The controversy over the establishment of a Sainik Colony is the fourth to have hit the PDP-BJP regime in the first month of its power: the first three were NIT, Handwara and the separate Kashmiri Pandit enclaves. If the past some years are any guide, this has been the case every spring and summer. The tension abates by the time autumn is around and almost disappears in winter. But by the time spring rolls around, situation goes back to square one. The state is replete with political and social faultlines and each, as it were, is programmed to trip in quick succession with the lingering political conflict enhancing the troubling potential of each incident. There is rarely a period of extended calm. And longer such a peaceful period is, greater the ferocity of the incident that breaks it. The turmoil has become so much a part of the state that it is difficult to imagine J&K without rattle of guns, unaccounted killings, frequent stone-throwing, fevered protests, border clashes and communal tensions.
Does this scenario offer a hope that the things can be better in future? Perhaps not. The problem is that the situation as it plays out in Kashmir is not accidental but inbuilt into the DNA of the state. J&K is a state which since 1947 has been forced to inherit a history other than its own. Valley was not a party to horrors of partition but it was left to mop up its fallout. And this is despite the fact that Kashmirs accession to India was in defiance of the logic of the partition: A Muslim majority state espousing secular values chose to accede to a Hindu majority part of a country divided on communal lines. True, the story is not all that simple and the choice was not all that smooth. But this hardly detracts from the idealistic nature of the decision taken by the then most popular leader of the state, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to accede to India.
While it is impossible to imagine what might have been our lot had the state become a part of Pakistan, the accession with India has also not gone down well with the state. J&K went against two nation theory but in return it has become a battleground between the competing nationhoods of India and Pakistan which we had never challenged in the first place. So, a military clash on Kashmir border, a protest on a Kashmir street or frequent killings of the civilians or militants are no localized affairs which they normally should have been but quickly involve the entire India, Pakistan in tow, and threaten to activate the dormant historical hatreds with potential for an apocalyptic finish.
So, frankly, it appears weird when the governments, both in the state and at the centre – continue to push ahead with the plans which are deeply contentious and play to the fears and apprehensions of the people. Sainik Colony is certain to evoke insecurities among a people which have reasons to suspect their governments of many a foul play in the past. And unless and until the government is able to build the lost faith with people, such plans should be done away with.
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