Even though Kashmir is a Muslim-majority valley, the people have decided not to take to the streets on the issue….writes Deepika Bhan
As Israel’s war on Hamas rages, demonstrations are being seen in several countries in support of the Palestinian cause. In India too, pro-Palestine and anti-Israel protests were held in a few cities.
Some organisations, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Left parties, held protests in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Kerala and others against Israeli bombings in Gaza.
But, one place that has remained largely silent is Kashmir.
Even though Kashmir is a Muslim-majority valley, the people have decided not to take to the streets on the issue.
Some separatist leaders and their sons did try to mobilise supporters soon after Israel declared action in Gaza. On October 13 in central Kashmir’s Budgam district Hurriyat leader Aga Syed Hassan’s son Muntazir led an anti-Israel and anti-US demonstration following the congregational Friday prayers. As the separatists tried to fan passions, quick J&K Police response thwarted any conflagration.
Kashmir political leaders also reacted angrily over the bombings in Gaza. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first leaders to condemn the Hamas terror attack on Israelis, and after strike on a hospital in Gaza held a phone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to convey condolences over the loss of civilian lives, and also reiterated India’s “long-standing principled position on the Israel-Palestine issue”, the leaders in Kashmir have been trying to whip up passions.
Former Chief Minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti criticised the Government of India’s stance on the Hamas attack on Israel. In her October 10 post on X she said, “…Vajpayeeji too called Israel an occupying force which mustn’t be allowed to continue reaping the benefits of occupation. Today once again BJP is choosing their agenda over national policy.” She has been tweeting almost every day to stir passions on the crisis.
Former Chief Minister and NC president Farooq Abdullah expressed concern over India’s stand. “India since (former Prime Minister) Jawaharlal Nehru’s time supported Palestine and stood against oppression of Palestinians. It’s unfortunate the same voices do not come forward to Palestine’s support in India anymore. History stands witness that Jews took over the land of Palestinians in Palestine and expanded their territory,” Abdullah said.
Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed great anguish and grief at the loss of lives and lamented that the international community and the United Nation have failed the people of Palestine. “The issue of Palestine is a long-pending one, and a just solution should be found to it. The rights of the people of Palestine should be given back to them. Their nation and their land have been squeezed. Can there be a bigger oppression than that?”
While the leaders expressed their feelings and are trying hard to guide sentiments in the valley, the people are not reacting like earlier times when even small happenings were deliberately turned into major anti-India protests and stone pelting sessions.
On December 8, 2017, Kashmir witnessed massive protests over the US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hundreds of demonstrators held rallies and burned American and Israeli flags and at some places protests took a violent turn as the protesters clashed with security forces.
Six years later the valley is no longer violently reacting to the situation. Leaders trying to whip up passions are not being listened to, and helping maintain peace are the security agencies.
Since 1988 Kashmir has witnessed a lot of bloodshed because of Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Though there are no official estimates, in the over three-decade period thousands have died, minorities uprooted and social fabric harmed. Businesses and education suffered. Families were torn apart and people lived in a round-the-clock atmosphere of fear.
Leaders propped up by Pakistan propagated a false narrative of ‘azadi’ and hundreds of youths were misled to take up guns and many were made stone pelters. The myth was broken soon after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and now four years later the people have realised the falsehood spread by Pakistan and their prop up in Kashmir.
Investigations by various agencies have helped unmask these leaders, who filled their coffers, built properties in and outside the valley, educated and settled their kin out of Kashmir and country even as they led youths to violence.
Since the abrogation of Article 370, the valley has witnessed a tremendous transformation from terrorism to tourism.
Till September 1.70 crore tourists have already visited the UT. This figure may go up to 2.25 crore by the end of the year, a significant increase from last year’s 1.88 lakh tourist arrivals, which was the highest number of tourists in the UT in the last seven decades.
The number of foreign tourists to the UT has also seen a major hike from 4,028 foreign arrivals in 2022 to 30,647 till August. Srinagar hosted the G20 meeting (the third tourism working group meeting of the G20 member countries) and post that, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in J&K has gone up by 350 per cent from the last year, Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha has said.
As tourism is booming in the UT, the locals are witnessing the benefits and a large number of unemployed are now earning. Other businesses, like handicrafts, are also showing an upwards trend.
With the peace pervading, education has also taken precedence. The number of youths qualifying for UPSC is growing every year. And more youths are participating in sports activities. Investments are also picking up and a lot of development projects are upcoming.
The locals, who have borne the brunt of the terror phase, are now realising the futility of the violence on the name of religion and ‘azadi’, and are realising the path of peace and development.
Kashmir was a laboratory for Pakistan and its people were not dear to it. This is what the common Kashmiri has realised. The pathetic situation in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has laid bare this truth. The people in PoK are up against Pakistan and its army and seek merger with India.
The truth of the 1988-2019 period of Kashmir is too bitter and tragic that Kashmiris don’t want to fall into the trap again. When demonstrations are flooding the streets of the US, Europe and other countries, Kashmiris are preferring to stay silent. They know what the pain of loss is and they have lost enough.