Author: Saadut
•9:21 PM

On September 7th as Zubin Mehta was playing Beethoven’s 3rd symphony at Shalimar to a carefully chosen and convenient to India audience, Indian forces were killing Kashmiris in Shopian. Strangely these killings went in sync with the Second Movement of this symphony ‘The Funeral March’, Indian guns were roaring in Shopian at the same time that Beethoven was playing in Shalimar. Earlier claims of Indian forces and Indian media that the four persons shot in Shopian were militant attackers were soon disproved, when three of the four were confirmed to be youngsters without any militant linkages, on way to exam centers, shot by Indian CRPF after being stopped near their camps.  The fourth killed was reportedly a non local, Indian forces claiming him to be a militant while locals contested that he was a Bihari painter working in Shopian. Just a few days after these killings, another young man, a 28 year old father of a six month old baby, was killed by Indian CRPF personnel, again outside the same Gagaran paramilitary camp, while he was reportedly passing by the camp. Instead of understanding and comforting the anger on ground against these murders, the state resorted to forcing mute by imposing unending curfews there. And if any protests would be dared, they were greeted with pellet guns and bullets.

While killings of civilians by Indian forces are not uncommon in Kashmir, the state burying its head in sand before and after such crimes take place is more frequent. What however strikes out from these killings is a pattern of bloodletting that Indian forces have been known to follow, realizing the unprecedented immunity they enjoy in Kashmir. Not only do these criminal acts, and the following denial of justice by the state, point to the unbridled power that these armed forces enjoy in Kashmir, they also reflect on a policy of ‘conflict continuity’ New Delhi follows in Kashmir. This ‘conflict industry’ in Kashmir itself is a mammoth enterprise, not only for the big security apparatus in Kashmir that feeds by it, but also for the political class who seize power in such conflict traumas, even while they lack any mass support on ground. This policy of suppression has become so blatant and disregardful that even when state sponsored events like ‘Ehsaas e Kashmir’ (and its counter in Haqeeqat e Kashmir) had managed some international spotlight on Kashmir, Indian forces did not shy away from such crimes. And if these killings were not enough of blood on their sleeve, the governing state forced Shopian and corresponding towns into an unending siege.  This military siege on the local population was so strong that no emergency was seen critical enough, blocking even medical exigencies in these towns. Unrelenting curfews also forced an extreme shortage of essentials including critical medicines, milk, bread and baby food, the state ‘punishing’ whole populations.

But this was not all to the siege. September is that month when Kashmir’s prime horticulture cash crop, the apple, is ready to be plucked, graded, packed and sold. This is when efforts of a full year’s toil bear fruits for these orchardists and farmers. Incidentally Shopian and Pulwama being among the prime apple producing areas of Kashmir, the state was well aware of the financial, economic and social implications of this fruit plucking season. And this unending curfew was used by the state as a tool to deny access to farmers in Shopian and adjoining towns towards their orchards, thus forcing this ripe fruit to rot. Indian forces were also reported to have gone on a rampage in these orchards, thereby destroying the precious crop of farmers.

Clearly this financial disempowerment and economic denial was not happening without the concurrence of the political state here.  The political state in Kashmir is often seen as a mask to the military hold of New Delhi here, the former complimenting the later by silence and inaction over crimes committed by the military arms. This political state is also known to have used denial of economic empowerment, neglect of development projects or even worse, denial of fair judicial systems in Kashmir, where opposition to this political state has been strong. And places like Shopian which have always shown resilience and resistance against crimes by state arms against civilians, have been targeted more frequently by such a political – military state. The resistance Shopian showed in the aftermath of ‘Aasia – Neelofer case’ has not been forgotten, neither by commoners across Kashmir nor by the vendetta driven state. And it was this resistance that the state was aware of when Indian troops killed five civilians near Shopian recently, responding not only with a military clampdown but this time also forcing economic deprivation.
Instead of allowing people to mourn their dead, the state was ensuring that mourning continues, first in more fatalities then in hearths by depriving people of their sustenance. The state apparatus in Kashmir that always presents tourism as the mainstay of Kashmir economy actually uses the tourism façade to deflect attention from the real Kashmir that stands denied politically, economically, socially and judicially. Fact is while tourism does not even constitute 10% of the state GDP, the key economic sectors of Kashmir, horticulture and agriculture not only stand neglected but deliberately deprived.

While human losses are easy to count and identify, a forced economic subjugation in conflict areas acts like termites to wood. They hollow out societies without making any news worth mention and such a policy has been used by Israel against Palestinians for decades. Such actions in conflict areas by the occupying political-military state often go unnoticed, but severely harm the local populations. The Hebron city center in Palestine is a perfect example of such execution, which once was a thriving business centre - residential area of Palestinians. After its occupation, Israel slowly started destroying its financial power, by forcing a policy of economic denial, often accompanied with extended curfews, civilian restrictions and unprovoked attacks by IDF, a policy which was later extended to land seizures. As the economy of Hebron was devastated, life became impossible for Palestinians, as a result of which Hebron soon was turned into a ‘Ghost Town’.

Even while towns like Shopian tuning into such ‘Ghost Towns’ in the immediate future may not happen, a forced economic deprivation by the state will aim to break the resilience of the common people there. The same political state in Kashmir has been known to indulge in development denial to other places where it has faced political resistance. The Sopore bye pass road has seen four governments pass yet it was denied a completion by any of these. On a larger scale the same reflects in the infrastructure development deniability of capital Srinagar, which has been often robbed of its due rights in favor of a ‘politically correct’ Jammu.

Some years back villagers from Palhalan in north Kashmir, approached their local MLA with a basic request for some tube wells, as water supply in these areas had always been neglected by successive governments. The MLA was blunt in his refusal “you are the ones who seek Azadi, why do you need drinking water?”