Tension Continues: After 21 Days, Kashmir Still Strained17 July 2010
The Economic Times
Srinagar: When the separatists on Friday relaxed the apparently indefinite strike for half of the Saturday, everybody expected the weekend will be a routine. Businesses, schools, offices opened and markets were crowded from early morning. There were long traffic jams as well. But, the markets got deserted exactly at 2 pm strictly as per the schedule of the strike sponsors. “I thought the pressures within had evolved so much that the strike will fizzle out today and people will resume the routine,” a senior NC leader said. “But it proved a different story.” He wondered if this cycle can be broken in coming days. While a few schools have resorted to the use of internet and cell phone to help its students manage their studies, all others listed ‘home work’ in diaries of their students. Some schools passed on cell phone numbers of tutors to students and advised them to seek help. Businesses have totally squeezed and the impact is even visible in Jammu and Punjab which have the Kashmir valley as their main markets. Luxury tourism is over and the only happening thing is the annual yatra to the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath. Already over 200 thousand pilgrim have had their darshan. Lawyers seeking release of their president Mian Abdul Qayoom set afire their robes in protest. For around a month now, Kashmir is either on strike or under curfew. Killings of 15 innocent youth by various security agencies in separate incidents triggered the unrest. Authorities have announced investigations into these incidents but the responsibility is yet to be fixed in any of the cases. This has led separatists to launch a strike and protest programme that has completed third week now. Most of the top separatist leaders are under detention and the agitation is being led by second-rung rag-tag from underground. The unrest alleged to be the outcome of the administrative incapacity of the incumbent coalition has even threatened unseating of chief minister Omar Abdullah. Lack of alternatives, however, has led central government to throw its weight behind him. The central and the state governments believe the unrest is the outcome of mechanizations of a cocktail of vested interests and anti-national elements. Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who after his 22-days stay in Srinagar – a record after he took over in 2009, had an overnight stay in Delhi. He briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P Chidambaram and Congress president Sonia Gandhi about the situation. Reports said he has returned with assurance of all support that he would require in normalising the situation. He is understood to have discussed a number of plans that he thinks are vital for getting the situation back to track. Besides, source suggest, he has sought permission to set free some of the key separatist leaders and permitting some political space to them so that they free their pent up anger.