Limit-Less: Kashmir, Where The Abnormal Is Made The Normal
Election Promises Betrayed
It is strange that even though Kashmiri leaders have been the Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir for a long while, the Valley in Jammu and Kashmir state remains the pariah for all. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is no exception to the rule, in fact perhaps worse in that he made promises during the run up to the elections, and betrayed each one of these as soon as he came to power in a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. And from the word go, he pitched himself against the Valley using stereotypical gestures to bring the people under fire.
One such gesture which has cost Kashmir, was the release of Masarat Alam by Mufti, and his re-arrest at the instance of the BJP. Another was the BJP’s seeming insistence of rehabilitating the Kashmiri pundits in the Valley in exclusive township ghettos. A third, was the killing of innocent civilians in different incidents as a sequel to these two incidents with protests breaking out in different parts of the Valley. A fourth, and also more recent, has been the niggardly amount announced by the centre for flood relief and rehabilitation and the complete silence from the Chief Minister. This has dashed all hopes of the flood hit victims who have not received a rupee in compensation, leading to serious anger that is spilling out on to the streets.
Ever since this government came to power, even the small grace period has been denied the people who have been literally moving from one crisis to another. Sopore is currently the scene of some deadly play between different stakeholders, with targeted assassinations of clearly selected individuals striking fear and anger in the Valley. It has stoked memories of the dreaded ikhwan days, with the Chief Minister’s initial silence and visible reluctance to intervene certainly not helping. He has now ordered a probe, but not before speculation turned into opinion-- that the ‘Indian agencies” were somehow responsible for these killings. This may or may not be so but the perception is widespread, and has fed into the protests across the Valley as well.
The trust deficit is so huge that when recently mobile towers were attacked, there were probably very few in Kashmir, not even in the PDP rank and file, who believed that this was not the handiwork of the Indian authorities. Barely a day passes without protests, clampdowns, shutdowns, arrests, sprinkled with deaths of young people across the Valley. One feeds into the other, and now with Srinagar in the midst of deep protest it is clear that the Mufti government is losing its control. Faster than probably even the protesters realise.
The attack on students protesting in Kashmir university will have an escalating effect. It has been followed by yet another major protest, after the police fired into the Jama Masjid in Srinagar. The Kashmiri youth fought ding dong battles with the cops and the other forces across Srinagar, a return to the 2010 days with Mufti having gone underground, as indeed had the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Mufti’s daughter Mehbooba, seen to be more people friendly than him, has also turned herself invisible.
The silence in Delhi is strange, but not unexpected. The weeks of unrest in Kashmir have gone largely unnoticed and unreported by the majority of newspapers and television channels. It is as if violence is fine, so long as it is in Kashmir and not in Delhi. There has been no attempt even to correlate the instances, and the continuing protests and shut downs that are certainly not normal by any standards of governance. The Valley is aflame with Srinagar that had remained on the periphery of protest for a while now plunging in. A great deal of this is based also on the complete indifference of the central, but even more so the state government to the floods. Its inability to take preventive measures, its refusal to help those who are still struggling with the complete devastation of homes and business in the last year’s deluge.
Mufti is too old, and too much of a die hard cynic to govern Kashmir with required levels of responsiveness. His relations with the BJP are time tested. He is not likely to take positions that damage his seat in power, and when push becomes shove will join the central government to impose an even more repressive rule in the state. Where that will take Kashmir is not a guess any longer, as history has borne testimony to the levels to which polity can plummet, and hence one wonders whether the shrewd Chief Minister cohorting with the RSS on a daily basis, has indeed lost his marbles or whether he is playing sinister games in the belief that he will be able to control the aftermath if and when the need so arises.
(Limit-Less is a regular weekly column)