As Kashmir Burns – Who Cares!4 July 2010
Srinagar: Kashmir is on the boil and the situation is perhaps, worse, than what it has been for years now. And if those in power remain with their heads stuck in the sand, there is every possibility of the state erupting in a manner that far eclipses the situation even at the height of the militancy decade. For this time, the anger and the frustration is spilling out on the streets, and the security forces are not tackling terrorists sent in by Pakistan, but their own citizens. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah blamed the Hurriyat, then he blamed the PDP for the current phase of violence. Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram insisted that the Lashkar e Tayaba was responsible. Neither of them is right. It is frustration, unemployment, anger, unhappiness all coming together in young people who have been born and brought up in conflict. They are fed up. Fed up of the political parties, fed up of India, fed up of Pakistan, fed up of their meaningless lives, fed up of the conflict and the violence, fed up with the inability of all concerned to resolve the issue and bring a semblance of peace into their lives. So they have picked up stones and moved into the streets, targeting the police and anyone else who confronts them. They are not the Lashkar, at least not as yet. Chidambaram’s statement is the usual cunning rhetoric that governments use to justify killing the innocent youth. They are not under the leadership of the Kashmiri separatists, who they in fact despise and who are now following this faceless, nameless, angry youth instead of the other way around. Until the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi realise this one very simple fact, they will not be able to deal with the situation that is already spiraling out of control. The next episode of sustained violence in Kashmir will not subside after a week or ten days, it will go on and on with disastrous consequences for the people. The fault does not lie with the people of Kashmir. Not at all. It lies completely with the political parties in and out of power, with the Kashmiri separatists and all those who have developed the problem of Kashmir into a little industry from which they derive their legitimacy and their livelihood. The Kashmiri separatists have slowly lost their hold over the people, they are not spoken off at all with respect in the Valley and are today a group of squabbling men who do not see eye to eye on any one issue concerning the state. The ordinary Kashmiri insists they are getting money from both New Delhi and Islamabad, and even if this is not true, the perception is so widespread that no one really believes otherwise. Except for hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani who is seen as more consistent and more honest than the others, no one from the separatist camp now commands a following in the Valley. The Omar Abdullah government is floundering, and totally out of its depth now. The chief minister is seen as weak, and that is not a good reputation for a politician in the Valley. Even those who have access to him admit that while he is a nice person he has no control over either the state government or the National Conference. The absolutely insensitive handling of not just the alleged rape of the two girls, but also of the recent deaths in police firing have really been inexcusable. There is little point in blaming the CRPF and suddenly waking up to its ruthless reality. Kashmir is a disturbed state and a government sitting in office cannot afford to lose sight of the peoples problems and issues for even a second. But somehow the National Conference has managed to do precisely that, and the party has disappeared from view. Omar, in a candid interview, has admitted that the NC tends to go to sleep when in power, but then certainly the problem cannot be resolved without some hard action. Minister Farooq Abdullah is the party president, but has shown little interest in Srinagar since he was absorbed into the government at the centre. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has just no interest in the state, except for infrequent visits to hand out dole. For him a settlement of the Kashmir problem is just talks with Pakistan, and financial aid from time to time for Jammu and Kashmir. The first is not going anywhere, and the second only creates more anger and resentment in the Valley as the politicians use the money to line their own coffers, while the people smart at having been reduced to the level of beggars. Justice, dignity, respect that have to be at the basis of a people and government relationship is completely missing with the UPA government remaining clueless and indifferent. There is no attempt to talk to the Kashmiris, and except for one half hearted effort, the Prime Minister or his functionaries have refused to initiate any dialogue between New Delhi and Srinagar that is very essential for peace and calm in the state. In the absence of a will and initiative, the stone pelting youth will have no option but to continue hurling the missiles at the security forces. Each stone they hurl is basically a cry for help, for justice, for dignity but the deaf and blind governments use these stones to kill and maim, and prepare the ground for more violence. A young generation that is born in conflict, that has never known peace and a normal life, has decided to follow the Palestinian intifada and use stones against bullets. These are really young boys, with anger and frustration bottled up inside, with a viciousness that frightens not just onlookers but even they themselves. Someone needs to reach out and speak to them, someone needs to handle the fires but unfortunately for Kashmir, the separatists can only fan the flames, and the government has long since lost its ability to douse the fires. “Let the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir breathe” was the plea of a seasoned Professor in the Valley. It was a heartfelt plea but the politicians in Srinagar and New Delhi have long since lost their ability to understand the meaning and the significance of this passionate advise.