Kashmir At Crossroads
WOULD SUN CONTINUE TO SHINE, JAVAID MALIK UNDERLINES THE SHARED ANXIETY OF ORDINARY KASHMIRIS
An eerie calm has been prevailing in the Valley for past few months. Life has returned to normal after 2010 summer unrest and people are busy with their daily chores. Some people believe that prevailing calm could be a lull before a storm while another group of individuals is of the opinion that people of Kashmir are no more interested in hartal politics, which hit the life for more than 5-months, last summer.
Amidst uncertainty life is moving ahead. Weather is improving and sun has started to shine. But people seem apprehensive about how long sun would continue to shine. Last year’s shutdown and nearly 117 persons being killed during the unrest had crippled the life in Kashmir. People still remember the curfewed days and nights. The biggest question looming large over the minds of people is what 2011 has in store for them? Would this year again witness a hot summer or it would be different from the last year. Anyway at present no one seems to have an answer and most people seem to have kept their fingers crossed.
Recent killing of youth, Manzoor Ahmed Magray at Chogal Handwara in north Kashmir by army on the first death anniversary of Nishat teenage boy Zahid Farooq, killed by paramilitary BSF men last year, had created apprehensions in the minds of people that it could be a beginning of a fresh unrest. However, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reaching out to the family of the deceased youth and visiting Chogal on the same day diffused the tension to a great extent. Army admitted that its men killed the youth and it was a case of “mistaken identity.” The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Army’s Srinagar based 15 Corps Lieutenant General Atta Muhammad Hasnain regretted the killing while Army Chief announced that an internal probe would be conducted to ascertain how the youth was killed.
Quick response from those who matter prevented the situation from going out of hand. Chief Minister has been reiterating that there is no possibility of 2010 being repeated this year. The GOC has declared 2011 as a “year of peace.” On the other hand top police officials are trying to get in touch with youth, who have been spearheading the protests in the recent past.
The Inspector General of Police—Kashmir range—S M Sahai since January this year has met many youth in volatile areas of Srinagar city and rural areas, including north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Police officials claim that they have been able to rope in many “misguided” youth and those who were “hardcore stone pelters” have been taken care of. Most of them, according to the police, have been arrested.
So the general perception is that government and the security agencies are working hard to ensure “trouble free” 2011. Heavy snowfall during winters this year has given a fillip to winter tourism. A good number of tourists visiting Kashmir in winters has brought smiles back on the gloomy faces of many tour operators, hoteliers and other players associated with tourism sector of the Valley. Last’s year unrest had crippled the tourism sector.
Another factor which can really make 2011 different from last year is that people have realized that continuous shutdowns cannot bring “Azadi.”
We lost nearly 117 unarmed people last year. Their deaths have created a void in our hearts and we are still mourning their killings. Despite sacrificing more than 100 lives we could not achieve much. An All Party Delegation visited Kashmir and it was ready to discuss every issue except Azadi. Later New Delhi appointed three interlocutors to hold discussion with different shades of opinions. Interlocutors, after creating a hype about them having New Delhi’s mandate to talk about any option recently punctured their balloon by ruling out plebiscite or Azadi as options.
When 2010 summer unrest was at its peak the chairman of United Jihad Council and Supreme Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin had asked separatist leaders, who were heading the 2010 unrest, to devise a long term strategy and shun off hartal politics. However, no one paid much heed towards his statement, and rest is history.
Salahuddin’s assertion that Kashmir issue cannot be settled in 60-days proved correct. “We need to devise a long term strategy for Kashmir movement to survive. Kashmir is a 60-yr old issue and it cannot be settled in 60-days,” Salahuddin had said in July 2010.
When we sit back today and analyze his statement one feels that his assessment was correct. Salahuddin had asked separatist leaders to ensure that people don’t get tired.
Protest calendars which people followed religiously for nearly 5-months slowly became irrelevant. Harsh curfews and stern measures taken to tackle the Chalo calls made people helpless.
The “Quit Kashmir Movement” which started with a bang and made people believe that it’s now or never for them ended with the India’s visit of the President of United States Barack Hussein Obama. Most of us had pinned our hopes on him. We were under the impression that he would slam New Delhi for treating us (Kashmiris) so shabbily. Nothing of that sort happened. Obama and his wife Michele Obama in most functions were seen dancing and enjoying. They seemed least bothered about Kashmir.
But there was one consolation, Obama made a passing reference about Kashmir in one of his speeches. Most of us thought that Obama whispering K-word was a victory for us and it was result of “Quit Kashmir Movement.” After Obama’s visit ended not many calendars were issued and by the time Obama left, the Civil Secretariat had moved from Srinagar to Jammu. Many private companies had closed down their offices in the Valley and many youth working in private sector had been rendered jobless.
Separatist leaders complained that Kashmiri journalists are biased and they criticize the Kashmir movement for the sake of criticizing it. After 5-months of continuous shutdown intellectuals and writers were asked to come up with suggestions. But no one came forward. Move to frame a Coordination Committee also did not bear fruit. Neither the businessmen nor the transporters showed any interest.
The tragic end to last year’s summer unrest has made many people believe that nothing will change. Pessimism seems to have over taken optimism. Leaders are claiming that people let them down. But the fact is that people supported the leadership in every possible way with the hope that something will be achieved. These are hard facts and many people won’t like it. But past cannot be changed, this has already happened. But we can make our present and future better by not repeating the mistakes that we committed in the past.
It seems the state has already done its homework and it is ready to face any eventuality. But one thing everyone, including New Delhi, has forgotten that there is a difference between enforcing peace and establishing peace. Many top leaders of the world have quiet often said that peace in South Asia would remain illusive till Kashmir issue is resolved.
The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, in past 5-months has on many occasions asked New Delhi to ensure that separatist leaders are taken on board and headway should be made towards the final settlement of the Kashmir issue.
This eerie calm has to be changed into permanent calm so that our future generations don’t suffer and they live a dignified life. Lot depends upon New Delhi as it has to show some flexibility somewhere. Coming summer may not be that hot but all of us know very well that Kashmir is a volcano and it can erupt anytime.
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Lastupdate on : Fri, 11 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 11 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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