Gun is no solution to any problem but since the time the first gun was invented, it is used as a means to solve many problems. It is used to settle from a scuffle between two individuals to the greatest of the disputes that existed, and that exist, in the world. Gun is used in the wars that America inflicts upon powerless people and in the acts of terrorism. It is used in freedom movements and to suppress the same movements. It is used to kill people and to save the people. It is used as a measure of offense and means of defense as well.
As fate put Kashmir in a pathetic dispute which is becoming bloodier with the passage of each moment. The latest onset, and involvement, of gun in this dispute occurred in the first half of the last decade of the last century. Since then the gun is creating havoc and has decimated the lives of millions of people in some or the other way. Yet, it is used by all the parties to safeguard their stand and to settle the dispute in their favor.
It is now around three decades since the time gun was used in Kashmir first after the eruption of the indigenous armed struggle. Lot many guns have been used, with the aid of other advanced arms and ammunition, to show the gun exit but the gun refuses. The more vehemently guns are used to throw the gun out with more vigor the gun remains anchored in Kashmir.
Today the gun is both a part of our painful side and an ingredient of many other areas and aspects of life. It is used to make Kashmir bleed through thousand wounds and it is presented as a cure by the parties for those wounds. Guns are worshiped by some and scorned by the rest. They are the preferred part of the children’s plays. They are included in the stories of valor and shame. They are in the lyrics of folk songs and the characters of stage shows.
Guns cause huge losses to many and are used as a means of profit by some. Some make gun and guns as a status symbol and instrument of power but for others it is a sign of helplessness, and hopelessness. Gun, as such has become an important part of every part and area of Kashmir’s life. Kashmiri culture has turned a Gun Culture now. Gun, cannot be ignored in the current history of Kashmir.
All the peace loving people and those who favor violence cannot ignore gun. Nobody can claim to be outside the scope of devastating impacts of the gun. No one can claim to be safe and secure from the barrels of gun. From the most powerful person of the state to the weakest no one is safe and nobody secure in the gun infested Kashmir, none at all.
A few years back it seemed that the gun was on the way out. The militancy had reduced to almost a negligible level and the people of the state had, it seemed, once again accepted mainstream politics as a means to address their political and other aspirations. The South Kashmir, which is currently the hotbed of resistance, was the main bastion of the Peoples Democratic Party. The support of this party in that region of the state was unprecedented. No one at that stage would have imagined that the things for the party will come to such a passé.
After few years now the picture has changed completely. The region seems to have been turned in a complete enemy territory, where everyone is treated as a militant or at least an over ground worker. The region has been so much mishandled that it is not the unwillingness of the people which stops them from taking guns but rather the dearth of guns which is an impediment towards that direction. If somehow guns are made available in the area, and even in other areas of Kashmir, much more the people will opt for gun.
The attempts to show the gun the door out are proving as invitation for the new guns. The same techniques and anti-insurgency strategies that succeeded in the past are proving counterproductive. The more the power is used against people the more guns appear on the scene and the more the youth, and militants, are killed, the more willingness is there in the masses to die and lesser get the fear of death in them.
The adamant and stubborn attitude of the parties to the Kashmir dispute is all indicative of the fact that gun is here to stay for a longer haul than was expected. All the deadlines and ultimatums by the Indian authorities have failed to end militancy in the state as they were bound to fail in absence of proper methods of conflict resolution. The militancy in the state has become even stronger. With the death of one militant many others join the ranks of militants. Each succeeding militant prove more resolute and more dedicated than the previous one. No power or force proves sufficient to break the resolve and dedication of these young men.
The Indian state as a responsible country and a mature country now should have not given a reason for these youth to take guns in the first instance. If at all some youth would have opted for guns they should have been proven the futility of holding guns. They should have been provided with the alternate channels of their grievance redressal and resolution of the dispute. But, unfortunately the answer of the government is the Operation All Out which is already a failure. Moreover the answer is the decimation and destruction of the hard earned property of the people which again leads towards failure of the counter insurgency operations.
The militants of today are not trained; they have very less arms and armaments. Give them arms of any kind and they will hesitate not to use them against the all the structure representing the Indian state in Kashmir for the simple reason that they have given up the fear of death and they have no hopes that the state will treat them fairly. The best way to deal with them was to treat them fairly and listen passionately their side of the story and be accommodative but that is not being done.
The counterinsurgency machinery of the state is adamant on dealing gun with gun, bullet with bullet, and even stone with bullet, and not by dealing with the reasons behind holding and using gun. All this makes the scenario too scary; it makes life precarious and peace elusive. Amidst all the resistance that has developed against fear the ambience and environment is filled with greater fear.
The fear of more mothers losing their sons, sisters their brothers and fathers their sons. It is the fear of robbing the Kashmiri nation from the wealth and assets in the form of these young men. And the fear of ever greater degree of devastation and destruction and the example of which were witnessed in the Laroo village of Kulgam district of Kashmir on 21st of October, 2018.
In short gun is relied upon by the parties of the Kashmir dispute when we know that gun has not succeeded in bringing about the settlement of any dispute or problem. Even if gun can be attributed some success in case of some disputes but it is the peace initiatives that were followed after the use of guns that resulted in that settlement but not before causing destruction of great proportions.
Therefore, the parties to the Kashmir dispute should realize the urgency of the matter. They must stop viewing the dispute by the prism and standards of gun. There should be that humane approach where guns must be considered as no option.
Guns are blind and cause the damages and destruction of varying degrees to all the parties who rely on them. So why to resort to guns, why not to give peace, and peaceful methods a chance? Leave alone the death of militants for a while, just in few days time four security force personnel have lost their lives in Kashmir, is it not the responsibility of the government to save those lives?
Why this madness with and after guns? This madness has cost Kashmir too much dearly. The greater role and responsibility lies with the government to respect the peaceful methods of resistance and accommodate the views of the other side. The other side also should reciprocate all the genuine moves of conflict resolution by the government. Better always is some victory to all than no victory to none.
Fayaz Ganaie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org