Calmly Clueless?

With Kashmir’s grave crisis already into second month at an exorbitant cost, the government is waiting its Delhi ally to give it a confidence push. By the time, it gets its ‘talking points’, situation might have slipped out of hand, reports Masood Hussain


The enigmatic silence over the gory happenings exhibited by the beleaguered government has led PDP to lose the plot. During July, the situation on ground changed rapidly and completely, mostly in south Kashmir, its erstwhile stronghold. As security grid evolved its response to situation based apparently on violence, the political executive endorsed the policy. There is still no indication from Delhi suggesting the response could ever get a political element, given the hard state that Premier Narendra Modi is keen to showcase.

Justifying July would be a tall order: nearly 60 killed, 5000 injured of whom 27 are critical, more than 50 with one or no eye and 27 with critical nerve injury who would never stand up again. No hospital has any space left. SMHS seems a major eye hospital these days. The in-thing is pellets hitting women in their private parts, if one goes by what Syed Ali Geelani stated.

Protracted dithering has surged the costs. Initially, the government had only one challenge to mange the anger over Burhan killing. A month later, its hands are full with issues. “It is no more anger,” admitted one senior person in the government, “It is already a serious civil disobedience movement.”

The tense situation in South Kashmir's Verinag belt.
The tense situation in South Kashmir’s Verinag belt.

Burning of some of the assets of Abdul Rahim Rather, ruling PDP’s Kokernag lawmaker, marked the revival of a crisis that unionists survived once. Giving up his security cover, as NC man Iftikhar Misgar came out in a huge protest renounced his association and indulged in massive anti-India sloganeering, it was a clear indication that the unionists are feeling a choking situation. Soon two others, one each from BJP and AIP, followed the suit.

These were followed by attacks on the residences of Minister Asiya Naqash and lawmaker Hakim Yasin. Already PDP lawmaker from Pulwama Khalil Bund suffered serious hip injury while fleeing a wee-hour mob in his own constituency.

These developments were followed by innumerable instances involving known unionist party village workers making public their dissociations. Only a few of them could make it to newspapers.

Ruling PDP is soon facing sort of an exodus from south Kashmir. By next week, the number of secured persons is likely to go hugely up. The state will have to pay for their accommodation, movement and the security. J&K booked an expenditure of expenditure of Rs 234.51 crore to protect 1917 persons in fiscal 2015-16. Additions will add to the credibility dented by the situation. Pushed to the margins, PDP workers feel their party has lost the agenda they once stood for.

CM Mehbooba Mufti with Rajnath Singh.
CM Mehbooba Mufti with Rajnath Singh.

In Delhi, the government is telling reporters that BJP is fully supportive of J&K’s elected government and would go by whatever its ally advises it. This is assertion of what Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Srinagar earlier. The fact is that PDP and BJP have an alliance on basis of a document that lists many things. Delhi’s inaction and Srinagar’s inability to get things implemented is costing the latter more. Now the new political grapevine is that BJP would be cautious in committing anything because of UP elections.

The other aspect of PDP “inaction” is that gradually a new system of communication between Delhi and Srinagar unionists is emerging. The “free floating electrons” within the unionist camp who have remained busy in apparent centre-state track-II for a long time are back to business. Reports from Delhi suggest that they are keen to advise Delhi on how to tackle Kashmir at a time when its ally lacks an idea!

On his own, Communist leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami is helping Left to fly a delegation of non-BJP and non-Congress lawmakers to Srinagar. His idea is to at least get one section of the Lok Sabha acquainted with what has been happening in Kashmir. Kulgam, the constituency that he has retained since 1996, is one of the worst affected by the situation. This has apparently pressurized Prime Minister to agree to a fresh debate on Kashmir. Success of Left’s initiative, in wake of Rajnath’s Islamabad visit, could vindicate Kashmir’s non-PDP unionists that the ruling party talks much and delivers less.

Geelani painting the 'Go India, Go Back' graffiti near his Hyderpora residence.
Geelani painting the ‘Go India, Go Back’ graffiti near his Hyderpora residence.

