Failure At Faultlines?

VOLATILE areas in downtown Srinagar are under curfew for the past five days after reprehensible incidents speaking little of public commonsense and still less of leaderships. Evidently, regular and effusive homage to Kashmir’s “traditional” sectarian harmony, proffered after every episode, needs to be tempered with adequate doses of historical reality and some elements of ground-level truths, if only to prevent catastrophe overtaking out of complacence. The past years have seen regular violent sectarian flare-ups, some of them in or after Muharram, in various parts of the valley, with leaderships reverting to explanations grown stale and weary with endless repetition, and supposed remedial initiatives which have been an utter failure to curb relapse. One of the home truths coming to the fore is that despite heroic efforts by some deep scholars to set the record straight, synthesized resentments and ignorance lurk just beneath the surface, requiring just a minor spark somewhere to bring out the worst in both sides. Some individuals of very high note who have categorised the recent Zadibal incident as ‘minor’ need to be reminded that a similar minor episode in the same area not too long ago left over a score of major constructions, including mosques, gutted, and deep wounds and clefts in the communities that did not repair for years - despite peace marches and meetings by wise-after-the-event do-gooders. Many would be right to say that better the temporary inconvenience and hardship of curfew than the permanent and devastating fallout of a full-fledged clash, and its long-lasting bitterness, rancour and enmity. If some limelight-starved, self-appointed peacemakers, who specialize in capitalizing on funerals of violence victims and have innumerable untimely graveyards across Kashmir to testify to their qualifications as peacemakers, have been deprived of a readymade opportunity at speechmaking, it is just too bad.

A brief eyewitness illustration of the initial Zadibal incident on Wednesday would throw some light on the magnitude of ignorance at the bottom of sectarian trouble in Kashmir. Barely a handful of elements, ostensibly outraged by a purported insult to a holy name, managed to hold up traffic at two spots on the Alamgari Bazaar stretch at around 11 in the morning. Their uncouth appearance, rude manner, and ruder speech can only be described as a blasphemy to the name of the holy figure in whose cause they had allegedly taken to the streets. Their inherently cowardly bullying and belligerent action could have been blown to bits had a just a few firm individuals and residents bothered to confront them and drill some sense into their head. And yet no one so much as lifted a finger, perhaps out of long years of conditioning to the mechanisms of protests. And given the perverse nature of the Kashmir situation, any police intervention at that stage would have invited howls of outrage over Kashmiris being denied even the right to show allegiance to their religion. The police is said to have gone into action only after this rag-tag bunch of goons, who must have grown in number by then, turned violent near Hawal by pelting stones on shops and houses. The rest is the stuff of sadly regular newspaper reports on such situations.  Attempts at an ‘intervention,’ two days later when the situation turned serious on curfew being lifted, by a leader who has a history of hopping from one political party to another on the strength of the following he commands, and amassing a great fortune in the process even as his qaum wallows in ignorance, can only be described as the height of criminal irresponsibility, serving only to worsen vulnerabilities, and harden hearts. The tragedy is that such leaders are still kept relevant by the qaum.

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