. It is surprising to see that the government gives reasons in such ambiguous form that there is nothing to prove their own accusation. When truth shakes the structures of power the first casualty is truth only in order to remain in power. We condemn the ban on Kashmir Reader and arrest of Khurram Parvez in the strongest words.
In order to see a peaceful Kashmir, such measures will not be a solution leading anywhere there – it only leads to more violence from all sides. Sometimes it is needed to let the truth come out and it may lead to a viable solution, for propaganda only creates perception and blindness – a disease that is incurable.