Government is mistaken to think Kashmir conflict will simply die down

Kashmiriyat and the call for azadi have got further popularity because of the recent events.

 |  4-minute read |   24-07-2016
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What has happened in Kashmir to lead to so much of anger and violence?

The Kashmiris are not particularly violent. Clearly misgovernance is a longstanding issue.

Pile upon pile of undelivered promises, corruption eating into the income of those lucky to have jobs or businesses, but above all a widespread feeling that Kashmiriyat has been betrayed have led to the mess in the Valley.

Some politicians now out of power, like P Chidambaram are now writing of the anger and despair of the Kashmiri people. But this is too little too late.

Also read: India must grant Kashmir azadi from oppressive Army

First of all, we should remember that there was a more violent outburst in Kashmir in 2010. But tragically, few lessons were learned.

There were nearly 200 deaths at that time, compared to 45 now, but now some Kashmiris are critical, and more than 100 have been blinded or partially blinded, according to newspaper reports.

However, the security forces, despite public outcry, have not withdrawn the pellet guns. There is simmering anger possibly leading to localised outbreaks of violence, and this casualty figure and injuries may rise.

It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the state will return to "normalcy" soon. The Indian State made a serious mistake by sending Union home minister Rajnath Singh to Kashmir so late.

kashmir-embed_072416073811.jpg The protesters, stone-pelters, have seen and shown what they can do. They will not back down. 

Of course, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was very slow to get out of her citadel and reach out to the people. If one compares the alacrity with which the state government reacted to the NIT issue, with the snail's pace of its reaction to the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, it is clear that there was a serious error of judgment.

Also read: I'm a Kashmiri and a 'coward'. Whom do I fight for azadi?

As several commentators and the Kashmir press have pointed out, the shutting down of mobile operations and internet and then the press was a conditioned response. The protesters have plenty of ways of communicating, as they are doing now.

The shutting down of the press from Srinagar to Jammu, including arresting staff, was a violation of the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution.

The chief advisor to the CM, Amitabh Mattoo blamed an SSP of the Kashmir Police for this illegal and provocative action.

If that is true, and many fear it is, the Kashmir Police wrested powers, which was a blatant infringement of press freedom. It would seem that the police were governing in areas where the state government's writ should run.

People in the state government are shocked and angry. For example, senior Cabinet minister Haseeb Drabu's wife, Roohi Nazki, has demanded the resignation of the ministry. Drabu has maintained silence since matters went out of hand. But silence in the government is not a sign of stability or clarity on how to act.

One thing is clear. If the Kashmiri political class believes that once passions are spent things will be back to "normal", it is living under a serious illusion.

Things cannot remain the same. The protesters, stone-pelters, have seen and shown what they can do. They will not back down. It is likely that new political equations will be worked out.

New political formations may arise, and defections from the PDP may ensue. There will be a further spread of political activism from south Kashmir. The Union government will have to play its cards carefully. It would be unwise for BJP ministers in the state government to use terms like "anti-nationals" loosely while dismissing dissent in the Valley.

Like it or not, Kashmiriyat and the call for azadi have got further popularity because of the recent events, not least because of the death of Wani who was active in south Kashmir, where the ruling PDP is entrenched.

Wani's short life and death have touched an emotional chord with the people of the Valley. A new leader, not much older than many stone-pelters, has been born.

Clearly, the PDP's drive to have him "taken out" as a senior PDP leader confided to The Sunday Express, about three weeks ago, was a terrible mistake, but hardly uncommon in Kashmir's turbulent history.

A new empowered strategy, one of considerably empowering the Kashmiri people, will have to be crafted, soon.

How this is going to be done is obviously a fractious and controversial matter, especially in mainland India.

But we will be deluding ourselves if we believe that tempers will ebb, and things will go back to "normal" in Kashmir.

Unfortunately, the ruling NDA, is the least pro-federal of all the parties. It is also the most chauvinistic.

But there are no viable options for a considerable change to the Kashmir policy. It would be terrible if more Kashmiris were to be blinded or killed because of the blindness of the political class.

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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