New Delhi’s denial to acknowledge the ground realities and address the core Kashmir issue is fuelling anger on the streets and deepen the crisis, argues Qazi Syed Sajad

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|| QAZI SYED SAJAD

         Kashmir is again on boil and unarmed protestors are being killed and injured amid repeated promises of probes and restraint by the authorities. Amid the ongoing uprising which is nearing two months, post killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8, Government of India seems to have no plans to start a credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir problem while as the State Government seems to be helpless. The ongoing uprising in Kashmir which has so far witnessed more than 65 killings in action by forces is different from the 2008 or 2010 agitations.

      In 2008 the motive was cancellation of land diverted to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board as people were up in arms against any move of dilution of Kashmir’s special constitutional status. In 2010 Kashmir saw another mass movement over Machil fake encounter in which three civilians were killed by army for cash reward and promotions. Even in 2009 Kashmir erupted to make security forces accountable in the wake of double rape and murder of Aasia and Neelofar in Shopian district. These agitations were issue related and essentially target specific.

“Now or Never’’ is a rallying call now. The slogans like “Hamari Mangay Poori Karo” and “We want Justice have gone into oblivion and “Hum Kya Chahtay” has taken a center stage. Even separatists seem to be more firm this time given the more strict “protest calendars” coming up from their side.

         But ongoing uprising is not as simple as it seems to be. It all started with killing of Burhan. But it would be too naive to take his death as a sole reason for the volcanic eruption across Kashmir. In fact People were already aghast over range of issues including, proposed Sainik colonies in Kashmir, separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits and no forward movement for addressing K-issue. Killing of Indian Muslims in different states of India had deep impact on Kashmiri youth which was evident from their expressions on social networking sites. And there were fresh memories of 2008 and 2010 killings.

       The simmering resentments got a vent with the killing of Burhan who is seen as a “symbol of resistance” in the Valley. This time people have set a “big target”. “Now or Never’’ is a rallying call now. The slogans like “Hamari Mangay Poori Karo” and “We want Justice have gone in oblivion and “Hum Kya Chahtay” has taken a center stage. Even separatists seem to be more firm this time given the more strict “protest calendars” coming up from their side. The protest rallies of KCC (Kashmir Chamber Of Commerce) and KMTA (Kashmir Manufacturers and Traders Association) and their call for support to Hurriyat program shows the involvement of people across the society. Now, how New Delhi will deal with the uprising will decide the future discourse in Kashmir. Had there been enough political maturity on part of New Delhi in handling previous agitations in Kashmir the situation would have been altogether different this time. But the approach of treating every political situation as a law and order problem which unfortunately has been a problem with New Delhi’s Kashmir Policy provides fertile ground for repetition of the agitations and brings to fore the discourse whether New Delhi has learnt any lessons since 1947.

       There can be counter argument: That New Delhi doesn’t want to change its approach come what may. The present civil unrest should not be viewed in isolation. In fact what is happening today in Kashmir is an expression of accumulated anger. Decades of mismanagement of Kashmir by both the governments of Srinagar and New Delhi have added to the problem. The brief period of Centre- State honeymoon ended with the arrest of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1953 following which the process of erosion of Kashmir’s special constitutional position under Article 370 started unabated. And by the end of 1974 this Article was made like a hollow tree. Far from enjoying any special status, the state was put in a status inferior to that of the other states. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who was Prime Minister of J&K from 1947 to 1953, accepted the chair of Chief Minister, while promising his people revision of all hitherto central laws applied in J&K. But the then premier of India Indira Gandhi refused to grant any concessions and told the ailing Abdullah that “the clock cannot be put back’’.

        Even his son Dr Farooq Abdullah was ditched many a time by the central government. In 1982 his government’s Resettlement Bill could not see the light of the day and in 1984 he was dismissed. Then came the most decisive year of Kashmir’s recent past with the “rigged elections” of 1987 been seen as precursor to the subsequent turmoil in state. From 1990 to 1996 Kashmir remained under a long spell of President’s rule. This was the most violent phase in the current history of state. Firing on funeral procession of Moulvi Farooq, Gaw Kadal and Sopore massacres, and infamous Kunan Poshpora mass rape of women by armed forces are just some of the examples.

      In 1996 Abdullah led NC government came to power in 1996 mainly on the promise of restoration of Pre – 1953 status. But when the state government submitted Autonomy resolution to Parliament in 2000 it was out rightly rejected by BJP led NDA government. The way New Delhi dealt with Permanent Resident’s (Disqualification) Bill and former Chiwef Minister (late) Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s demand for demilitarization after 2002 reinforced the mistrust between Government of Indi and people of Kashmir. The blockade enforced by Jammu during 2008 land row and firing on protestors during Muzaffarabad Challo March (Which was a desperate move in view of blockade) further deepened the mistrust of people.

         The 2010 agitation was just a sequel of 2008 unrest. Three years later Congress led Government in New Delhi executed Afzal Guru and again excessive force was let loose on protestors demanding his body in Kashmir. His out of turn hanging to satisfy collective conscience of the nation further strengthened separatist narrative in the Valley. What is happening right now at the hands of the state forces is bound to alienate more and more people. The ongoing unrest has already engraved a new chapter in the minds of generation next .

The 2008 and 2010 summer unrests were issue related and essentially target specific. But the ongoing uprising is not as simple as it seems to be. Burhan Wani’s killing was the trigger but people were already aghast over range of issues including, proposed Sainik colonies in Kashmir, separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits and no forward movement for addressing K-issue

          The indiscriminate use of pellet guns has so far claimed eyesight of over 400 Kashmiri boys. Just a day after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made a passionate speech at Bakshi Stadium Srinagar on August 15 at least five unarmed protestors fell to CRPF bullets – four in Budgam alone. The Khrew incident where Army men brutally beat up entire villagers allegedly with Iron rods resulting in death of one lecturer in English is bound to deepen the alienation in Kashmir. New Delhi as usual is in a state of denial. It has been more than one and a half month of separatists backed shutdown, and curfew in Kashmir. But there is no urgency shown either by the State Government or New Delhi to diffuse the tension while people continue to suffer.

         While there are no signs of government on the ground, police, paramilitary and security forces are ruling the roost in Kashmir. On clumsy grounds boys are being arrested. Everyday protestors are shot at by bullets and pellets. Amid the growing anger, the State government has come up with assurances to provide justice which are not implemented by forces on ground. On the other hand the Government of India is busy in its blame game with opposition. Under these circumstances it seems that no matter which party or group of parties hold power in New Delhi, the Government of the day will have same policy on Kashmir.