The saying “Showing red rag to the bull” comes from the Spanish bullfight. The matador waves a red flag in front of the bull to provoke it. The bull gets enraged on seeing the red flag and rushes towards the bull fighter who then tries to pierce it with a sword. Sometimes he can miss and get gored by the bull! Thus any action that provokes someone for a fight is called showing a red rag to the bull. People are provoked with a definite purpose. In the case of Kashmir, allegedly the purpose of provocation is on one side to inflict maximum damage on the new generation, and on the other hand to get the people in general engrossed in non-issues thereby letting the main discourse go into background.

The law against cow slaughter in Jammu and Kashmir has been on the statute book since the time of Maharaja Ranbir Singh as part of the Ranbir Penal Code. Kashmiris, traditionally, are not fond of beef. Beef used to be sold in villages but clandestinely. It is only after the turmoil of the 1990’s that beef became more easily available and became part of the diet to a greater extent than before. Even so mutton remains the favourite meat.

Kashmir is not the only place where beef is consumed. It is consumed in the north eastern states, in the southern states like Kerala, and in all five star hotels across the country. India exports crores worth of beef products. Raising the bogey of beef in Kashmir is, thus, clearly politically motivated. The most ironic part is that the Public Interest Litigation against it has been filed by the Deputy Advocate General of the State Government!

There have been many other provocations in recent times which are meant to provoke emotionally charged Kashmiris. The most used red rag is the bogey of removing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gives a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the State’s accession is subservient to this very Act. If it is scrapped, the State’s relationship with the Indian Union reverts back to the Instrument of Accession which is provisional and subject to ratification by the free will of the people. This proviso regarding ratification by the free will of the people has been written by Lord Mountbatten with a pen in his own handwriting on the instrument of accession. The latest in the series of constitutional red rags is the public interest litigation regarding Article 35-A which prohibits non-state subjects from owning land or property in the state.

The other red rags include the move for permanent settlement of West Pakistan refugees as state subjects; setting up of guarded townships for Kashmiri Pandits and settling of ex-servicemen in Sainik Colonies near Srinagar Airport. On the face of it such moves can be construed as measures to bring about demographic changes in the state, and particularly the Valley. Apart from these, the planned steps intended to substantially increase the pilgrim traffic and the tourist inflow are alleged to be veiled steps to severely damage Kashmir’s ecology and environment. The most recent red rag is the alleged custodial killing of militants in Tangmarg and Pattan. It has been alleged by some people that it is the revival of the “catch and kill” policy of nineties introduced in the time of a former Director General of Police.

The really tragic aspect of this concerted campaign is the total apathy of the state government. The Peoples Democratic Party leaders seems to be suffering from severe and yet selective, dementia. Not only have they forgotten their promises of securing a place of honour and dignity for the people but are actively participating in all these conspiracies hatched by their ruling partner in connivance with outside elements. The worst part is total lack of accountability in every sphere of governance and administration. There is a free for all!

The only possible conclusion which one can draw from this mess is that nothing is going to straighten up unless basic political uncertainty is brought to an end. The instigators of these provocations also need to remember that sometimes the matador who keeps showing the red rag to the bull gets gored by it.