Govt Adding Fuel To Fire

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On Monday, the students across the Valley hit the streets to protest against the police crackdown at a Pulwama college in which around 50 students were injured. The student reaction to the beating of fellow students was unprecedented. There were protests in almost every college in the Valley and everywhere the Government had to resort to the use of force to bring the situation under control. More than 70 students were injured in the clashes. The protests followed immediately after the turmoil triggered by the Srinagar by-poll which led to the killing of 8 people. It was followed by the killing of a boy in Batamaloo. And just when the situation seemed to be heading towards normalcy, the crackdown on a college in Pulwama touched off a Valleywide student protest, forcing the government to shutdown educational institutions. However, the student organizations have called for the continuation of the protests. And if the government uses the same harsh methods it usually does to control it, the situation has every possibility to spin out of control.

Also, given the volatility of the current Kashmir situation, it was hardly advisable for the government to set up a security check point near the Pulwama college. And when the students started protesting against the naka, the police went inside the campus and fired tear gas shells at them which led to scores of them getting injured. The government thus created another provocation for mass protests in an already uncertain environment. And all this is happening at the start of Valley’s tourism season.

In the form of a deferment of Anantnag by-poll to May, the Government has already perpetuated the current tension. And the way the situation is shaping up in Valley, the by-poll in Anantnag is going to be a far bigger challenge. The recent election campaign in South Kashmir has been eye-opening. Wherever politicians went, more often than not, they were greeted by the protests by the knots of youth, throwing stones and shouting pro-Azadi slogans. The youth barred the political rallies forcing the parties to hold secretive indoor meetings. So, if the six months of unrest last year was expected to have set in fatigue and led to the participation in polls, the hostile response to the by-poll has come as a rude shock. Similarly, from a phenomenon strictly limited to downtown Srinagar and some urban pockets such as Baramulla, Sopore, Anantnag, the stone throwing has now spread far and wide – even to small, obscure villages.  

Deferring Anantnag by-poll by only a month and a half has only pushed it further towards the summer, the peak tourism and business season, The election campaign and the polling day will keep the tension alive and kicking, thereby perpetuating the source of current anger rather than seeking to address it. A month hence thus Kashmir would be confronted with the same troubled state of affairs.  This needs the government to exercise more caution and restraint. It can’t keep on adding fuel to the situation by the provocations here and there. Government’ primary role is  to defuse the an existing volatile situation, not add fuel to the fire.

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