An edited version was published in The Kashmir Reader
Five years ago, a seventeen year old Tufail Mattoo was shot dead by a tear-gas canister which was aimed directly at his head. It sparked an unprecedented people’s uprising of an unfathomable magnitude. The dark years from the nineties which rode on fear, coercion and outright terror finally met its end in the roars of the millions of people.
Across the bunkers that housed fear, the eyes of the troops that infested terror and the pangs of humiliation; would lose their intensity. For the first time in many years, the mindsets were being exposed to unlearning fear.
The uprising later was put under a management, which now is seen as a mistake by many experts. Uprisings cannot be managed, they are a process in itself to create disorder in the structures that govern the lives of people. The structures are built on fear and thrive on humiliations. The anger was there and it was only manifested in the violence that collectively became uncontrollable when it was challenged by violence of the state.
In the Indian Media and many local journalists who since the very first day turned the core of the uprisings into riots and anarchy. Dismissing the right to self determination as ‘propaganda’, the protesters into ‘drug users’ and inadvertently demonised an entire population as ‘savages’. The frequent media bytes of showing the ‘beauty’ of Kashmir whenever their are protests have become a tradition to juxtaposing against the backdrop of massacres and state violence. The Indian public’s discourse is ignorant because it’s derived from such medias. The central things in our daily lives are met with contempt which is a daily assault on our culture and aspirations.
This is what the great Edward Said describes as ‘the permission to narrate’. Permission to narrate to our collective history has been denied by the Indian and International media at large. The power to narrate our own history against the world under the illusion of the Brahminical and imperialistic narrative of Kashmir’s history so that it becomes a convenient dismissal of the the history and the stories of Kashmiris.
Since the last five years, the generation born in shadows of bunkers and concertina wires has started to tell their own history. This history is build around the painful fragments of history. These are objects of memories; letters of revolutionaries, newspaper clippings, books, poetry, oral history and sharing of collective experiences that are being preserved. This is an important tool to establish the political identity of Kashmiris whose space has been encroached by the 68 years of the conflict.
It becomes important when the political identity is under assault and is endangered to preserve the culture and history to fight against its extinction. As Said quotes, “Culture is a form of memory against effacement.’
Five years later after Tufail was brutally killed, the new generation of Kashmiris have built a greater curiosity around their political identity. The historical tradition of oral history is being strengthened and contemporised to reach a wider audience. So that the struggle for self determination is projected in its universality of human suffering which has a far reaching consequences than making Kashmir about two countries.
The intifada has shaken up the foundations of the politically aware youth. Triggering the process of learning and unlearning will remain continuous. Revolution is the underlying principle of this process and there’s a long way to go forward in institutionalising the movement at it the very basic and grassroots level. That’s the legacy of Tufail and the 127 other youngsters that left us with responsibility of our future.