Underway Already?

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When New Delhi set the ball rolling for Kashmir this year with the execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru, the cynical calculation could have run thus: Kashmir has lived through blood, strife and disruption for 23 years, it can do so for a little bit more. After all, when elections have to be fought, and won, what worth do a hundred odd human lives – Kashmiri lives, at that – and a few months of hartal have?  (North Block does have rather an acute appreciation of the law of probability and averages as applied to Kashmir. And has a finely-tuned sense of the tolerance threshold in world governments to mounting Valley casualties.)  So with a fairly accurate estimate of the collateral damage in neutralising the sangh parivar on one of its favourite planks, the Congress proceeded to give a vivid display of how absolutely in accord it was with the collective conscience of the nation. The latter, by any standards, could have proved to be a far trickier proposition than the “collective conscience of the world” on which the entire Kashmir situation is based.

In review, though, singling out “Kashmiri lives” could be a trifle self-important, for, elections and other democratic processes, as guaranteed constitutionally, brook no distinctions of caste, creed, or colour. And neither, as conclusively proved by the BJP in the Kargil intrusions case, of civilian and military.  There however is this important difference:  those who fall in the streets of Kashmir do not get apartment blocks for stricken families, not even of the Adarsh kind.         

So thanks as always to New Delhi, Kashmir’s undertakers can look confidently forward to another season of glory, having safely consigned their prospective fallen into the comforting arms of ex gratia relief, and hundreds (some people had the exact count two years ago) of scholarly international papers explaining the unexplainable. This spring has already assumed the cast of a summer of discontent, a badly needed intermission after two whole years of unbecoming and embarrassing calm. Any straw that comes one’s way must be clutched to end such an intolerable state of affairs. Still, one view gaining ground in the present situation speaks of a surfeit needing to be offloaded to maintain trim and balance. Quite another speaks of hand-to-mouth existence, a subsistence-level survival, precariously on the verge of functional penury. Throughout history, the latter argument has first repeatedly lost to the former, and then finally prevailed with upheavals and convulsions. In Kashmir, the trick to evade such consummation has been mastered by all sides. For those who matter, the situation is safely under control.  

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