On the brink again

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In a place where seething youth are willing to throw their lives on the line to help militants escape during the encounters, holding a poll was always going to be a very tricky proposition. And this is what has happened. An unprepared government has resorted to random killings again. The result is that the Valley is on the brink of yet another unrest. And with South Kashmir set to go to polls on Wednesday, things can take a further turn for worse, if the government goes on a killing spree.  In recent years, South Kashmir has emerged as the hub of the Valley’s resurgent separatism. The area was also at the forefront of the unrest last year. Two-third of the killings and blindings in the six-month turmoil took place in the South Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag. What is more, the trend of massive militant funerals followed by the attempts to disrupt encounter sites originated from South.

On the contrary, central Kashmir’s Budgam district where seven of Sunday’s eight killings took place has been Valley’s zero-militancy area over past around 15 years. Besides, the district has been one of the calmest in years.  This has raised a big question mark over the by-poll in Anantnag. If Budgam can be so violent on a polling day, what about the South Kashmir. There certainly are going to be many more determined attempts by youth to take over the polling booths and it will be tragic if the government decides to kill in return. Ideally, the elections for Anantnag should have been postponed. But this is unlikely going to happen. So, the state government needs to take all the precaution and exercise all the restraint to prevent the loss of more lives.

As it is, a mere 6.5 percent participation in the Srinagar by-poll establishes the extent of alienation in Kashmir. Srinagar constituency represents one-third of Valley’s population and this constituency has not been as severely affected by the violent developments over the past year as South and North Kashmir.   And if this is the percentage of the voter turnout in this constituency, the participation in South is unlikely to cross the single digit. But beyond the voter percentages, the by-poll has offered a sort of physical measurement of the depth of anger in Valley.  Eight more civilian killings, following the three recent killings at an encounter in Chadoora, have pushed Kashmir on the brink of yet another turmoil. And that too right at the time, Valley was looking forward to a new tourist season after losing the last year to the unrest following the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani.

April is the month when temperature in Valley starts rising following almost five months of cold season. The peace in the month, therefore, is critical to attract and sustain the tourist season in the six warm months ahead. Now uncertainty reigns supreme once again. And if situation tips into an extended turmoil again, Government will have no one but itself to blame.  It is time the Governments in the state and centre recognize that they can’t kill their way out of the deepening quagmire in Kashmir.  Kashmir urgently  needs a political outreach, not a security-centric approach.

      

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