Engineered protest

The deployment of the army in Srinagar in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley is deeply distressing. It is an indication of the severity of the crisis there. All of a sudden, violent clashes between mobs and the CRPF have taken place in several towns including Srinagar, Sopore and Anantnag. These have resulted in the death of around 15 Kashmiris over the past three weeks, four of them on Tuesday alone. The mobs are said to be protesting CRPF killing of civilians, but every violent demonstration seems to be unleashing a new cycle of violence by both sides. The CRPF has come under criticism for shooting into protesting mobs. Indeed, it has contributed to taking the violence to higher level rather than acting as a force to quell the protests. It is in this context that the deployment of the army must be seen. The Indian Army is believed to be a far more disciplined force. According to reports, it is being deployed on the streets of Srinagar not so much to engage in crowd control as to deter the violent protests.

It is evident that the protests are not spontaneous expressions of anger. They seem engineered. Boys are being paid to throw stones and provoke the security forces. Their numbers might be large but they cannot be seen to represent public discontent. It is believed that the separatists, whose relevance in the valley had diminished substantially in recent years, are behind the protests. It is possible that they are engineering the unrest on the orders of their handlers in Pakistan or to put themselves back on the centre-stage of Kashmiri politics. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has made no secret of its hatred of Chief Minister Omar Abdulla, seems to be inciting the violence too. The Kashmiri people must speak up against the manipulative and dangerous politics that the separatists and the PDP are engaging in and dissuade the youth from their anti-social behaviour, as it is devouring their children.

There is a danger of the presence of the army escalating the violence. After all, soldiers are trained to kill, not convince protesters to get off the streets. They are not the best force to deal with civilian unrest. Therefore, the government must pull out the army from the streets as soon as a semblance of normalcy is restored.

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