Violence dips in Valley and tourism flows

With a decrease in violence and an increase in tourist flow, 2012 can well be called as one of the most peaceful years in Kashmir in the last more than two decades of turmoil.

Barring the killing of a few sarpanches and isolated militant attacks, the Valley remained calm as it hosted several high profile personalities including President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and big business tycoons of the country.

The year began on a worrying note as militants killed a panchayat member on February 9 in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. In subsequent months militants increased attacks on panchayat members and threatened them to resign from their posts or face attacks.

Panic gripped among the panchayat members following the killings of a sarpanch and a deputy sarpanch in Baramulla district within two weeks in September which prompted many to announce their resignations through paid advertisements in local newspapers.

However, the government’s announcement of night patrolling and area domination in the vulnerable areas of the valley to instil confidence among panchayat members was visible when more than 90 per cent of the 17912 panchayat members cast their votes for the two Legislative Council seats, under the panchayat quota, on December 3.

The other issue which dominated the Valley in 2012 included burning of revered two and half centuries old shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) in a mysterious fire on June 25 in old Srinagar, plunging the Valley into grief.

Life across the Valley was disrupted for about a week due to a strike called by separatists over gutting of the sufi shrine. However, due to the timely intervention of the government, the situation was brought under control with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announcing that the shrine would be restored in two-and-a-half years.

Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani tried to rake up the issue of Supreme Court direction to state government to widen tracks enroute Amarnath yatra and bifurcate it to allow separate passages for pilgrims on ponies and those travelling by foot. Geelani claimed it was an attempt by the government to settle non-Kashmiris around the shrine with an aim of changing the demographics of the state.

In October a delegation of business leaders led by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi during their two-day visit to the Valley in October discussed opportunities with Kashmiri youth. The corporate leaders were of the opinion that there were tremendous opportunities for Kashmiri youths because they had the potential and talent. For the Gandhi scion, it was the fulfilment of a promise he made to the students last year. In his remarks, he said that peace was pre-requisite to big investments in Kashmir.

Return of Bollywood

The year saw Bollywood back in action after a hiatus of more than two decades. Karan Johar shot “Student of the Year” in Gulmarg last winter. Yash Chopra shot his last film “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”.

There was a significant decline in terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir in 2012. However, infiltration attempts and ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops on Line of Control increased in 2012. Around 150 incidents of violence were reported in the first nine months of  the year across the state compared to 344 incidents in 2011.

Sushilkumar Shinde became the first Union home minister in 22 years to drive through Lal Chowk without any apparent elaborate security arrangements as he interacted with people and enjoyed ice-cream at a local shop.

Comments (+)