Into Half Year, Finally

By Khursheed Wani

On December 8, the anti-India uprising triggered by rebel Burhan Wani’s killing, completed five months, surpassing the previous records of rebellious courses in Kashmir. Around this signpost, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also completed eight months in office exhibiting a complete transformation from a healing touch ambassador to a ruler justifying excessive use of force to kill and maim unarmed protesters.

To the chief minister’s solace, the manifestations of rebellion are diminishing with each passing day. This week she travelled to Kulgam and Awantipora in south Kashmir and showed up at a sports event in a fortified Srinagar indoor stadium filled with sports enthusiasts to pass a message that the situation was quickly returning to normal. If we compare the situation with the days when, as per police records, around 40,000 people pelted stones on the government forces on a single day in July, the situation has improved a lot. The shutdown schedules imposed by the separatist triumvirate has lost efficacy, the attendance in government offices is usual and the difficulties faced by the commuters not owning private cars have also lessened to a great deal.

Joint resistance leadership (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
Joint resistance leadership (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Amid this scenario, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, who donned the mantle of spearheading the post-Burhan rebellion, came up with a statement to welcome the tourists and Hindu pilgrims (yatris) to Kashmir. The ‘welcome’ was announced suddenly and without any overt context. The inherent conflict in the statement is that the next day, the trio issued yet another shutdown schedule asking people to hold protest demonstrations and observe complete shutdown for four days (lawyers exempted) of the week. There is no yatra in the offing as Amarnath pilgrimage is a summer affair and routine tourism inflow is traditionally not a winter business.

But a day after the ‘welcome statement’, a former Indian bureaucrat and astute Kashmir hand, Wajahat Habibullah announced another visit of a group of civil society members led by senior BJP leader and former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha. The group is arriving for 5-day stay in Kashmir from December 10, to pick up a process of informal dialogue with ‘stakeholders’ from the point they left it after their first visit on October 25. This time the group is expected to be bigger with some more influential persons joining the bandwagon.

The groups’ first visit brought some perceptible changes on the ground though the members refrained from linking the initiative to Delhi’s backing. Initially, it was projected that the group would submit its report to the ministry of home affairs but subsequently it was released to the media as well. It  essentially highlighted the gravity of the ground situation, the level of disaffection amongst Kashmiris and the essence of engagement and initiation of dialogue process with all stakeholders including the ‘separatists’. The government of India skipped responding to the report.

The separatists offered the requisite credibility to the initiative by welcoming the group with open arms. Geelani’s doors were wide open unlike to the detachment of lawmakers from the all-party delegation led by home minister on September 4. Shortly after Sinha-led team’s visit, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik were relocated to their homes from the detention and were occasionally allowed to move around and interact. Malik was even allowed to show up at Tral, Kulgam and Shopian to meet people who emerged as the symbols of the 2016 uprising. Mirwaiz also delivered the weekly sermon at Jamia Masjid for the first time after the central mosque was locked down for 19 consecutive Fridays, an unprecedented ban that had potential to raise passions and throw the volatile downtown area into disorder.

The Sinha-led group has urged upon the separatist leaders to help in resuming educational activities through school reopening and conduct of examinations. They refused but the authorities went ahead with the schedule of conducting class X and XII exams, no matter how much the quality, credibility and sanctity of the exams was compromised. The massive participation in the examinations dealt a huge dent to the efficacy of “calendars”.

The US President-elect Donald Trump’s conversation with Nawaz Sharief, the happenings at the Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar and the border escalation in Jammu and Kashmir especially the Nagrota attack cannot be delinked with the internal situation in Kashmir. This is the reason why separatist leadership is seeking to perpetuate the situation till willingness emerges in Delhi to officially engage with Pakistan and them.

American president-elect Donald Trump and Pakisatn Prime Minister Nawaz Shrief (Source: Internet)
American president-elect Donald Trump and Pakisatn Prime Minister Nawaz Shrief (Source: Internet)

While the separatist leadership is caught between devil and deep sea on the decision to chalk out future course, this is not a rosy situation for Mehbooba Mufti. The apparent improvement in the situation is linked to common man’s urge to return to normalcy. The contribution of her government to this semblance of normalcy is, so far, highhandedness of the government forces, muzzling the dissent voices, arresting hundreds of youngsters and perpetual hunt for those who have not been neutralized. The villagers are hunted, haunted and humiliated as they were in 1990s. There is trail of miseries and level of disaffection for the incumbent government.

In this backdrop, Sinha-led delegation’s follow up visit to Valley would be interesting to watch.

(The author is senior journalist with The Pioneer)



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