Where is Kashmir heading?

Where is Kashmir heading?

UNREST, SHUTDOWN AND URI : The people of Kashmir are immune to sacrifices, but the resistance leadership must take stock and think where it is heading

For about 75 days now, Kashmir has been passing through the toughest period in its recent history.

It is locked between the government curfew and the continuous shutdown called by the joint resistance leadership comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik who been leading the current unrest that has left 86 dead and over 11,000 injured. For the first time in recent years, Kashmir was deprived of Eid celebrations as the government clamped curfew across 10 districts to thwart a march to the United Nations office in Srinagar.

There is hardly any space in sight that could promise any respite from the situation since governments – both in New Delhi and Srinagar – have failed to contain the situation. Brute force has been the only answer since July 8, when Kashmir broke into an entirely different phase of uprising that has put all such outpouring of the past on the back burner.

An average Kashmiri youth besides holding a stone in his hand is armed with a different weapon this time. He believes it is a do or die, and now or never situation for him and is convinced that this would lead to a political solution.

In over two and a half months now, Kashmiris have gone through a grind of violence that for the first time was entailed with record and unbreakable period of curfew. Educational institutions are closed, businesses are shut and normal life is a thing of past.

The government has its own theory of terming this uprising as handiwork of Pakistan and a handful of elements want to keep the pot boiling for their own interests. But the fact is that it has hardly done anything to bring a change in the situation; led to use of force and restrictions, adding to the numbers of the dead. This has helped shooting up of the anger that is ruling the minds of an average Kashmiri.

It is unlike 2008 and 2010, where the end seemed to be in sight. Today, no one is talking about or quizzing as to where we are heading. This is because the blood bath has created such a situation that no one thinks on those lines or feels like talking about schools and businesses when 11-year-old boys are delivered dead to their parents after being hit by the pellets. Even on Eid days, there were five deaths.

The government did not wake up for long. And if it decided to open up, it was too late and the effort, if any, was half-baked. An all party delegation did visit Srinagar to break the ice. But it failed.

Except for blaming it on Pakistan and few elements, it did not seem to be addressing the problem as a political one for which the dialogue and engagement is the only way. They would say they were snubbed by separatists like Geelani who did not open the door when the Opposition MPs knocked at the door. Geelani’s refusal to open it might not have gone well with Kashmir’s traditions of hospitality.

Setback for PDP

Kashmir’s coalition government of PDP and BJP has been grappling with the ch-allenge of restoring even a semblance of normalcy. But it has failed. Politically also, the government has been crippled and a political outreach in any form is missing. This has further created a vacuum.

On top of it, one of the PDP’s founder members and Lok Sabha MP Tariq Qarra resigned from both the party and Parliament, unhappy with the handling of the situation. This may not rattle the PDP, but it is a huge challenge to their moral authority.

It is nevertheless a setback for the PDP as one of its architects has walked away criticising the handling of the situation by the governments. Delhi has been vehemently arguing about the elections in Kashmir were held with the participation of people.

Qarra is an elected representative who defeated none other than former chief minister Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar in 2014. So how can one explain the resignation of an elected representative? No MP has resigned from Kashmir in protest against what Qarra called the state-sponsored atrocities on people.

Now that a fearful attack on Army’s Uri base has taken place claiming 17 lives, it will change the Kashmir discourse and further divert the attention from what the Valley is facing. The focus has now shifted to the United Nations where India and Pakistan are taking on each other.

Such an attack is significant in view of the magnitude of loss but it will overshadow the current crisis in Kashmir. It will push Pakistan on the back foot. If the militants are Pakistan backed, then Islamabad also has a serious problem and the infighting within the state is obvious.

This attack will certainly shape up many things in the coming weeks and months since New Delhi has made it clear that it will  toughen its stand. The follow-up both to possible clash at UN and this attack will determine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Pakistan in November to attend the Saarc meeting. The unfolding situation in its aftermath will push Kashmir to the background both internally and externally and to address the crisis within is the bigger challenge for the joint resistance leadership.

Whether they can afford Kashmir to be in strike mode and if so, how long, is the question. People have expressed concern as the protest programme did not have any relaxation last week and no movement of people even in emergency situations were allowed.

The people of Kashmir are immune to sacrifices, but the resistance leadership must take stock and think where it is heading. But for that, the government also will have to assume the responsibility of letting them out of jail and give them space. Perhaps then only one can even question them.

(The writer is Editor-in-Chief of Srinagar-based English daily Rising Kashmir)
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