The poor turnout of Indian elections (only 2% voter turnout in 2017) in Kashmir is reflective of a grim situation for India’s idea of control in Kashmir, which it believes to be an integral part of her. The Indians took the Kashmir problem as a security constituent rather than that of a political question; hence, the implementation of UN resolutions have remained least on the agenda up till now. Kashmiris have been waiving the Pakistani flag ever since and chanting the slogans in favour of Pakistan, showing their demand for unification with Pakistan. All these developments clearly show that India has indeed now lost Kashmir.
As I write this, the situation in Kashmir has become strained like never before. Hundreds of stories have circulated in the past few months, exposing the ruthless and brutal behaviour of Indian Army personnel and local Police against age groups ranging from children and youth to the elderly. Social Media was used to circulating these videos, as other forms of mass-media are under heavy regulation and censorship.
Farooq Ahmed Dar, a 26-year-old youth, was tied to a CRPF vehicle, and used as a human shield against stone pelters. “They damaged my bike, thrashed me severely with gun butts and sticks, and when I was in an almost unconscious state, they tied me to the front of a jeep and paraded me through 10 to 20 villages”, said Dar. As the vehicle drove along, I could hear a voice warning: “Aisa haal hoga pather waloun ka, yeah haal hoga (Those who pelt stones will meet the same fate).”
Angered by a police raid on a college in southern Pulwama district, in which at least 60 students were injured, protests erupted in Jammu & Kashmir. Students of all schools, colleges and universities held protests against India.
12-year-old Faizan Fayaz Dar died after sustaining a bullet by the Indian Army, in Budgam. A heart-wrenching video recorded by a villager on his mobile phone minutes after the killing shows a wailing man cradling the dead boy, blood streaming down his broken face, in a packed vehicle, taking him to the nearest hospital. There, doctors pronounced him dead.
16-year-old Akil Wani left his home to fetch medicines for his ailing mother on the morning of April 9th. Elections were being held for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. A few hours later, his parents received Akil’s blood-soaked body. Footage of Akil being shot dead at close range by paramilitary personnel, went viral.
Indian occupying forces continue to torture innocent civilians in Kashmir, spiking unrest among the civilian population in the valley, as these stories are now being repeated on a daily basis.
Kashmiri youth are indeed playing a decisive role in the new Kashmir intifada. The two main elements of their struggle include stone pelting and reaching out to the world through social media. The only way out, as deemed and believed by the youth, is to revolt against the oppressive Indian regime. In order to bring the desired change, they are rendering major sacrifices through conjunction of their dissent, and above all, their lives.
With more than 280 days of the current uprising, since the martyrdom of a young Kashmiri freedom fighter and leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, hundreds of Kashmiri youth now have joined the ranks of Kashmiri freedom fighters. It is a well-established fact, that the youth are a decisive force in any uprising or conflict. Kashmiri youth are fighting a battle in which they have no choice. Oppressed under the war crimes of global powers, they can either sit silently and wait for Indian forces to pick on them or their families next, witness unjust slaughter and killings every day, or do something about it. In such dire circumstances one isn’t really left with a choice. The youth of Kashmir are no different. The number of youth in the jails of Kashmir is more than any other age group; clearly, they are at the forefront of the struggle.
With one soldier for every twenty people, the various atrocities carried out by the army and local police are being highlighted via social media and picked up by some mainstream media outlets, repeatedly. The war crimes committed by India has left the youth with no choice but to revolt. Laws, including Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) have proved to be devastating and contemptuous for the local populace.
Not only has the terrorist Indian Army and the government deprived Kashmiris of dissent, they are not even allowed to tell the world about the daily massacres they have to endure. India is reluctant to hold any peace talks with Pakistan or Kashmir. They have completely lost the battle of hearts and minds, only maintaining their occupation through sheer force and numbers. Kashmiris are now openly showing their hatred towards India, diametrically showing their affection and reverence towards Pakistan.
The youth shows up at encounter sites in large numbers in order to support the freedom fighters, ultimately resulting in the Indian army relinquishing hold of the area and retreating further. This has led the Indian Army Chief admitting that the Kashmiri population has become hostile, and it’s no longer Pakistan cross border terrorism that they are dealing with. In other parts of the world, the people may flee conflict but in Kashmir now, the people run towards it; hurling stones at the army, chanting freedom slogans, playing poems and songs of freedom on loudspeakers right during an encounter. The level of their defiance and desperation to free themselves of oppressive Indian rule is felt strongly by any observer, except the deluded ones sitting in the Indian Lok Sabha.
In the same breath, the Bipin Rawat said that his forces will treat the Kashmiri youth as rebels, and that is exactly what his coward forces did later by shooting young protestors in their faces. He also admitted that the youth are being ‘misguided’ by social media.
The Indian home minister, Rajnath Singh, accused Pakistani youth of instigating Kashmiri youth via social media. The social media training workshops set up by Jamat-ud-Dawah’s Cyber Team have been a constant target of Indian mainstream media. Indian dual standards of being a so-called largest democratic state while curbing Kashmiri voices and their right to free speech and self-determination, are in front of the world to see and decide how truly democratic it is. Kashmiris have the right to win their freedom by any means, and they have proved that throughout the year 2016-17, there is no looking back this time.
“The police targets people who talk about their rights. They want to kill our generation because we talk about our rights.” – says a young stone-pelter in one video, and there are many similar videos where Kashmiri youth openly speak against the regime. “We’ll get our independence no matter the consequences. After me, my son will die, his son will die, and this cycle will continue until they unite.” – said another.
The frustration and desperation felt by Kashmiri youth now is unprecedented. The dream of digital India is merely for India. The future of Kashmir is heading towards guns. The slogans of “There is only one solution – gun solution – gun solution”, and the current uprising is enough evidence to support this claim. The freedom fighters martyred after 2008 were well educated. More than 400 youth have lost their lives already between 2008 – 2017 according to independent data.
Basit Rasool Dar, an engineering student, left his home to join the ranks of freedom fighters. Zakir Rashid Bhatt, Ishaq Ahmed Parray, Burhan’s brother Khalid, and Naseer Ahmed Pandit were all among the educated freedom fighter Mujahid youths of the valley.
On Pakistan’s part, it is up to the youth to confront the Indian masses and their propaganda over social media and support the Kashmiri youth in their indigenous struggle. Pakistan has a duty to remain vigilant and support the Kashmiri people and their struggle on a moral, political, diplomatic and military level. Why should Pakistan be afraid of morally owning an indigenous and by all norms and definitions, perfectly legitimate armed freedom struggle, when the world isn’t afraid of owning its support for “moderate factions” in other conflict zones? Pakistani youth organizations must take initiatives to align themselves with the freedom struggle of Kashmir through awareness, activism and information.