Battle of ideas

authorities ensured that no major processions take place. Earlier during the peak of militancy officials would not permit any gathering saying if a grenade is tossed towards it many human lives would be lost. Now when there are minimal chances of such perceived attacks, the policy remains unchanged.
This year, there were many Fridays when no prayers could be offered in Srinagar’s historic grand mosque. Police would seal streets and lanes leading to the mosque, keep Mirwaiz Umer Farooq under detention just to manage an incident free day in the old city Nowhatta.
State’s security apparatus, precisely the police, has evolved its own extra-constitutional mechanism to manage the situation. It clamps curfew without announcing it and when they are asked they term it ‘preventive restrictions’. But it paralyzes life. No protests are permitted. Police actions to manage protests are more punitive in nature. Perhaps Kashmir is the only spot on this part of the earth where even rubber bullets and tear smoke shells kill.
During the ongoing protests over Shopian rapes and murders, over 500 persons have been injured. One has died and many others are battling for their lives in hospitals. Some of them may survive crippled for the rest of their life.
It was while managing this agitation that the police detained a number of separatists. Though a few are being held in Srinagar, most of them have been driven out of Kashmir.
All these instances are grim pointers towards the situation being gradually pushed towards further deterioration. It seems the government is punishing its ideological opposition for the crime that it has committed by trying to cover up, unwittingly or deliberately. Had not the people agitated over the issue, the cases would have gone as that of drowning and the perpetrators – who are yet to be identified – would have grown bolder.
With the graph of militant violence already down, the policy makers at Srinagar and Delhi must go for a serious review of things. Kashmir that has barely survived under the shadow of the guns and grenades for over two decades needs certain basic rights. Right to protest is one such pre-requisite for any vibrant and civilized society. This is fundamental to the idea of democracy.
One great thing that the nay-sayers in Srinagar have never acknowledged is that not a single procession – and that includes the one that was attended by nearly one million people last year, has ever resorted to violence. Never ever has a child been lost. Never ever has a grocer been looted? The mobs actually resort to violence when they are stopped from going ahead peacefully.


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