There is this army camp — I know they are innumerable in entire valley — in a village in Kulgam which has had a perpetual existence there. During 1990s decade, it housed some of the notorious army commanders and a band of local mercenaries — the Ikhwanis. Together they wreaked havoc in the whole area. People had to perform manual labour, for free. All the passenger vehicles had to donate one day for their service. They were, and are, immune from legal systems and created their own stage where they tossed people to and fro on their tunes.
In 2010, when Kashmir was out on streets, stonepelting was unheard of in villages where police stations had no presence and army camps were spared for they were considered to be nothing less than wild beasts. Throughout that period, they did not try to control people or prevent them from protesting peacefully. The response of people was quite similar as there was no instance of pelting on the armymen.
It was in the same year that a nearby village was busy in collecting eatables to be dispatched to the towns and cities which faced acute food shortage. As soon as army jeeps were spotted from a distance, people cleverly took to the alleys and disappeared. Relief material was left in the open. However they passed without bothering to enquire or stop the activity. The situation remained as such throughout the year.
In 2016, only 12 hours had passed after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, when youth came out on streets to break the status quo that existed between people and the army. Most of the troops had went to the main town to enforce a strict curfew to prevent any backlash. The scarce presence of armymen inside the camp further invigorated youth to mount an attack on the camp which they did. Forces responded with fire when protesters broke open the gate, killing a young boy on spot. Over the next days, the camp faced intense pelting from youth and they had to restrict their manpower for their own security. The status quo vanished.
Commanding Officer of the camp summoned village heads and asked them to allow their smooth transport during the night as they had to distribute ration and other supplies. Village heads obliged and announced the news to public whose reaction was ambiguous. One night they arrived and found steel rods wound across a bridge. As some of them went forward to remove the hurdle, petrol bombs flew at them followed by stones. With cries of hey ram, they boarded their vehicles and escaped.
For the last 50 odd days, we haven’t seen armymen roam around in broad daylight for the fear of stonepelting. Even during the night, they are afraid of youth who stay awake all night to guard their villages. These youth are armed with axes, rods, spades and sticks. Will they use these tools to kill the enemy is a different question. The fact is that army is be-bas in front of an infuriated people that is seething with rage since Burhan Wani fell.
I wondered how the dynamics of resistance change with each passing period. And with every such “unrest”, India is being pushed a step back towards its own fascist boundaries. Resistance is evolving by every possible means, mistakes of the past are avoided now and people are showing more stronger spirit of a collective. This time round, protest calenders sometimes don’t reach the people but they have established their own calendar. Hurriyat seems to have no problem either which is a good sign.
The occupational tactics have to evolve too as curfews are unable to deter people from pouring into the streets. People will not sit indoors under strict curfew, internet shutdown and watch more Afzal Gurus being put to death. The dynamics are changing, urban-rural divide is becoming redundant and sectarianism is buried by public gatherings. Azaadi is in the air.
(About the author: Rouf Dar is an MA Political Science Department student at KU)