Chaos in Kashmir

In the last couple of days chaos ruled the streets, markets and homes in Kashmir as rumors about India-Pak tension leading to war-like situation in the region run amok. On Saturday, the frenzy in the Valley became apparent as large number of people in a state of panic began hoarding of supplies including food material, fuel and medicine.

The hysteria was further stepped up by the arrests of dozens of Jamat-e-Islam leaders, government’s order of clearing the stocks and large contingents that were rushed to Kashmir. However, Governor Satya Pal Malik while urging the people of Kashmir to maintain calm clarified that additional forces had been called for General Elections that are around the corner. The government also recalled the order on stock clearance, saying that it was done in view of frequent road (highway) closure due to inclement weather. On Sunday the newly appointed government spokesperson Rohit Kansal while addressing a press conference reiterated the call for calm and appealed the people of Valley not to pay heed to rumours.

Meanwhile, the apprehensions over Article 35-A which may be taken up by the Supreme Court have also added fuel to the fire. A slew of measures taken after the deadly Pulwama attack in which at least 40 CRPF personnel were killed, have kept the people here on toes. First, the union government ordered withdrawal of security to separatists followed by some mainstream political leaders. While the local political parties denounced the directions, they have also asserted that it will affect the political activity in the Valley due to existing law and order situation. The ‘war hysteria’ in Kashmir can also be a consequence of jingoistic media reporting especially of some TV channels who seem to have already declared a war in their studios.

Article 35-A hearing, Pulwama attack, attacks on Kashmiris outside the valley, road closure, elections and some steps taken up by the government lately – all of these developments may be responsible for the heightened insecurity in the valley. Former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have tried to convey the eruptive situation that is developing in Kashmir. While it is commendable on the part of the government to come to the rescue of Kashmiri students and offer clarification on some of the developments that have occurred in Kashmir lately, the state affairs must be handled with extra care at this critical time. People also need to be cautious against any malicious content or rumors that are spread over the internet.