How a new beginning can be made in Kashmir?

There are too many ironies in Jammu and Kashmir that define the situation and the life of the people, and one of them is that the headlines refuse to change. Encounters, killing of militants, and soldiers dying in these gunfights occupy the top place in the newspapers and TV bulletins. This was supposed to change with the “ improvement in the situation” .

The development that indicates construction of roads and bridges plus great achievements in other fields where it is claimed that the water has reached every household remains confined to inside pages, and hardly finds any mention in the TV channels that think that they have the sole property rights over news and narrative.

Headlines are read. Rarely do the readers read the contents. Of course, the shrieking TV anchors force the sensible people to switch off the TV sets. There should be no attempt to change the headlines, these should emerge naturally from the ground. Even during the best of times when there was no militancy and no chase of the militants into their hideouts by the counterinsurgent forces, the developmental issues never found their rightful place. “Bring something political, what’s this the construction of the road or inauguration of park,” these were the common comments heard in the newsroom of yesteryear.

It was only after the natural disasters used to strike, that there were fleeting discovery of the absence of the development works. That’s the time when reporters used to realise that what they had dismissed as  non-story had suddenly become the anchor piece.  The memory of 2014 floods in Kashmir is fresh. That time  the news rooms started digging into archives, and regretted why they had not played up the story of the destruction of forests and encroachment of the riverbeds, and so much so  that there were no boats  to ferry the people to safety. Kashmiri youth had used their sense of innovation and came up with make shift life boats. They risked their lives but saved hundreds of lives. But these stories of humans defeating the demon of disaster ended when the flood waters receded. The headlines of killings and encounters were back to life as they were before, as far as Kashmir is concerned.

So, it’s very difficult to bring  change in the headlines at the moment when the militancy is continuing. The anti-insurgency operations are equally intense. In these life -consuming  gunfights  a piece , though very small , emerges that all is not well in a particular place. The encounter and the killings in Kulgam or Kupwara or Sopore or Shopian is a localised event. Physically, it’s a space not broader than few yards and at times it spreads to few hundred yards, depending on the hit and run capacity and the chasing capabilities of the security forces. That little space occupies a large space in the media. That serves as a force multiplier. Militants get what they want – publicity, and the security forces  to talk about their success of killing the militants  who indulge in murders  under one or the other banner.

Such is the impact that all the good work  done on the ground gets lost in the stories of violence. That is just one view, but the impact that it leaves on the minds of the people is immense, for they believe – though it is not true entirely- that  good work  is not being done. The conflict situations can end and the real improvement take place when  there is a search for reconciliation.

I dare say that announcement of surrender policies, and there have been a number of them since 1990, and appeals by families to stop the young boys from  getting into militancy, has not worked to calm the atmosphere. There might have been some small successes but the penchant to superimpose the policies and tactics has left the things in disarray.

No situation is permanent, but there are forces that push  and prolong the conflicts. This is the vested interest and nothing else. Over the years  the vested interests have grown. Unless these vested interests, besides those who have benefited in investment in them by various outside players who want to see Kashmir embroiled in troubles, are taken to task, things will not change, nor will the headlines.

A desire for calm Kashmir  is waiting to track the number of tourists visiting the Valley, and how many tonnes of fruit going to other parts of the country. Tap these resources, things will, hopefully, change when the encounters and killings will  not make the headlines.