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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 32 New Delhi July 30, 2016

Kashmir Scenario Today

Tuesday 2 August 2016, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

Ban on newspapers in the Valley. No news, no reports, no views, no comments. Pumping pellets right into connectivity. A complete black out as mobile and internet connections are snapped. Reeking of dictatorship. Nothing short of an undeclared Emergency. Back to those dark ages in these developed times!

Last weekend the police raided the newspaper offices of the three leading newspapers of the Kashmir region—The Kashmir Times,Rising Kashmir,The Greater Kashmir, and its Urdu sister concern, Kashmir Uzma. They not just seized thousands of copies, they shut down the printing press, took away the printing plates, beat up and arrested the staff.

Why should news be murdered by the political rulers? Why this crackdown on the media? What is the establishment trying to conceal? What is to be camouflaged? What more havoc is to be unleashed on the hapless masses of the Kashmir Valley? Why extend crackdowns from homes to newspaper offices?

Together with these developments, photo-graphs are surfacing which more than relay the extent of brutality unleashed on human forms. Eyes, faces, ribs, chest, stomach, lungs, limbs grievously injured by pellets and bullets. Even children not spared, dragged by hardened cops.... In fact, several of these photographs carry some level of similarity to pictures of Palestinian children hounded and thrashed by Israeli cops. Dragging along apprehensions of what more could follow in the Kashmir Valley—in fact, whilst keying in I am reminded of some of the ‘grave apprehensions’ that Kashmiris had been talking of when the news of Sainik colonies had first come up. They’d told me that they consider Sainik colonies as a ploy to get RSS workers to reside in the Valley—“in the coming years we Kashmiris could be pushed here and there and those RSS cadres will be given our prime locales.... Look what massive tragedy had taken place in Palestine... Palestinians driven out of their homes/lands and Israelis sitting in total control!”

Instead of making certain that these apprehen-sions and insecurities are done away with, the establishment seems determined to compound the mess. Instead of sending additional force to the Valley, there is an urgent need to send an army of healers, communicators, medical/health experts, counsellors, dialoguers to the Valley, to reach out to its bruised angry population. Instead of banning the publication of newspapers, efforts should have been on that they are published against all possible odds; after all, newspapers do play an extremely vital role in connecting the masses with ground realities and with that help curb spread of rumours and apprehensions. Today how does the Kashmiri get to know the basic facts when every possible means of communication is banned?

And in this scenario not one per cent trust in government/police hand-outs or those briefings or those stale assurances from the rulers who dare not come out in the open and face the wrath of their own people. None seemingly around. Except, of course, within the confines of the television studios. Even the local MLAs not to be heard or seen. The only exception is Rashid Engineer but he is different; he carries the sheer conviction to raise his voice. Loud and clear.

Also, none of the VVIPS flying from New Delhi to Srinagar with announcement of hefty packages of crores! Crores for whom when people are dying?

Ongoing Mishandling of the Situation 

What a mess we have made of the paradise on earth! What brutality has been unleashed on a hapless lot! There has been a complete mishandling of the situation for the last so many years... In fact, right from the early nineties, when I had begun reporting on the situation in the Kashmir Valley, one aspect was writ large—mishandling of the situation. In fact, I recall the words of the former Chief Justice of J&K, Justice Bahauddin Faruqi: “The government is treating each person as a suspect. I would say there are no more than 100 militants, yet to locate them a whole city’s population is hounded. The searches are done in the most brutal way—even before dawn the whole area is cordoned off ... even women in labour are not allowed to move...” He‘d said this during the course of an interview given to me in Srinagar in the early 1990s. And now, over the years, gaps have been widening, alienation standing out stark, together with some bitter realities.

Alienation and anger furthering over the years. Poor governance, failed promises by the politicians in power, together with vested interests of the political lobbies and a complete bypass of the local sentiments had helped heaped havoc in the Kashmir region. Decay is writ large. To put across this decay in the words of Mohamamd Ashraf, former Director General of J&K Tourism and author of several book on the Valley—“We used to live in paradise but it is lost now. For the locals the political turmoil has turned it into a hell. Especially the last two decades have been the worst in the recent history. Apart from losing thousands of lives and the cultural mosaic of centuries, the people have lost the sensitivity to various happenings around them. We abhorred violence but now it hardly affects us. Blood has become the cheapest commodity around.”

And if you were to read Ajit Bhattacharjea’s volume, Tragic Hero of Kashmir—Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (Roli Books), you would realise how over the years the Kashmiris’ patience has got transformed into sheer anger. The stark contrast between 1947 and the years that followed ... As Ajit Bhattacharjea writes in the very preface to this book—“Unforgettable recollections of Srinagar as an island of amity in a sea of religious bloodshed in the Indian subcontinent inspire the writing of this book. The contrast between the cordial atmosphere of Srinagar and the foetid communal fear still stalking Delhi in October 1947, from where I had flown, exceeded even the first enchanting impression of the beauty of the Valley. It provided a ray of hope that secularism could survive in India... In the capital of India, as in much of the north of India, Muslims were under attack in reprisal for the bloody eviction of Hindus and Sikhs from the newly born Islamic state of Pakistan. Yet in the capital of Kashmir there was no sign of religious tension: its Muslim inhabitants were helping newly arrived elements of the Indian Army, Hindus and Sikhs, to defend the city against advancing Pathan lashkars ...”

Pause and think and reflect and introspect—why has the calm Kashmiri turned rebellious and angry? Is poor governance to be blamed for this present-day mess? Have political tactics failed? Can the hapless Kashmiri survive on speeches fitted with hollow words and layers of complete deceit?

For this mess political tactics and strategies used by the government at the State level and also at the Centre are to be blamed. Human rights violations by the government machinery and its agencies have gone a long way in bringing about alienation.

Holding elections is one formality-ridden aspect. Governance has to run deeper. Politicians have failed. Failed miserably. Governance is to connect with the masses. Yet, ironically, the political establishment seems hell-bent on bypassing the people and their local leaders.