November 2019 News

Defreeze The Freeze In Kashmir Valley

10 November 2019
The Tribune
Arun Joshi

Srinagar: EARLY November snowfall froze the Valley. Kashmiris are used to harsh winters; no light, blocked roads, limited movement. The start of the early winter this time served as a grim reminder of the freeze in the psyche of the people. It is perhaps for the first time that the writ of the Indian nation is running unchallenged in J&K. But now people are waiting for the Centre to deliver on its promise to a new opening. Instead there exists a stalemate in the Valley that is manifested in mystified silence that refuses to get decoded. Delhi had, perhaps, not anticipated that this scenario would last long when it took the 'momentous' decision to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35A, and bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories. Otherwise, by now restrictions would have been lifted completely, and Kashmir would have been ruling the internet as it was doing until August 4 midnight. Three former chief ministers are under detention since August 5. Two of them - Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah - are not known for leading street protests - though the third, Mehbooba Mufti is known for her fiery speeches and leading marches. But even she is among those who not long ago had pinned all hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find a place of dignity for the people of Kashmir. A recall of her speech at SKICC on May 19, 2018 , in which she hailed PM as the only one who could resolve all the problems . That was a profound statement. The mainstream had ruled the state for 70 years. It has its own constituency that benefited directly or indirectly from their rule. They had cemented the idea of India in Kashmir in a climate peppered by anti-India elements and militancy. They upheld this idea by paying the price with their life. That constituency is still aligned to them, and looking up to them for direction. 'Clubbing them with the secessionism is misreading of history,' said a former bureaucrat who had worked with all these three former chief ministers, besides Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad. The mainstream had nearly 40 per cent support in Kashmir, and that number of supporters are still there. Now, they are feeling alienated. Currently, they are among those who are part of the half-shut phenomenon as an expression of their anger and frustration over the way political class has been treated. Kashmiris , let it be admitted , frustrated by the continued freeze tune on to Radio Pakistan or watch Pakistan TV to hear what Islamabad is saying about them and their land. It is a negative outlook, they know, but they think that this is the way to show their anxiety. They have lost trust in the aerobatics of the more than thou nationalist media. The common man who had seen these detained leaders as representatives of India in the Valley wondered if they could be behind bars, what could happen to them? The spokespersons of idea of India have been forced to keep quiet. If it can happen to Farooq Abdullah, who was ridiculed for his alignment with India and claiming that J&K's accession to India is irrevocable, then lesser mortals are at greater risk, is the common refrain in Kashmir. It is even among those who were happy at their being jailed, for they blamed these leaders for having brought people to such a situation. The release of political leaders in a phased manner, and allowing them the freedom to speak to media would go a long way in making a new beginning. They cannot hold public meetings as restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC are in operation. But their release will help end the stalemate which J&K is facing today. It is a necessity.