But the much bigger problem is that nobody in Srinagar or Delhi understands the magnitude of the prevailing Kashmir crisis. Ground zero as on today lacks any comparison with either 2008 or 2010. It is a massive mass movement that is now being managed at local levels under the vast banner that separatist troika – Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik, have created.

Though Malik is jailed, Geelani and Mirwaiz have gradually taken over the scene. Given the rage they have noticed on the roads and the scale of involvement at ground level, they are consistently innovating with the idea of protest. From prayers in open, protests by women, getting into civic affairs locally, having peaceful sit-ins and getting into the graffiti culture, separatists are exploring the entire 360 degrees within the confines of self-injury and self-restriction, the hartal.

They have also ensured the militants avoid getting into the processions after three sightings in south Kashmir. Besides, they have been able to evolve a social support structure within and outside the hospitals. Now even Mohalla Committees have become active and an outreach to needy has reduced chances of breaching the strike plans. Now even doctors and the university teachers have jumped into the welfare activities, a situation rarely seen in past.

Unlike all earlier situations which were urban, it is the village that is involved directly. Residents on area basis are drafting and implementing the mobilization programmes which has given 2016 summer unrest an unprecedented spread. Even the 1990 mass mobilization lacked this element as it was aimed at marching to Srinagar.

The rage against the status quo has created a situation that peripheral masses move en masse thus preventing any distinction on political ideologies or the sectarian associations. Of late, there have been a series of all-sect joint gatherings in south Kashmir.

The most defining facet of this situation is that people are willing to offer costs. There have been three instances in south Kashmir in which the people suffered losses enormously. When a huge procession was on way to Damhal Hanjipora, police and paramilitary forces intercepted them in between. While more than 100 people survived with injuries, a few seriously in their eyes and chest, their more than score automobiles were torched.

The second instance was reported in Chee village in Islamabad outskirts where the people had pitched vast tents and set up a community kitchen. As everything was ready, cops raided and set the tents afire. A similar instance was reported from Chandgam village in Pulwama where a score odd tents, a number of bikes, cars, seven tractors and lot many load carriers were destroyed. The people still organized the meeting by pitching new tents and making the rally successful. It has led to a new response from the society. In Samboora, youth chased the group of alleged cops who had descended down the village to undo what the youth had done to host a rally.

Cops are already making movement of people difficult when separatists relax the situation. This war over exercising power, is adding to the simmering discontent. Now if the night curfew is imposed, possibly after the government gets many thousand security men disengaged from yatra, the anger can touch the next level.

A rally was taken out from civil lines area including Natipora, Chanapora and Nowgam on August 05, 2016. Forces intercepted it at Natipora Chowk amid intense tear gassing. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Barring the ‘wait and watch’, the government in Srinagar in not doing anything.  It seemingly has lost a face and the plot. Barring certain transfers in the police set-up, it is unable to think beyond a security response. By next month, the police chief will superannuate paving way for a new boss but that may not salvage a situation that is still being considered a law and order issue. While police have registered more than a 1000 FIRs in “violent” incidents, the intentions of acting against members of security grid in brazen cases of disproportionate use of force and authority is missing.

On August 4, the group of ministers (GoM) overseeing the agenda of alliance, the CMP, met and decided to bifurcate the developmental issues from the political issues. The meeting presided over by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh entrusted the job of follow up on administrative and developmental issues to the Chief Secretary B R Singh so that GoM could spare itself to chase the political part of the CMP. Leadership of the two parties is in touch but it is not known which way the RSS’s Patnitop conclave, the Young Thinkers Meet that Ram Madhav, the BJP point man during power sharing negotiations, is also attending with nearly 80 other delegates, will pull the strings.

The hope in Srinagar’s power corridors is that Delhi may make some gesture offering some face-saver encouraging PDP to attempt an opening in the bleak situation. It remains to be seen if the Prime Minister chooses Lok Sabha for that statement or would like the ramparts of the Red Fort. Or if at all he will oblige his ally.

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