Before it is too late

A disturbing state of affairs is unfolding in Kashmir. In recent times, violence has witnessed a many fold increase. Beginning with the killing of 20 people on March – thirteen militants, four civilians  and three security personnel – the Valley has seen more killings, among them a beheading in Hajin, massive funeral processions and the student protests. The situation came as more or less the replay of the early spring last year, when successive killings of the civilians had triggered intense protests.

Nothing describes the Kashmir situation better than the cliché, ‘more things change, more they remain the same’. Kashmir has a knack of constantly unsettling you. Every time, you tend to become accustomed to its perennially troubled situation, something much more violent comes along that forces you to revise your opinion. In fact, if the past is any guide, more you try to overlook the Valley’ turmoil more will it force you to take note of it.  And perhaps this  state of affairs hasn’t been truer than it has been during the term of the Narendra Modi led government at the centre. More force it has used to curb the violence and more it has withdrawn from a political outreach towards the state, more violent has Kashmir become.

The drift of the situation is now more dangerous than in the past. Though violence has more or less the same form, its intent, scale and ambition is changing. The anger, alienation and the constant otherization by the country’s public  discourse is making our youth extreme in their views.  They have started believing in extreme methods  as the only option to serve their cause. Society as a whole is also witnessing a shift in thinking. People have now tired of waiting for a political outreach and despaired of it.

Hurriyat leaders who could have created a political process which in turn would have allowed youth to express their opinion and vent their frustration have been confined to their homes by the state government. Even the Government’s recent welcome decision to allow Hurriyat leaders to carry out their political activities proved very short-lived. On the other hand, the mainstream political activity has more or less been reduced to zero. No mainstream leader, including even the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, can hold a public rally anywhere in Kashmir – that is, unless an elaborate ad extensive security bandobast is made to make it happen.   

This has created a deep political vacuum which has created a space for and legitimized some extreme ideologies and the methods. And in bringing things to such a sorry pass, the PDP-BJP coalition and the dispensation in New Delhi  is squarely responsible.  A heavy-handed approach that has been applied to Kashmir over the past four years has reached a dead-end. It is now clear that this approach hasn’t and will not work in Kashmir. There is still time for New Delhi to politically reach out to the people before it is too late.


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