For people concerned with freedom, equality and decency it is fair to say that the last decade has been that of regression. This is no doubt the case for Kashmir, Kashmiris, and Indians who are privileged and alive enough to care about Kashmir’s suffering and struggles. The arbitrary arrests, the silencing of the population, the erosion of civil society, and many other things we hoped to get rid of in Kashmir have strengthened their grip over India.
It makes the battle ahead difficult while all the more urgent and necessary. Unfortunately, the section that is affected by similar issues in India, like police violence, state repression, violence against women and working people, powerlessness has only increased. That expands the scope for more understanding, raising consciousness, and solidarity among the oppressed in Kashmir and in India. The criminal mismanagement of covid-19 also demonstrated for many the costs of not having politically democratic and responsible institutions.
But what can we reasonably hope to achieve? Plebiscite? Demilitarization? These things look impossibly far now. So what demands? And how? New Delhi is not moved by public opinion in Kashmir. It demonstrated in 2019 that for Delhi Kashmiris are animals and insects, without rights and we do with them whatever we like. Farmer’s protests show that even vocal Indian public opinion hardly matters for this regime. But if there is any hope for improving the situation in Kashmir it is largely from international and domestic pressures. Waiting for Kashmir to explode in civil or armed unrest is a prayer for genocide. The brutality and power of the Indian state have only increased since the 1990s. It will only give a new justification for intensifying the cycle of violence and harming the chances of any long-term solution.
I believe the most basic demand that Indian activists, labour unions, civil societies, progressive NGOs, and maybe political parties should include in their programs is that of the restoration of the pre-August 5, 2019 position. Something similar to the baseline reached in the first Gupkar Declaration.
The first and major step must be increasing public support. While being as cautious and prepared for reaction by the state. And to my knowledge, public support remains the best defense against the state’s retaliation. Another step of course must be to learn more from civil society, activists, and people in the region to formulate a more meaningful and reasonable proposal.
This should be considered only a suggestion to start the conversation. With the increased access to information and opinions about Kashmir, a large section of young Indians have grown sensitive towards their struggle. But understanding must also lead to action. Hopefully, we will rise to the occasion.