A troubled calm

Ahmad  Riyaz

AFTER a ‘peaceful’ year so far, Kashmir is again uneasy. The reason is the death in police custody of the 28-year-old Nazim Rashid in Sopore. The Valley has already observed shutdown in protest against this killing. In fact, there was a spontaneous shutdown in Sopore and Baramulla town on the day following the tragic development. Even though the situation has now acquired some semblance of normalcy, the anger continues to simmer.   Some observers fear it has already reached a point where another killing or an excess of this nature by the security forces could again plunge Kashmir into fresh turmoil.

And for this turn of events, government will have only itself to blame. The suspension of two cops, attachment of DSP and transfer of Superintendent of Police will only help the matters to a certain point. For the fact remains that such remedial measures do not in any sense compensate for the loss of a precious life or repair the loss of trust in the system.

What makes the series of human rights violations over the past few months shocking is that they have coincided with a painstaking official effort to do everything to prevent the recurrence of another separatist unrest. And the government seems to have attained a degree of success in this endeavor, although an unwillingness of the people to suffer disruption for the fourth successive summer is primarily responsible for peace this year.

But at the same time it is the government agencies that have posed the most challenge to the ‘normalcy’ this year.  Recently, security forces were blamed for rape of a woman in Kulgam and molesting by a paramilitary soldier of another at Pattan. Security personnel have also been accused of killing civilians mistakenly like the youth shot dead at ChogalHandwara  early this year.

True, both police and army have made efforts to reach out and engage the youth. There have been police recruitment rallies – one of them in the heart of downtown city – police-youth get-togethers, youth conferences, singing competitions and of course cricket tournaments. This engagement has gone on simultaneously with the arrest of large number of youth, many of them slapped with Public Safety Act.

After all this elaborate carrot and stick approach, government seems to be losing the plot. We can already sense a level of disaffection in the public space that makes the valley ripe for another unrest. Government, if it makes the right moves, can make the redeeming difference. This calls for not only a serious effort to prevent the repeat of more excesses in the immediate future but also requires a prompt and exemplary punishment to the personnel who are responsible for them. Going by the government’s record on this front so far, such a demand sounds idealistic to say the least. We can, however, still hope against hope.

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