Kashmir: The Unending Reactive Turmoil

M.L.Kotru

IS Kashmir sliding back into its season of strife and anger, threatening a replay of the ugliness that surfaced, after prolonged sullenness of the preceding years, an anger which has virtually become a part of the Kashmir story since those early days of 1990? Or, is it headed for a replay of the Amarnath fracas, as threatened by the moderate Hurriyet leader Maulvi Umar Farooq, joined by other separatist leaders, which as before had translated, much more severely into another burst of anger and hate.

The symptoms of the brewing crisis, starting off from clashes between security forces and civilians in Handwara last month, are indeed visible to the inexpert naked eye as much as to those who are in charge of the State and its government. The Kashmiri youth, their alienation fed by recurring episodes when the nation may have been blatantly remiss, are swinging back into a hard pro-Azadi position. Unavoidable in a situation where grievances are allowed to soar, redress is hard to come by. The way forward is apparently known to all but nothing moves. The spirit of entrepreneurship may be there but there’s no way to express it. The infrastructure simply isn’t there. An over simplification, you might say. But these are factors that contribute to anger and frustration.

The absence of a harmonious security environment, the recurring and divergent requirements of law and order and the continuing militancy, these and many other are the factors, the usual suspects, whenever we confront ourselves with the question must Kashmir continue to seethe and simmer. Must it always remain angry, consumed by anger and resentment? And whenever this anger bursts into open it only brings in its wake more misery, more violence and more alienation

And we won’t go into the other major problems confronting an otherwise politically fraught State: the growing aspirations of an overflowing mass, thanks to the contrary pulls of the two major parts of the State, Kashmir and Jammu. For my purposes, for this brief assessment, I would restrict myself to the political needling that has gone on between the BJP and its partner from the moment these “two opposite Poles” decided to give the State its odd alliance. And if you ask me it has continued to be an odd alliance.

The other truth is the BJP has never reconciled to playing the junior partner to the valley-based PDP. Hence its need to encourage the raising bogus issues such as regional imbalance between Jammu and Kashmir, if not the cow, or by engineering disputes such as an ITT, a NEET, the Sainik Colonies,or by introducing a new-fangled industrial policy, seen only as an attempt at watering down Article 370.

And this, at a time when infrastructure-building is at a virtual standstill in the State. And to make a difficult situation worse you have the BJP juggernaut, currently steamrolling its way into power in as many States as possible – Assam was added to the kitty last week – trying to muscle its way big in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir having established its credentials to do so by forging a coalition with the PDFP, the principal mainstream party in the valley. One must admire the party’s zealous attempts ever since to make a show of its clout.

Given this zeal it obviously saw nothing wrong in the Home Minister Rajnath Singh taking a meeting on Kashmir in Delhi, obviously chaired by him and attended by several Ministers including Dr. Jitender Singh, Minister in the PMO, the National Security Adviser Mr Ajit Doval and who else other than Amit Shah, the BJP Chief. Of interest to me was the manner in which word about the meeting was given out and the dos and don’ts almost made public by Rajnath and Jitnder Singh. Who cares if controversial issues concerning the State were discussed and decisions made. The Kashmir representative obviously was there: Dr. Jitender Singh, the MP from the Jammu region Rajnath Singh and Jitender Singh didn’t spill the beans but significantly added that everything would be known in the next few days Dr. Singh did assure though that appropriate action would be taken with regard to the Sainik Colonies and the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits. Does it really matter if informally it was decided that the civilian lands currently with the Army, say, in places like Baramulla, for instance, are made over for Sainik colonies or used for resettling Kashmiri Pandits.

What are bits of land worth? Nothing at all, between friends like the Centre and the State! Only snag is that the State Government and its PDP component headed by Mehbooba Mufti may not be as enthusiastic about such proposals as the BJP. After all, only two days after that, Mr. Ram Madhav, the BJP’s interlocutor in Jammu and Kashmir, was waxing eloquent on the TV channels about how the party had won the elections from Kashmir to Assam, carefully adding that his party did not accept the State’s special status and Article 370 but had opted to put it on the backburner for the present. Did he say that with a smile or was it a snigger? I couldn’t read. What he did say that was when the BJP forms its own government in the State the retention of the Article will be reconsidered.

So, as the valley braces up to counter or contain its current anger one thing seems certain: the State government will need tons of patience to negotiate the path ahead. I have heard of the existence of a special bond between the State Chief Minister and Mr Modi but am convinced that such bonds between politicians subscribing to two different political orientations are no guarantee of a stable relationship. That the BJP’s and the PDP’s is essentially an alliance of convenience is clear as day light.

And in its present all-conquering mood it is more likely that its men in the State, Jammu in particular, will be tempted to keep testing the waters ever so frequently, sending out teaser trailers and floating trial balloons, if only in the hope of tiring out the PDP and the valley. Ms Mehbooba will need tons of patience and a lot more deftness in meeting the challenge not only of her local political opponents but ,importantly, the challenges thrown to her covertly by her own partner in Government, the BJP, to wit.

[Courtesy: Greater Kashmir]

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