The deceptive calm in the air shouldn’t be confused with return of normalcy. While the intensity of protests has gone down in Kashmir it provides an opportunity to both JK government and New Delhi to open channels of communication with all stakeholders.

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NEYAZ ELAHI
BUREAU CHIEF CENTRAL KASHMIR

                      The calm in Kashmir is often deceptive. Any untoward incident has ample potential to turn things ugly. After months of unrest if one takes the movement of vehicles on roads as a sign of normalcy then he/ she certainly is living in a fool’s paradise. Kashmir has proven not only once but multiple times, how it takes no time for situation to turn ugly and how sea of people vent their anger by hitting roads and streets whenever they get an opportunity. It may look soothing for those at the helm of affairs in the state as well in New Delhi that the intensity of protests has come down in Kashmir. But the political observers argue that confusing the prevailing lull in the situation with normalcy would be the disastrous choice to make. Former union home minister PChidabarram believes in ‘make hay while the sun shines’ adage and has urged upon the government of India to take serious initiative over Kashmir when it witnesses normalcy. “We forget everything when things are normal in Kashmir and remember the Valley when it is on boil. I hope this time things will be different and India will act when Kashmir is normal,” Chidambaram told a New Delhi based news channel. But there are reports coming to the fore now that the Modi led government is following Doval Doctrine in Valley. “Divide and Rule’ was the mantra, British followed in India and Modi’s India in Kashmir has been following the mantra of “Ignore and tease.”

                If a report published in a New Delhi based newspaper is to be believed, Ajit Doval, the wily bureaucrat and confidante of Modi has asked policymakers not to overreact to the situation in Kashmir. He has said the crisis will pass off. “It looks big in the midst of it, they (people of Kashmir) cannot sustain it beyond a point and even if they do there is a price they have to pay,” the newspaper reported. But political pandits believe that if Modi continues to pursue Doval doctrine it will only prove disastrous for the state in the longer run. “You remain quiet and believe that people will get tired. Little did you know that more alienation means more trouble,” argued a political observer who wished not to be named. In the past more than four months of uprising in Kashmir, post the killing of rebel commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, at least than 96 civilians have been shot dead, and over 15,000 injured in action by the security forces. The hardline Kashmir strategy adopted by the government of India led by Modi may suit BJP but not India or Jammu and Kashmir. India can’t afford to ignore resolution of Kashmir for long. The more the policy makers and strategists at New Delhi try to ignore the issue and push the people to wall the harder will be the reaction. In 2010 the state used its might to crush the summer uprising that was triggered by fake encounter of three civilians by army in a border area of north Kashmir. That year the uprising went on for three months and at least 120 people were killed in action by police and paramilitary forces. This time the uprising has already completed four months and seperatists and civil society has decided to continue with the weekly protest calendars. It should worry both the state government and the government of India.

The deceptive clam in Kashmir after months of unrest should not be confused with return of the normalcy and it would be the disastrous choice to be made by both the state and government of India.

             However there are voices both within the state and New Delhi who argue that since students were now taking exams, people were thronging the markets and the traffic movement was growing day by day, the normalcy wasn’t far away in Kashmir now. But that is where the problem lies. Such kind of a myopic vision has taken Kashmir where it is today, in absence of bold initiatives from New Delhi. Who would have imagined that 2010 would happen? And after six years of lull everybody within the establishment was shocked to see how Kashmir erupted against the killing of Burhan. Another summer of bloodshed has gone by in the Valley. There is likelihood that another summer of uprising may well repeat itself next summer and all it would take is a trigger like the killing of a militant. The fast approaching winter is an opportunity for the government of India to rethink its strategy on Kashmir and act. After months of uprising the protest fatigue has crept in Kashmir. Tension has eased and according to official estimates the incidents of the stone pelting have gone down by over 80 percent.

If a report published in a New Delhi based newspaper is to be believed, Ajit Doval, the wily bureaucrat and confidante of Modi has asked policymakers not to overreact to the situation in Kashmir. He has said the crisis will pass off.

            The intensity of the protests has fallen considerably and people have started to move out of their houses to pick up the normal life once again. Both the state government and Modi led government at the center have therefore gained the respite that they needed to take stock of the uprising and decide what to do next. There lies the opportunity for New Delhi to use this period of lull to reach out to Hurriyats and other stakeholders in Kashmir for engaging them in a lasting dialogue to find a way through. The work has to be carried on multiple fronts and through several channels. Such initiatives are very urgently required before it become too late and the Valley finds itself gripped in another summer of unrest. The government could do well by releasing the seperatists from house arrests and giving them chance to sit and discuss the way forward. Lifting of the siege of the Jamia mosque after 20 consecutive weeks is a welcome step. But many more steps ought to be taken including the immediate release of the students and youth slapped with the public safety act and lodged in different jails of the state. The government can also reach out to the seperatists by releasing the middle and lower rung members of the Hurriyat and other groups who were rounded up during the ongoing uprising. The separatist as well as people are waiting for the next move from New Delhi. Nothing is certain here. Government of India must realize that the way to resolve Kashmir is to engage all stakeholders including Hurriyat leaders.

(Author is a senior journalist and can be mailed at neyazelahi@gmail.com)