Sunday, July 31, 2016

The wavering voices of governance in Kashmir

by Ratnakar Tripathy

Mahbooba Mufti 
The last few days have seen the PDP-BJP alliance government in Kashmir and the centre talk in different voices on the future course of action in the coming days. This is worrisome as the unrest in Kashmir continues unabated with curfews in most parts of the state with the death toll mounting to nearly fifty according to latest reports. The number of injured, many of them permanently or seriously, as targets of pellet guns now runs into thousands earning lasting disenchantment with the Indian state among a large populace. When the CM of the state did decide to suggest a mellower course to the centre, it was done in the most convoluted manner possible raising another series of controversies. According to her the Indian security forces were not aware that the person killed in the encounter on 8th July was Burhan Wani, whose life may have been spared had the forces known who their target is.

Wani, who achieved enormous popularity during his brief tenure in Hizbul Mujahideen has now acquired a much greater halo in his death as the size of the crowds attending his funeral would indicate. Mahbuba’s motive in making this strange claim was to assure the Kashmiris that she continues to steer the path of dialogue with the insurgent youth.  Even the deputy CM Nirmal Singh from the BJP at some point seemed to suggest the same before retracting his statement.  In fact the CM Mufti made statements that giving a clear indication of the double bind she is in – she said  everyone should "feel the pain" of the future generation with reference to the deaths in the valley. These lofty sentiments however do not ring true and the Kashmiris made that amply clear through the protests against her which indicate plunging popularity levels from which she may not recover for a long time. The problem is Kashmir is bigger than an individual’s or even a party’s dilemmas, a consideration that doesn’t stop Omar Abdullah from jeering his political enemies through a series of tweets  slamming deputy chief minister and BJP leader Nirmal Singh for calling the encounter killing an accident. Mahbooba makes an easy target of course as ‘there was a time when In fact, Mehbooba would refer to militants as “our boys in the jungles” and advocated “goli se nahin boli se (not with bullets but dialogue)” as the way forward. She would speak out against “State-sponsored terror”. So the state in Kashmir seems to suffer from a mood disorder alternating between a Rambo like approach to caressing words, neither of which make sense any longer in the light of the situation on the ground in Kashmir.

The Congress party on the other hand is undergoing similar vacillations – recently Chidambaram in an interview to Karan Thapar on India Today TV blamed both the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir governments for the current unrest in the Valley. He also said “We look at Kashmir as an issue of land, but it's a problem of people instead. Let the people of Kashmir frame their laws within the ambit of the Constitution. We have to assure that we will respect identity, history, culture, religion.” The obvious question to ask here is why the same insights were not available to Chidambaram when his government was in power. His statement was anyway promptly contradicted by leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad who said "We urge all leaders [of the Congress party] to stick to the party line on Kashmir." Clearly therefore whether one agrees or not with the entire gamut of views of the state, the central government and the Congress, they all share cone common feature – incoherence and indecisiveness. The fact remains that even if there was some hope for restoration of normalcy in Kashmir after Wani’s death, rampant use of the pellet guns have ensured that the problem will fester for a long time to come. The difference this time round may be and that does not seem so obvious at this stage is that a whole generation of Kashmiris will not relate to India as their own – Wani may be the symbol but it is the pellet guns that are the substantive reason for such disillusionment.

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