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Kashmir Valley: intermittent stability and turbulence

Friday, April 21, 2017
By Ranajoy Sen

Kashmir Valley of the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is once again amidst a social tempest. The social inflammatory patterns, which rumbles, flares up, and then subsides down again, only to be visible again later, appears to have begun the pattern. The difference in these protest-filled, turbulent episodes is that the intensity and length of time varies among each of them. Otherwise, they are essentially embowered by the similar attributes of anger, hate, trouble-mongering, injuries, loss of valuable life

and sadly, wastage of valuable time and energy by those involved in it; the attendant effect is felt almost throughout the valley and affects almost all concerned, involved or not, satisfied or dissatisfied. It appears to be a prolongation of a hate-filled stalemate by those involved in spreading and perpetuation of this scenario.     

Peace and stability seems to be often eluding the Kashmir valley for nearly the preceded three decades. Absence of disturbance and proliferation of tourism are often interspersed with a total shut-down of activities, tension, violence, curfews. The attempts to defy the state-issued writ by the protesters and their patrons are met with equal resolve by those manning and managing the instruments of state machinery. It results in further infrastructural damages, grievances, unnecessary and painful loss of lives and - what is not much highlighted - damage to the environment of the beautiful region from the continuous emission of smoke and gun fire is also noteworthy. From this perspective, certain inputs could instil awareness to those involved or actuating the fray, to give more emphasis on earnest, bona fide contemplation, before embarking on an orgy.

A cumulative aftermath
The ongoing social instability in the Kashmir valley appears to be a cumulative aftermath of a “usually ill informed but, emotionally volatile”, anger, often for the sake of it, and hesitant, ineffective steps by the state administration to control the situation. The embers of the past year’s phase of violence seems to have not been effectively doused; is the state administration responsible for this fiasco, and if so to what extent? Conclusive answers are still at large. But, what seems to be a principal narrative within the state is the continuing absence of appropriate economic opportunities and lapses in weaving an appropriate harmony by the law and order agencies of the state with the populace, whose connect with those manning them are often stuck outside the fences and over-militarised zones of the paramilitary and armed forces.  

This is not to belittle to any extent the challenging and stress-filled situation within the Jammu & Kashmir police and the country’s armed forces have to operate. Keeping law and order, striving for peace and security of the state, keeping the Kashmir border with Pakistan safe, intercepting and battling the terrorists, from beyond the border and within the state, even at the cost of their lives, evoke gratitude and adherence to those facing this arduous task – made more so by the socio-political dilemmas, still plaguing the Kashmir valley.    

Prevailing situation in the valley is taking a turn for increasing disturbance. Furthermore, summer season is poised to commence. The chill and frigidity of the winter season is ebbing away. The inclemency of the weather would be replaced by a cool, calm, and pleasant weather. But, instead of enjoying it to the utmost and endeavouring for avenues of constructive work, the people in Kashmir appear to have realized that they might need to brace up for a rather restless summer, more in the figurative sense than otherwise.

The opportunity to rake up violence yet again was presented with the approach of by-polls in the valley. The concerned constituencies displayed low voting percentages, while the occasion called forth the renewed demonstrations and physical altercations between the police and the protesters, which included students from high schools, colleges and universities. To the detriment of those wanting to continue their academic programmes, the educational institutions have closed down in a rejoinder to the pervading tension and social unpredictability in the streets. A photograph in “THE TIMES OF INDIA” newspaper, showing Kashmiri students clashing with the J&K police on Lal Chowk in Srinagar, is a testimony to the extent of social regression being ratcheted up in the valley.       

Kashmir solution not elusive
At a meeting of the sate cabinet of J&K in Jammu, the seriousness of the prevailing situation and the need to control it was articulated. A principal narrative doing the round is the potential culpability of the armed forces regarding the use of a human shield in Budgam, by tying a resident of the area onto a jeep’s bonnet, to act as a deterrent to those pelting stones at the army. Undoubtedly, such acts should be looked into with earnestness, and steps taken to ensure that such acts do not occur in the future; no pretexts should be forwarded to justify it as a tactic. But, what about the compulsions of the armed forces, who countenance rather adverse circumstances where mob anger is to be controlled, while ensuring that damage or injuries to those expressing hostility is to be avoided at all costs? It appears that the armed forces often take to such acts as a last resort, to find a plausible solution amid a tide of hatred, aggressiveness, and irrationality and even then intend no harm to those whose assistance, if and when, taken.   

The solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, as written by many, is not elusive. But, it appears that a multi-pronged approach, characterised by an appropriate equanimity of restraint, action, economic opportunities, coherence of ideas and decisions, and security infrastructure, would contribute substantially, if not wholly, towards a satisfactory outcome.

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