Future Imperfect

because 2011 was a good one, it is no guarantee that 2012 will be a better one. So, we are already preparing for the next year.”
So said the chief minister Omar Abdullah.

A fragile calm after three consecutive years of unrest was a surprise to the establishment in Srinagar as well as New Delhi, a strategic retreat to some separatists and a ‘very well’ considered recuperation period for the business community. But the CM’s statement of caution is deeply reflective of how shaken the government is by the events of 2010. It is also an acknowledgement that nothing structural has changed despite a visit by an all-party delegation (something that happened for the first time since 1990 when Kashmir erupted against Indian rule) and a yearlong exercise by the official interlocutors’ trio that was tasked to suggest ways of resolving the “unique” Kashmir issue.

The lack of confidence the CM is displaying can also be read as a pressure tactic by Omar Abdullah who seems to be pre-empting ‘trouble’. What it may also mean is that the establishment in the state is sending a message to New Delhi that securised measures alone cannot ensure stability in the state and the time at hand should be used evolve genuine political measures to diffuse simmering anger in the valley.

The past few months have brought some pressure on New Delhi on the issue of unmarked graves energized by the SHRC and more recently by a call to reopen the KunanPoshpora mass rape case against the army by the Commission. While this may signal ‘responsiveness’ of the state’s institutions, for the common people of the state it is all in the past.

The state’s security establishment tried everything, from sports events to sundry ways of ‘engaging the youth’, to retain calm in the embattled state. But when the CM says that there is “no guarantee that 2012 will be a better” year he may be aware that the next year will demand more substantive political measures for a movement away from the contested status quo. He is calling upon New Delhi to move fast in delivering a structural change on the ground in the state before the opportunity is lost again.

New Delhi should also be worried about the fact that a different Kashmir discourse – than it has been happy with so far – is becoming pronounced in the Indian mainland. Kashmir is perhaps beginning to articulate its case much better and in clearer ways than ever before. And, the young are forcing open new spaces within the Indian civil society. This is a situation in which ‘deceptive’ and ‘time buying’ approaches may not work anymore.
Has the CM recognized this?

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