Kashmir: A Sociology of Conflict

Adfar Shah

Kashmir Conflict being one of the worlds’ most worrisome conflicts is a social fact and therefore its fallouts are clearly reflected in the structure of society of Kashmir and on the essence of overall social collective. There is a monster of damage of the conflict before us in terms of killings, lawlessness, social anomie and irreversible social pathology, the economic weakness, the attitudinal change in terms of criminality, collective deviant behavior, mounting mental health issues, effect on environs, etc. The conflict affected the very socialization of the vulnerable younger lot for it introduced many new undesirable activities in the individual mindset and in the larger society. During the period of violent armed conflict Kashmiri youth witnessed and a chunk of them participated in the hostilities resulting in the breakdown of our collective ethos and social fabric. They suffered of violence and uncertainty and a chunk of them perpetrated and perpetuated the suffering on others. For the youth of Kashmir, this is hardly any solution for the conflict situation in mind because they have more often than not been used by the vested interests and contractors of the conflict. They have lived amid the security crisis, brutal unaccounted arrests and tortures. They hardly received any quality education due to system collapse during the peak conflict era. They lived with horrible experiences of brutal killings, perceived loss of dignity and identity. They witnessed the deaths of their close ones, the loss of confidence in people, security forces and the state. The disintegration of the basic structure of society, loss of moral and social values, violence and destruction actually affected every aspect of their psycho-social development.

Seeing the cost of militancy and conceptualizing Kashmir caught in brutal violence, Valley’s only acclaimed sociologist Professor Dabla (2010) in his paper titled ‘Sociological Implications of Conflict in Kashmir’ argues that the militancy in Kashmir affected all sections of the society and all sectors of human social life. Thousands of innocent and common people were killed, injured, tortured and made disabled-handicapped. Most of the locals including elders were abused and dishonored repeatedly. Most of the local youth were brutally treated and most of the local children were harassed-tortured and most of the local women were teased, molested and some raped even. Thousands of residential houses and business establishments were burnt or destroyed. Other valuable properties worth billions were lost. In brief, the militancy brought a devastating and catastrophic effect in totality in the entire Kashmiri society especially in the fields related to large-scale economic destruction, widespread social disorder and disorganization, educational backwardness, mass psychological depression, physiological and mental health deterioration, mass humiliation, extreme type of helplessness, degenerated cultural aggression, political deception, domination and extreme chronic problems such as deviance, crime, suicides, drug addiction and erosion of values-norms, which were experienced by majority of members of the Kashmiri society.

Conflict created serious obstacles and constraints for the normal functioning of all social institutions in Kashmir. Right from school education to university education the system of transparency and quality education lost its way. Health care deteriorated, policing witnessed a worst decline, criminality reached its peak, women abuse touched its heights, poverty increased multifold and moral decline and lawlessness reached its peak. In the cases of the institution of family, all processes related to the maintenance–continuity of ‘social environment’, ‘socialization’, ‘personality formation’ could not operate fully and continuously mainly because of the behavior and actions of both the state and non state actors vis-à-vis locals. At the same time, traditional values/norms and role-status could not be maintained and saved for next generations due to the tsunami of conflict and societal chaos. Further the sociological fallout of the prolonged turmoil was the emergence of new/pseudo identities (Mujahideen),concepts (Jihad) and affiliations(pro-Indian/pro/Pak/pro freedom), power relations (gun men vs masses), only conflict centered interactions(ham kya chahtay….Azadi), religification of youth(azadi baray Islam), agendas, actions, goals and motives (Hartals culture, slogans, curfews, obsession for secession) etc. Not only this, the rich Kashmiri tradition was not even spared. The traditional marriage practices and kinship-patterns were exposed to new adjustments/forms created by turmoil posing a sense of shift in the very act of observing rather customorising/cermonising the rites of passage among masses. Kashmir started moving quickly towards radical Islamic traditions as well.

Robert K Merton-the American sociologist’s theory of Anomie best fits Kashmiri society today. According to Merton, anti-social behavior (crime) is produced by the values of the society itself in encouraging high material aspirations as a sign of individual successes without adequately providing approved means for all to reach these goals. Thus his idea is based on the assumption that persons who are denied the means to reach their goals get frustrated and resort to deviant behavior. It is low socio-economic groups which are discriminated against; they have a greater incidence of deviant behavior. One of the essential premises of this approach is that organization and disorganization in society are not mutually exclusive, but rather that many of the cultural values that have desirable consequences often contain with them or produce the undesirable consequences.

While conceptualizing how conflict came with a number of vices in Kashmir Society, Mir Aijaz, a criminologist at the University of Kashmir maintains that the crime rate from 1989-2003 increased particularly the violent crimes, property crimes, and crimes against women were the incident of Dardopra and Kunan-Poshpora are the open examples. On policing in Kashmir he says, instead of dealing with the law and order situation, this controlling agency (local police) was forced to deal with the insurgency movement, which was anti-public and resulted in the loss of image and trust of people on police in valley. Still new types of crimes are emerging in the city space which include cyber crimes like ATM frauds, Bank robberies, password fishing, etc,. As far as these crimes are concerned, their increasing trend is a worrying factor to the common people and the police of the state. Conflict situation put the police in a devil and deep sea situation where they have to fight their own people and in reward face the extreme enemy perception developed by the masses towards them.

Kashmir’s conflict generation has lost their identity and is in utter confusion about where to go and which way to follow. To most of them all the opportunities of survival and growth are gone and hopelessness is the reality before them. People are fed up with the promises of mainstream/opposition and separatist brigades because sheer dependency, lack of guidance and dearth of opportunities along with the turbulent situation has led to the belief in disbelief in the system and frustrated the youth at large.

Last word

Needless to say that a significant generation of youth who are today in the age group of 25-35 has grown up in crisis and are the children of conflict. The delaying tactics by the main stakeholders of K-issue and the general lack of preference and interest by the international fraternity in resolving the Kashmir issue has disintegrated the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir on religious and regional lines. Actually the proliferation of so many parties, fronts, congresses, organizations, Hurriyats, Sects and emerging groupings and associations are all leading the state into disastrous consequences like that of youth unrest, unemployment, immorality, exploitation of the vulnerable, new crimes, normlessness, corruption, nepotism, etc. The state of affairs is that people have lost their real identity and character. The credit for this whole disaster mainly goes to the leadership crisis in the state as no such leader seems sincere towards the real issue or feels concerned toward the people. Whole conflict situation has turned out into a vicious game of thrones to every section/party claiming the people’s support and treating the land along with human beings as their own property.

Conflict in Kashmir broke down the cultural norms and sense of unity and harmony because of the rapid undesirable changes that actually collapsed the social fabric and lead to a situation what Emile Durkheim righty calls anomie. Such a vicious fight between culture and deviance lead to the ideology of achieving the utopian positive ends via negative means.

Today when people hardly vote here and treat voting process as India’s democratic engineering, the question is, are elections an answer to the question of conflict-A conflict between the masses and the rulers, a conflict among the masses of different ideologies, a conflict between India, Pakistan and Kashmir and a conflict between the mainstream politics and the separatist politics. Will the continuing elections really contribute to peace or add to the already existing conflict remains to be seen. However, in the attempt of refashioning the socio-political framework, the beautiful valley landed in the never ending social chaos. Mirza Galib amply says:

Bak Raha Hoon Junoon Main Kya Kya

Kuch Na Samjhay Khuda Karay Koi

(Adfar Shah is a Delhi based sociologist and columnist at SAISA. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com)

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