The state announced on the eve of the 28th August that there would be no curfew except in three police stations- Nowhatta, S R Gunj and Pulwama Chowk. This sudden and abrupt announcement of no curfew is as surprising as it is intriguing- on the face of it. But scratch deeper and the reasons for the state’s relaxation of the curfew make themselves manifest. The manifestations of the reasons lie in broken shards of glass strewn across the length and breadth of Srinagar, the ungainly and bad experiences that most motorists, scooterists or motorbicyclists appear to have had today.
Herein lies the nub of the state’s strategic decision to relax the curfew: after playing the game of attrition and wearing down people, the state’s gambit may be that there might be some people who need or want a reprieve; the state is setting up people who want to a reprieve against the people who want to impose a curfew with perhaps the hope that this will create antipathy against separatists and the protest movement will then break down or whittle away.
The aim here is neither to make a moral judgment or weigh the respective approaches of the state and the separatists but to put the whole saga into perspective. There is a bit of a game on here and the aim of the game is outsmarting the opponent- that is, the state versus the separatists or the separatist sentiment.
The ball now is in the court of public opinion. From the perspective of separatists, their aim is to prolong the protests; state wants to end it. Since no one is backing down, it will, in the state’s scheme be the people will decide. And now since people are turning against people, the aim appears to be split public opinion in the middle. Hence the relaxation of the curfew.
This is a gambit on part of the state that might or not work. However, it lies in the domain of tactics and misses the larger issue: the conflict in and over Kashmir. Hypothetically speaking, if the state’s gambit works and things veer to “normalcy” in Kashmir, will the state have “won”? No, Not at all. The reasons pertain to the fact that the conflict in and over Kashmir will remain. This then means that while the state may achieve a tactical victory larger issue that gave rise to the current uprising remains unresolved-setting the stage for further uprisings in Kashmir.
What then is a prudent solution out of the impasse?
What we will say is iteration of what KO has long believed in and asserted: the conflict in and over Kashmir needs to be resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders- especially Kashmiris and including Pakistan. Sans this stakeholder approach, all approaches especially tactical ones will be mere mirages and illusions that may lead to an illusion of normalcy; not real normalcy and peace. If Kashmir is to have real and lasting peace, a paradigm shift that redounds to the benefit of all stakeholders needs to be elevated over tactics and even strategy and then institution. Nothing less will do!
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