Deepening turmoil in Kashmir

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hardline on Pakistan in his Independence Day speech  in which he mentioned  atrocities in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Balochistan, the situation in Kashmir has turned grim with five more youth losing lives in the continuing clashes between security forces and the protesters. The toll is now 71 in 41 days. Besides, scores more youth have been injured taking their number to more than 5000.  Already, around 200 people have lost their vision in one or both the eyes. And a hundred have been maimed.

Now the situation has deteriorated to an extent where almost nothing seems to be working on the ground. Though the Hurriyat Conference might have some grip on the situation in parts, the protests on the streets are following a self-perpetuating dynamic with each new killing, blinding and injury renewing the anger and the consequent demonstrations, resulting in more of them. The vicious cycle goes on, teetering on the brink of a complete disorder.  

An ordinary day in Valley goes like this:  Businesses are completely shutdown. Shops open briefly in the wee hours and after 6 in the evening but even this window is more often than not disrupted either by the security personnel who don’t want people to follow the Hurriyat programme or by sections of angry youth who see even brief opening of the businesses as damaging to the cause of the current unrest. Similarly, schools are closed. Prepaid and post-paid phone services remain snapped. Same goes for the prepaid and the post-paid internet connection.

On the eve of the I-Day, the government even shutdown the BSNL broadband internet, used by the businesses which overridingly depend on the internet for their operation or the journalists to file stories. This has further curbed the media’s freedom to report the prevailing situation. The continuous curfew and the burgeoning security presence has kept the Valley under an unprecedented lockdown. In fact, state government is adding fuel to fire by failing to exercise restraint and continuing with the killing spree. This has created a humanitarian situation with a mass of the population left to mourn their dead and tending to their injured. Besides, a large section of the population is also losing their livelihoods.  

In her ID speech, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti did little to assuage the anger. She only created more by denying that the ongoing protests were spontaneous and more or less acquitting her government of any blame. PM, similarly, extended no outreach to Valley. His speech stood out for its mention of PaK and Baluchistan and lacked any talk of an effort to resolve the deepening crisis in the state. Unless, some meaningful political measures are initiated, the current turmoil looks set to drag on with chances of a bigger tragedy looming on the horizon. But so far, neither the state government nor the New Delhi have stepped up to the occasion, still believing that the situation would wind down to a state of normalcy once the fatigue sets in and the economic hardships due to hartals start to bite.   

This mindset and the approach has only tipped Valley deeper into the turmoil, with more and more youth looking at the extreme options as the only way to push the progress on the resolution of the 7 decade long Kashmir problem.  There is still time for the central government to look at the deteriorating situation in Kashmir outside the nationalistic ideological straitjacket and take urgent political measures that seek to address the basic issues underlying the current strife. And as for the state government, if it can’t stop the killings, it better get out of the way.

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