In a throwback to the nineties, state government launched a massive crackdown in old Baramulla on October 17 and arrested more than 30 people. The crackdown began at dawn and ended in the afternoon. Though unlike the past, people were not assembled at a ground and put through an identification parade, the house to house searches were duly carried out. The crackdown followed shortly after a Chinese flag was flown at a protest march on the last Friday. However, the arrests are now a Valley-wide phenomenon. Across Kashmir, police has arrested more than 7000 people, around 4000 of whom are from the four districts of South Kashmir. More than 400 have been booked under Public Safety Act. Besides, more than 300 employees have been identified for their alleged participation in the protest rallies or found allegedly instigating the people. And twelve of them have been dismissed from their jobs.
As the magnitude of the crackdown reveals, it is of an unprecedented nature. Hardly ever before have the arrests been made on such a scale or so many PSAs slapped in such a short duration of time. Not even in 2010. Or for that matter in the nineties when around 20,000 militants roamed the Valley.
If anything, this shows how government has resolved to address the situation through force only. So far, the disproportionate use of force has taken an unconscionable toll: 93 deaths, around 500 blindings and 15000 injured. After the visit of the All Party Delegation in August, the centre has shown itself loath to start a new political outreach. Instead, we have had statements giving deadlines to bring back normalcy to Kashmir. More than a month ago, the home minister Rajnath Singh said the government will bring Kashmir back to normal in a week which effectively meant that more force will be used to crush the rebellion. However, while the force was duly used, the normalcy didn’t quiet dawn even a month and a half later, as the existing situation proves.
If anything has been conspicuously missing, it is some empathy and at least an assurance that the centre is serious about resolving Kashmir. Though earlier on, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised a “permanent resolution of Kashmir within the framework of the constitution”, the subsequent developments have lent little credence to his words. In fact, there have been noises to the contrary. Soon after, BJP leader and the party’s Kashmir point man Ram Madhav favoured tough action to control the current unrest. At the same time, he made it clear that the centre doesn’t seek a political solution to Kashmir, not willing even to consider autonomy. According to him, there was enough freedom and enough laws to help J&K. Madhav also termed the talk of a political solution to Kashmir “romantic in nature”.
The reiterations like these of the BJP’s ideological stand on Kashmir has reduced New Delhi’s half-hearted exercises to engage the people of the state to a farce. For it once gain reminds the people that the centre’s initiatives in the state are an expedient tool to create a perception of a political engagement until normalcy returns. Nothing else. Any wonder then that New Delhi’s recent overtures to Kashmir have so far found no takers among the “stakeholders” who hold key to resolving the current crisis.
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