April 1999 News


Traffic is back on the streets of Srinagar, and curfews are less common

1st April 1999
By: Nayeema Ahmed (BBC Urdu Service)

In recent weeks, the governing National Conference party in Indian-administered Kashmir has said that the activities of separatist militants has been contained.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, life seems to have returned to normal. Traffic is back on the streets and curfews are less commonplace.

Valley in decline

If an air of normality has returned to Srinagar, in other parts of the Kashmir valley the hardships continue. There the long-term side effects of the continuing insurgency are becoming more and more apparent.

Barely a single day passes without people getting killed: sometimes as many as 15 a day. Both the security forces and the militants share responsibility for the violence.

Families which were previously close-knit, are being undermined by both sides in the conflict. While the security forces are accused of launching random searches which frequently terrify the local population, the militants are alleged to have used extortion to force people into supporting them.

Furthermore, new and unidentified gunmen have appeared in the valley, who seem only to be interested in kidnappings and drug trafficking. Over the last 10 years, there has been a significant rise in the number of drug addicts, especially among unemployed young people.

Essential commodities such as water and electricity remain scarce, adding to the impression that the Kashmir valley is in a state of terminal decline.

Changing tactics

The continuing militancy in the valley is nowhere clearer seen than in the Ganderbal constituency of the chief minister, Farooq Abdullah.

This has recently been the scene of a series of killings and landmine blasts carried out by the militants. The government says that in recent months the armed separatists have changed their tactics because of the influence of Taleban militants from Afghanistan.

It is thought that they prefer to operate away from built-up areas - like Srinagar - in order to have a better chance of evading the security forces.

For the last two years, the Indian central Government - in collaboration with the regional administration - has organised a series of national and international events in Kashmir as part of their effort to give the impression that the Kashmir valley has returned to normal. While that may be the case in Srinagar, in other districts the level of violence has worsened.

Political and economic tensions

If the continuing insurgency does not present enough of a problem for Mr Farooq's administration, the state's economic crisis is a worry he could well do without. This has not only undermined the authority of his administration, but has also led to tensions with the central government.

Many of his ministers blame Delhi for not providing adequate funds, especially for security related expenditure, estimated to cost millions of dollars since president's rule was lifted in Kashmir two years ago.

Sources in Srinagar say the level of discontent among some members of Mr Abdullah's National Conference party is also rising. Some senior NC cabinet ministers privately sympathise with charges made by the opposition, who have accused the chief minister of being a stooge in the hands of BJP-led coalition.

The opposition say that Mr Abdullah should argue Kashmir's case for more funds in the same way as the state government of Punjab did during the height of the insurgency there in the early 1990s.

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