Kashmir – a paradise on fire

Jhelum is on fire since June 11 when a school boy Tufail Ahmad Matto was killed by a bullet from police: The ire has claimed dozens of lives since. The vicious circle of fire-protest-fire seems to have no end.

There are several factors responsible for the situation to slide from protest to defiance. The first factor unanimously agreed by all analysts is lack of confidence in the present leadership who mishandled the issue. The chief minister, who seems to have only superficial awareness of reality, has neither confidence on his own team of ministers nor does he have a rapport with the masses. He could have made a healing touch to the situation had he visited hospitals or homes of victims at the very beginning. That would have melted the thaw. He delayed and took panicky measures which failed to instill confidence.

Failure of the central government and its agencies to feel the pulse of the people and choosing to lend unfailing support to state government also created bitterness among people who feel that while the state government is concerned about its own survival the central government too is interested not in Kashmiri people but only in governing the people of the state by hook or crook.

People are sore that whatever be the regime, whether NDA or UPA, the father-son dynastic rule had always been pro-Delhi instead of being pro-Kashmiri. Omar government betrayed its promises on killing of three women and restraint on use of lethal weapons. This fuelled public ire. Confused signals to police to be considerate and also be ruthless drove them into dilemma. Iron Fist was not the only option available. Dialogue with parties as well as with agitators would have softened the attitude.

Political parties, both PDP and the NC, have become so marginalised that the new generation sees them as archaeological curios. So is the Congress–confined to museum. Even the separatist leaders too have lost their credibility. An angry generation of protestors take their cues from leaders in hiding. Equally significant is the rise of women leadership who defy bans and march as Amazons.

It is not just the poverty-driven urchin who is hurling stones on the police patrol parties but highly educated young men. MBA and medicine graduates are annoyed for the simple reason that while there has been a lot of parroting about Kashmir being an integral part of India, they have been deprived of its immense employment potential. The way the earlier government dealt with the Amarnath land-row and the present with Shopian case, motivated people to resort to mobocracy.

The optimism, which UPA government had ignited in its first tenure by involving people, parties and Pakistan in peace initiatives, has died down with passage of time. Failure to resolve the Kashmir issue and allowing it to remain a bone of contention led to a kind of suspicion that everyone is interested in prolonging the misery and not sincerely serious towards resolving the problem. This psyche of neglect has filled their minds and souls with vitriol. They have not forgotten the fiasco about autonomy which was agreed on at Srinagar in 2000 but rejected in Delhi when the NDA government was in power.

There are several theories enumerated about the stone-pelting people by those who do not know how potent it had been an instrument in the past. In 1931 Sheikh Abdullah, in 1953 anti-NC mobs and in 2008 Amarnath agitators had exploited stone-pelting strategy with astounding success. So is the present resistance group employing the time tested missile. This group has allegiance neither to LeT as the home minister claims nor to any other political party as accused by Omar Abdullah. Even the police version of the money factor seems to be ridiculous. These 20-plus agitators have no sympathy towards Hurriyat leaders nor with Pakistan. They want to establish their own identity to procure what they want – dignity for Kashmiris and a share in the national growth (employment opportunities). One thing, fortunately, is certain – they still seem pro-Indian.