Death anniversary of Burhan Wani falls on 08th July. The state administration gearS up to face the challenge. Both the United Jehad Council and Hurriyat Conference issued week long protest programs. The first response from the state was to close down all educational institutions on the pretext of summer vacations. The state police have already announced a blanket ban on demonstrations/gatherings of any sort. Has anything changed after the killing of Burhan? I suppose nothing. The situation is as volatile as it was on the eve of his death. We are making no headway. We are suffering on all accounts. Let's look at some of the major areas on concern:
Education: Nelson Mandela firmly said: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". I'm deeply pained to see the impact of conflict on our educational system. We are getting less and less number of working days. Blame lies both on government forces and the separatists. Irony of situation is that last year Gov't would leave no stone unturned in an attempt to open educational institutions to give semblance of normalcy & now there is forced vacations in schools and colleges on the pattern of Hurriyat calendar. During the protests of last year, thousands of Kashmiri students went to Jammu and other places for education. We can't afford to ignore education of our children. Thereafter, on 15th April this year, an army vehicle entered the premises of Pulwama Degree College. A few videos made rounds on social media showing armed forces beating and insulting the students. It led to the student protests; thousands of them marched in solidarity across Kashmir. Many of them got injured in the ensuing clashes. As a result, educational institutions are not able to conduct the exams. No serious academic work is underway in our state.
Our economy is suffering heavy losses for the past one year. Tourist inflow has almost halved. Under continued protests, no private industries or businesses would invest in Kashmir. On top of it, the transfer of power projects from NHPC to the state government is now a pipe dream. The much talked about Rs 80,000 crore development package had no visible impact on the ground. Only foundation stones are being laid be it the engineering colleges or medical colleges. Almost a year has passed by when we heard about AIIMS in Kashmir. It's awaiting even for the foundation stone. The Economic Survey Report of 2016 reveals that unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is higher than average National unemployment rate. JK is having 24.6 percent population in the age of 18-29 years as unemployed which is far more than All India unemployment rate of 13.2 percent. Moreover extension of constitutional amendment of GST(Goods & services tax) to state by adoption of resolution in J&K assembly against public perception has again created doubt & uncertainty in the minds of people which has potential to snowball into 2008 amarnath land row like situation and can push state further towards economic deprivation.
Ever since the killing of Burhan Wani, a good number of local youth have joined the militant ranks. In a tweet just a day after Burhan's killing, Omar Abdullah tweeted: "Mark my words. Burhan's ability to recruit in to militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media". I think these words were prophetic. There is even a wider social acceptability for militancy which was absent a few years back. It can be gauged from the fact that thousands of people turn up in militant funerals. The public space for debate and discussion is shrinking. Mainstream space has almost shrunk to the levels of pre 1996. In the most parts of Kashmir valley elected representatives have been avoiding there respective segments post Burhan. It's a dangerous trend.
Is there a way forward?
In March 2013 a 24-year-old man was killed by security forces during a protest in Baramulla. When the PDP members stormed the Legislative Assembly and left in protest, Omar Abdullah as Chief Minister made an emotional speech in the assembly. What he said is somewhat relevant to the prevailing situation in Kashmir. He began with confessing that they (opposition members) are genuinely emotional and I can understand that. But then he castigated the security forces for unwarranted use of force. He made the point very categorical that, "we can't respond to stones with bullets and there's no justification for unwarranted use of forces against protesters. But we have made some mistakes and we conceded that openly". Compare it with the present day head of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 25, 2016 when Kashmir was on boil, how was the situation described in front of Union Home Minister deserves a mention: "95 per cent of those killed have died in retaliatory action while they were attacking the security establishments." It was further added that, "People have come onto the roads. We imposed curfew. Did the children go to army camps to buy toffees? Was the 15-year-old boy, who attacked the police station at Damhal Hanjipora, going there to get milk?"
The fact of the matter is that we have an arrogant, ignorant, incompetent and most importantly hypocritical government at the helm. PDP-BJP combine has actually consigned the "Agenda of Alliance" to the dustbin. They are rather facilitating the erosion of remnants of states Autonomy & the latest is financial autonomy by way of GST.
PM Modi is in Israel. There are clear parallels between Israel's policy towards the Palestinians and Indian attitude towards Kashmir. If not the PDP, it's the former External Affairs Minister from BJP, Yashwant Sinha who showed some audacity to say that BJP should be held to its promise of dialogue with all stakeholders, including Hurriyat and Pakistan. It is the only way out of the present imbroglio in Jammu and Kashmir. Is there any other way? I hope and pray that there is one.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council. Views are personal