They can kill the young, but can they kill the idea? Can they push the idea of India down their throats, and eliminate the idea of Kashmir?
Majid Maqbool Srinagar
Always begin with "K is an integral part of India". That is, if the people of Kashmir keep coming out on the streets to demand azadi (freedom), protesting against the occupation of their lives and their land, if they keep expressing dissatisfaction with their democratically elected government. Remind people of the free and fair elections held in 2002 and 2008 (not the rigged ones; don't mention 1987), high voter turnout, elected representatives, other such democratic terms. If Kashmiris still shout azadi, tell the world repeatedly from the studios of 'popular' news channels: Pak-sponsored elements and separatists are responsible for the unrest in the valley. They are instigating people to shout azadi on the streets.
Indeed, Kashmiris want peace, normalcy, and good governance. Azadi, whatever that damned word means, is a Pak-creation!
Use all these interchangeable words to describe the unarmed people who protest on the streets: mobs, agitators, terrorists, arsonists, mobsters, separatist sympathisers, paid agents etc. Legitimise military force against unarmed people, delegitimise peoples' protests. Then, say it loud and clear, this "cycle-of-violence" has to end.
Play taped phone conversation of people on the streets as 'credible evidence' on prime time news. For example, if person A is somewhere saying "10-15 people should be martyred", pick this line and translate it into, "We want 10-15 to be martyred". Then bring in "home ministry sources" to give credence to that just-exposed new conspiracy hatched somewhere across the border to create trouble in Kashmir. Prove that the planning behind stone pelting is done in some unknown terrorist-infested mountain (also called ''safe haven") across the border. Say that's where the trouble originates, not on the streets of Kashmir.
Make sure that a certain 'sarkari' investigative journalist (of Islamist-Kashmiris and five-police-station-theory fame) writes about this piece of evidence, and the compulsive television rabble-rouser in Delhi talks about it in his high-pitched patriotic voice on prime time news. Also, why not declare that Kashmiri youth are getting paid by separatists to come out on the streets and pelt stones at the security forces? Oh, these are drugged, jobless youth who have no idea of why they are pelting stones. Don't forget to mention the outside support (always, Pakistan), terrorism (Pakistan), infiltration (never-ending) encouraged from across the border. Occasionally, also talk about 'Chinese incursions' on the other side of Kashmir.
Be 'tactical and objective': avoid the mention of bullets that were fired on the funeral processions of teenagers killed on the streets of Kashmir in 2010. Don't talk about thousands of people beaten, arrested, lying injured in hospitals, and nursing their injuries in their homes. Don't mention the bullet injuries (always above the waist) inflicted. Don't mention the countless windows of homes -- smashed by the security forces.
Instead, repeat it ad nauseum: stones kill; security forces fire bullets in self defense.
That the newly introduced non-lethal weapons don't kill. Indefinite curfews are enforced to ensure peace. Don't even mention that the number of people killed, since June 11 this year, has crossed the 100 mark. Let's put it this way: security forces observed maximum restraint. And they will now be given monetary rewards for showing restraint!
Don't tell the story of nine-year-old Sameer Rah of Batmaloo who was beaten to death by the security forces when he came out of his home to play. As the boy stepped out of his home, his mother had lovingly handed him a pear, a bite of which was still in his mouth when the family received his dead body. Remember: this kind of a story, if widely covered, can go against "national interests". It can be detrimental for the morale of the troops. Don't ever talk of repealing AFSPA from Kashmir. It's a 'Holy Book' for the security forces and the establishment.
All these stories don't quite fit in the 'Incredible India' story. So forget all these festering memories. Let's look ahead now. Why don't Kashmiris look at the booming Indian economy, the shinning-India story? Shouldn't Kashmiris be part of the 'idea of India', assimilate themselves in the world's largest democracy? And stop complaining about their victimhood -- Now.
Drill it into our heads: people of Kashmir want to live in peace, want development, jobs, economic packages. If people still demand azadi, simply declare that Pak-sponsored elements and Pak-sympathisers are hell-bent on creating trouble in the paradise. We know how to tackle this: security will be strengthened. Additional troops will be dispatched. These 'anti-national' elements will be dealt with strongly. Anyone defying curfew will be shot.
If people still persist, demanding azadi, there's always that question that can be tossed back from the well-lit studios of Delhi-based news channels: "What do you mean when you say azadi? What does azadi mean?" If the answer is still a resounding azadi shouted at the top of their voices -- ignore it. Never engage with the idea. Buy more time, maintain status quo. Let the storm pass.
Meanwhile, keep the troops ready -- fully equipped with additional weapons of pepper and pellet guns. And kill if necessary, even if all they have are stones.
Also, repeat relentlessly that the 'azadi problem' is only limited to a few districts in the valley. People in Jammu and Ladakh don't want azadi. Tell the world that all Kashmiri Pandits are happy with what the Indian State does in Kashmir. Even Sikhs feel threatened in Kashmir. An independent Kashmir cannot exist, it's impossible. Always maintain that the integrity of India just can't be questioned. If the number of people killed goes up some day, for the sake of democracy, all 'grievances of people' can be addressed "within the Indian Constitution -- samvidhan kay daeyeray main".
Send an all-party delegation to comprehend what is already so well known in Kashmir. Then, appoint some 'big-hearted' interlocutors. They will talk to 'all shades of opinion' in J&K. You are our own people, so come, let's talk. But make sure the pro-freedom slogans are whitewashed before the delegates and interlocutors arrive. After over 100 killings in a few months, instead of bringing the security forces to book, they will declare a special package: some jobs, some money for the families of those killed, and relocation of some bunkers, if necessary, and only if the generals approve. Make sure a few dismantled bunkers get maximum coverage.
Call peoples' aspiration for freedom as petty 'grievances'. Link protests with jobs, governance. Say azadi protests mean governance deficit. The chief minister has been told to reach out to 'his' people. Let's give him some time. He is young, dynamic. Kashmir is a difficult job, you see. He will deliver. We have a law and order problem. People need not to worry. People should not defy curfews; people should co-operate with the security forces in maintaining 'peace'.
If despite all these measures the 'azadi problem' persists -- hell with heaven -- send in more troops. Enforce strict curfews. Ban newspapers, local cable channels, beat up journalists. Smash them. Break the bones of those who come out on the streets to protest. Shoot. Shoot to kill. Especially, shoot to kill the young. Even little kids. Set an example.
So let's ramble on and on about the loss of education -- not the loss of young lives. How separatists have sent their own kids outside the state for education. How ordinary kids are caught in between; they simply want to go to school. They are not interested in protests. No one's thinking of teenagers getting murdered on the streets. Ahh... they are only thinking of school. So why deprive them of their right to education?
So what if going to school means desolate, curfewed roads, when an identity card becomes a curfew pass. Ensure parents remain confined to their homes, while kids go to schools. Hence, "peace returns". "Normalcy returns" to the valley.
And finally, if some country issues an occasional statement condemning human rights violations in Kashmir -- even a mere regret about continued deaths in Kashmir -- summon its ambassador. Forcefully, repeat the stated position: Kashmir is an internal matter. Don't interfere.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar