Kashmir on the edge

After the formation of PDP-BJP alliance and the government it was looked with skepticism that whether this combination will be able to hold on to its full term.
Kashmir on the edge
File Photo

After the formation of PDP-BJP alliance and the government it was looked with skepticism that whether this combination will be able to hold on to its full term. The BJP's overwhelming mandate in Jammu and fractured choice of Kashmiri voters is sufficient to place any Kashmiri chief minister handicapped. The incumbent chief minister is no exception and for her the position will continue to be delicate while dealing with the alliance partner. Surely there is too little to unite the two partners of alliance and much more to divide them. Senior Mufti described it as an alliance of north and south poles and rightly so. Going by the political philosophy of both parties there is hardly any meeting ground between the two and, in fact, are diametrically opposite.

The events that started on July 9th this year with the killing of three militants including Hizb commander Burhan Wani in village Bamdoora near Kokernag scripted a different story. It was followed by spontaneous and furious reaction by the people and violence spiralled engulfing entire valley. Spillover of protests has also been reported from across Pir Panchal. With the passage of time things will settle down but eventually another Burhan will be born and another tragedy will show up again. That is the saga Kashmir is used to experience through the decades. Continuous curfew and restrictions continue unabated. Figures of casualties are swelling. The people are racked up by pain. Semblance of normalcy is far away. The state government appears to be clueless and the government of India too occupied with nurturing Hindutva constituency with a deep focus on forth coming UP elections.

The state government on more than one occasion goofed up by sending premature and confusing signals. Contradictory statements of senior functionaries of the government on usage of pellet guns, closure of print media, blanket ban on operation by private cellular companies and order asking opening of schools in four districts failed to produce desired dividends. As a matter of fact these actions rebounded and produced negative results. The latest statement of the chief minister on Burhan's killing that "nobody knew Burhan was hold up" (GK July 29th 2016) was a blunder. Mehbooba further said that had the forces known about Burhan's presence inside the house, there could have been a chance to keep the situation from turning to what it is today. She further added that had anyone known that Burhan was at the hideout, the government would have made the proper arrangements to prevent the situation from turning to what it is today. One must remember that the team of police/forces tasked to track high valued target must have worked laboriously on it for quite some time and lot of effort must have gone into it. After all it was not a chance encounter and the operational team was not there to grab a chicken. High value targets always need advance intelligence, its analysis, meticulous planning, mobilization of resources, penetration skills and constant evaluation at senior level. It would be naive to assume that such actions will pass off without a fall out. Such situations are usually perceived at the district level and local inputs always help to devise strategy to quell large scale unrest. Unfortunately there was abounding confusion created by government on Burhan's killing. Statements have been issued recklessly at various levels and the most recent being the deputy chief minister's claims and disclaimers.

Discord within the PDP on many sensitive issues is no secret. Earlier on the Kokernag encounter Muzafar Baig and Tariq Hameed Qara (both PDP members of Lok Sabha) publicly expressed their reservations about the encounter and doubted veracity of the government version. Muzafar Baig claimed that a section of police officers deliberately kept the chief minister in dark. He even demanded an enquiry but the government did not oblige him. State's food minister Zulfikar Choudhary's out of turn statement was enough to create unnecessary controversy.

The state government needs to have deep understanding of the prevailing situation for which it is imperative to differentiate between protesters and militants. The two may have an occasional relationship with each other but methodology changes while dealing with stone pelting mobs and the militants because it is distinctly different. That is why the IGP Kashmir boldly confessed that there is no improvement in today's situation when compared with July 8th (Ref. GK 31st July). This time the administration is confronted with a difficult and different situation as compared to upsurges in the past because previously the anti-government protests would remain mostly concentrated to the capital city and other urban areas in the valley. This time it has assumed alarming dimensions as the rural areas, hinterland and remote places have taken threateningly front stage of protests as it is involving large areas and huge population. In terms of casualties the rural areas have contributed the most. As a matter of fact Srinagar city, contrary to its reputation, has seen only one death till now at Tengapora bypass (Batmaloo).

If the situation continues to remain on the edge and precarious and no remedy is found to restore normalcy then what are the options. First, if the government led by PDP continues as it is, it will be a lame dispensation in Kashmir and the BJP will keep on watching, with a smile, the erosion of PDP in its strong bastion i.e. the valley. The BJP is likely to take advantage of the situation to nurture its constituency in Jammu province in terms of governance and development. Second, there may be a divorce between the two coalition partners and the BJP may explore alternate options to coble together a government by engineering a fresh coalition. Thirdly, as a doctrine of necessity the governor's rule may be imposed in the state by invoking relevant provisions of state's constitution after keeping the state assembly in suspended animation. Suffice it to say that the basic problem needs to be addressed through a meaningful dialogue process involving all stakeholders in the interest of long lasting peace in the state.

(The author is retired senior police officer & former member of PSC.)

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