Nowhere Land !

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The situation in Kashmir is showing little signs of improvement. With every passing day the level of violence has only gone up. The killings have continued unabated. Over the past seven months, around 115 militants have been killed in encounters. Similarly civilians also keep dying. In fact this state of affairs has become a new normal in Kashmir. And there is no hope that the peace or a semblance of it can return anytime soon. This has affected every aspect of Valley’s life, causing a widespread suffering including a heavy setback to the economy. Tourist inflow to the Valley has reduced to a trickle. After months of unrest in 2016, the situation has hardly improved this year. uncertain situation and its disproportionately magnified reflection in media has ensured that fewer people visit the Valley. government figures point out a drastic drop in tourist inflows. In 2016, the number of tourists dropped to around 4.03 lakh from 11.71 lakh in 2013. The number excludes Amarnath yatris. The figures for this year are expected to be even lower, less than half of the last year’s number. According to media reports, occupancy rates at the hotels are less than 5 per cent. This despite the fact that the hotels are offering discounts as high as 70 per cent. In case of houseboats on Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake and river Jehlum, the occupancy is even lower a at 1-2 percent. Valley’s economy is thus facing worst crisis since early nineties.

Kashmir thus stands at cross-roads. And we don’t know where the situation is heading. One feature of Kashmir that gives the situation its uniquely troubling dimension is that it never ceases to shock you. In fact, Kashmir has a knack of constantly unsettling you. Every time, one tends to become accustomed to its perennially uncertain situation, something much more violent comes along that forces you to revise your opinion. In fact, if the past is any guide, more one tries to overlook the Valley’ turmoil more it forces one to take note of it. What is more, the geographical footprint of the new militancy is also growing. What was once limited to parts of South Kashmir is now threatening to overwhelm entire Valley. In recent past we have had militants from Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla dying in encounters. And there are reports of more militants from these areas picking up arms. The security scenario for the summer ahead is thus grim. The upcoming hearing on the Article 35A makes things even more fraught. There is every chance that the situation will tip over into yet another extended unrest should the court decide against the article. Already omens do not seem to be good. And considering Government has no other means of dealing with it except the use of disproportionate force, there is little hope that the situation can be turned around for the better. That is, unless New Delhi seriously relooks its current policy towards the state.

 

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