Circa 2013

Notwithstanding the resolves that leaders and policy makers might have had for 2013 but nothing much changed in Kashmir. While recurrence of any summer turmoil was stemmed, Kashmir remained in a sort of crisis over the hanging of Afzal Guru, an event with which the year took off. During the year, there was Gool crisis that was later followed by communal clashes in the communally sensitive Kishtwar town.

The major change that was expected to take place in 2013 was some kind of shift in the policy that New Delhi has towards Kashmir, both on security and the political fronts. Also expected was some concrete measures between India and Pakistan that would enable the nascent CBM at the LoC to be taken forward. Nothing much happened.

Since the AFSPA has been in place for nearly a quarter century, the debates that ensued over the issue were indicative of some changes in its implementation. Even the state government was quite euphoric by the end of 2012 that the law might witness a selective rollback. But nobody talked about AFSPA, neither the state nor the central government. Indications suggest that AFSPA would stay in place for 2014 as well because the policy makers would anticipate increased militant activities because of the assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

On the political front, a general expectation was that New Delhi might pick up the interlocutors report and identify some of the areas that could be thought about. Already, the recommendations that were made by various Working Groups were rusting in the MHA. But nothing of that sort took place even after the interlocutors personally campaigned for it. There were, however, feelers that the Delhi might resume some sort of formal engagement with the moderate peaceniks.

On the bilateral front between India and Pakistan, nothing very healthy took place in one complete year that witnessed a new elected government taking over in Islamabad. Instead of improving the half-hearted initiatives that have been taken in recent past, the LoC was boiling for most of the year in violation of an agreed ceasefire during Vajpayee era. After lot of clashes, migrations and display of jingoism, the tempers started cooling. The latest on the front was the meeting of DGMOs of the two countries in which they assured each other that the ceasefire will not be disturbed.

The most interesting development of the year was the German ambassadors flying Jewish conductor Zubin Mehta for a concert to Shalimar. It triggered a response in a parallel show by the civil society. The interesting part of was that the TV channels had to split their screen to broadcast the two events, exhibiting two different realities of Kashmir. Credit goes to the diplomat for organizing this event that led more people to understand Kashmir better than pre-Zubin days. The success of the parallel event encouraged the society to a level that they initiated a fierce debate on the lease of Tosamaidan. This indicated that society is using all the non-violent means to get heard and noticed.

Changes did take place in Kashmir in the year that was but the pace was slow and gradual. Now 2014 is expected to be more eventful.

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