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Is it possible to reconcile in Kashmir?

kashmiri people have faced the most brutal repression and extreme violations of basic human rights consistently since Mughal invaders occupied Kashmir some 450 years ago. Therefore, the story of persecution is not new to Kashmir and Kashmiri people. Kashmir has outlived oppressors and oppression.

Today, the same story of oppression is being retold in Kashmir with blockades on the internet, the media and communications, while access to health care is either being denied or depleting. In the midst of a communication blockade in a world of the information revolution families in Kashmir have no way of knowing whether their sick relatives are dead or alive.

The human rights violations in Kashmir are not something done by observing self-censorship, as Indian media has been addicted to, or that can be easily hidden from the world, or most importantly forgotten by those who have been experiencing it on a daily basis.

Among the long list of wrongdoings committed against Kashmiri people, the one that deserves special mention is the "violation of right to dignified living and right to a dignified burial." These rights have been consistently violated since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s.

The events in Kashmir since Aug. 5, 2019, are only a window opportunity to what has been happening since the 1990s. With the revocation of Article 370, I would add another feature of human rights violation that a common Kashmiri must expect to face soon is the "denial of the right to own land and dispossession of assets."

THE VIOLATION OF RIGHTS

It was during the 1990s when militancy in Kashmir had begun to take its roots, a phenomenon of crackdowns and random searches of homes owned by ordinary Kashmiris began to surface like mandatory military drills all over Kashmir. A majority of households in Kashmir might have been subjected to multiple cycles of organized searches during the 1990s until 2004. The agencies that have been doing searches in Kashmir without any search warrants were the many arms of the state's counterinsurgency forces, including the army.

Rebel forces had also been guilty of entering forcefully into privately owned homes. It was during these search operations when Kashmiri men were humiliated and rounded up and women became vulnerable to sexual violence and suffered brutal violations.

It is a common understanding in the civilized world that searching privately owned homes without the consent of the homeowner is a serious violation of the right to privacy and the right to dignified living. The right to dignified living has been brazenly violated in Kashmir to this day, but the draconian laws in place in Kashmir since the 1990s have been shielding this unlawful practice, which according to the universal declaration of basic human rights is a serious human rights violation.

Ironically, it is not only the right to dignified living that has been violated in Kashmir, even the "right to dignified burial" has also been denied repeatedly. Several disturbing cases have surfaced recently in which funeral processions were teargassed and fired upon leaving scores of mourners' dead and dead bodies abandoned in the middle of the roads.

Funeral processions have been targeted in South Kashmir more often than any other places in Kashmir in recent memory. This practice is only expected to get worse.

LACK OF BASIC RIGHTS

Finally, when it began to appear that an unforgiving era of household searches and other forms of violation of basic rights in Kashmir had stopped; a new form of atrocious violations of basic human rights came to haunt Kashmir's new generation. That became the root cause of anger and discontent among the new generation of Kashmiris. It was the year 2010, when Kashmir, for the first time, began witnessing the murder and blinding of teenage and young boys, some as young as four. The deliberate act of blinding, sanctioned by the state, to subdue mass uprising is not only unprecedented but shameful in the information age. The incidents of mass blinding in Kashmir have shaken the entire world and has been on the radar of most respected newspapers around the globe including the medical journals. The only exception being the mainstream media in India, which adopted a criminal silence.

THE MEDIA FAILS

Regardless of news coverage and the very bad impression it generates thereof, it should leave any decent person numb by imagining the consequences of having numerous metal pieces pierce the insides of the eyes.

Perhaps, all of us might have experienced the uncomfortable feeling of having dust or grain present in our eyes. Imagine, instead of dust, having numerous metal pieces permanently present inside the eyes, how excruciating that experience must be. Words can never give meaning and expression to the pain and distress that over a thousand young Kashmiri kids must be experiencing at this moment. Baby Hiba, a 2-year-old Kashmiri girl became the youngest victim of the "weapon of mass blinding." According to the mother of baby Hiba, she tries to touch her damaged eye repeatedly not because kids like to explore things but because of the excruciating irritation she faces in her left eye. History will remember many extraordinary events, but the state-sanctioned violence used against eyesight will surely be remembered as the most extreme form of repression ever applied to humans and most certainly the darkest chapter of Indian and Kashmiri history. The damage caused by the metal pellets to the eyes is permanent because pellets damage the eyeball from front to back. No surgery can restore the damaged eyeball and the vision according to experts who treat these pellet victims at Kashmir's only specialized Ophthalmology Department at the SMHS hospital.

Unfortunately for Hiba that excruciating pain is her fate of being a lawful citizen of India whose forefathers chose to side with India.

What has been more disturbing is the way common Indian citizens within India and around the world chose to remain silent at the atrocious crimes being committed against Kashmiris. Even worse, some sadist Kashmir experts from mainland India on popular TV debates celebrate and condone the use of mass blinding against their own citizens. Worryingly, with the revocation of Article 370, the path to reconciliation has ended. The new generation of Kashmiris will find it hard to reconcile with the fact that they no longer are in control of their destiny or land.

* Academic actively engaged in research and teaching at Tufts Medical School, Boston, MA and the University of Maine, Orono, Maine