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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 33 New Delhi August 8, 2015

Kashmir: The Harsh Reality

Saturday 8 August 2015, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

Last fortnight I was in the Kashmir Valley. My first visit after the floods of 2014 and also after the PDP-BJP tie-up in the State of J&K. And the first thing I wanted to grasp were those expected changes in the backdrop of the ‘packages’ worth crores getting announced from the Centre. After all, with supposed crores getting pumped into the State there ought to be visible betterment. Nah, I couldn’t get to see even traces of it. Nothing less than a shock, seeing the run-down condition of the city—broken roads, dented pavements, affected bridges, garbage piles along lanes and by-lanes and amidst it all stray dogs—needless to mention these strays seem to have become a permanent feature of this once beautiful city!

With little transparency-cum-accountability in this conflict zone, nobody dare question the very basics of this political tie-up. After all, the PDP’s rationale was that this alliance with the BJP was made so that the flood-ravaged State gets extra dole from the Right-wing government at the Centre. But all those supposed crores haven’t made the city look vibrant nor developed! Why?

Several reasons could be lined up for this crucial why. Foremost are announcements of those economic packages stuck in the midst of file jottings or have they begun trickling down, towards the apolitical citizens and towards those various projects that could help them recover from that havoc? Are those repairs-cum-renovations-cum-developmental works in the slow-moving mode ...so slow that even after several months they haven’t been able to leave an imprint of sorts?

Another reason is that the regional tussles and political divides are eating into those lingering traces of hope. Not to overlook the fact that the people of Srinagar feel betrayed by this PDP-BJP alliance. There is apparent worry and apprehension of the Right-wing brigades opening RSS branches in and around the Valley and with that making inroads into schools and colleges and other educational institutions. Nah, the average Kashmiri cannot digest the fact that the PDP could have stooped down to join hands with the BJP.

Another crucial aspect is that the there seems no change in the treatment meted out to the individual out there. Though there seemed not too many roadside bunkers but there lurked strains of an ongoing and persistent policing. Checks and check-points seemed the order of the day. Police and Army seemingly in total control of the place, of the people, of all movement.

And to compound the situation there seemed none of those State set-up recreational centres nor well-equipped playgrounds and reading-rooms where the young can unleash all those pent-up emotions ... In fact, the focus of the PDP party should be on the young. After all, all those born around the 1990s have seen no happiness. They were born in the midst of that massive rebellion. And all these years they have witnessed attacks and counter-attacks, curfews and crackdowns, searches and checks. The young cannot take those humiliations any further. They are reacting. This in itself is a harsh reality which is compounded by the fact that the job scenario is bleak and there’s little cushioning to contain the growing frustrations. One cannot even cry out or talk aloud beyond the set parameters, for there‘d be chances of the aftermath.

The young cannot survive on speeches and more of them. All these years, all they have been hearing are those speeches of various politicians in power. Mind you, speeches from far away ...from those fortified forts. It’s about time that speeches take a backseat and something concrete done for the young. Start from the very basic—restore that basic freedom and dignity to them. End the daily dose of humiliations heaped on them, as though each of them is a potential suspect. Remove those dangerous tags and let them live without those insecurities. Give them the freedom to speak their mind, to unleash their thoughts and their anger and pent-up emotions.