Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s revelation that the situation in troubled Jammu and Kashmir has “ improved dramatically “ for the past two years is yet another proof of the rulers in New Delhi living in a world of make-believe . His claim that there was “ no resonance for secessionism and azadi ( freedom ) among the people of the State is a clear case of self-deception and delusion . It appears to be a follow-up of the visit of Rahul Gandhi to Srinagar with some captains of the corporate sector with a promise of job opportunities and socio-economic development . The tightest ever security bandobust during his brief visit and curbs on the youth to keep them away from the venue of his interaction with the Kashmiri youth can hardly be considered as signs of peace and normalcy.
The ground situation in the Valley is far from what the rulers in New Delhi or even the State chief minister , sitting in ivory towers and far removed from the masses , imagine or understand . If the situation has dramatically improved , peace has prevailed and voices of secession or freedom are silent in Kashmir then what prevents the rulers in the State and at the Centre from scraping the draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( AFSPA) , State Public Safety Act ( PSA) , which have been used as instruments of repression and coercion to silence the people’s voice and crush their political urges and aspirations ?
Why the armed forces numbering over half-a-million are not removed from the civilian areas to the barracks ? Why a large number of para-military forces are parading the streets and the fileds in the Valley , frisking and frightening the common citizens ? Why curbs are being placed on the free movement of the people in general and the separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani in particular ? Why they are being arrested and put under house arrest on each and every occasion ? Why hundreds of people including the minors are still languishing in jails and why cases ainst the political leaders have not been withdrawn ? Why cant the chief minister and others in the establishment move freely without any kind of security set up ?
One wished that peace and normalcy return to the troubled state which has been passing through a traumatic experience for the past over 22 years . One also would like to see the people’s democratic rights restored and all curbs on them removed forthwith . Whenever such demands are made the stock reply by those at the helm has been that the situation is not ripe for that . The demand for repeal of AFSPA is pooh-poohed by the army and civilian establishment citing the reasons of militancy and the popular resentment for it .
The presence of a large number of armed forces, continued enforcement of draconian laws which infringe on citizens fundamental rights , lodging of hundreds of youth and political leaders in jails , frisking of citizens cannot be described as signs of pcae and normalcy. The comparative calm on the surface reflects the people’s desire for avoiding bloodshed and killings as they know that the trigger-happy police and armed forces are waiting for opening the mouths of their guns .The reality is that the people’s resentment and their estrangement from New Delhi has increased during the past three and half years of Omar Abdullah-led government’s misgovernance and repression let loose on them .
Tragically, instead of bridging the gulf and overcoming the trust-deficit by taking necessary confidence building measures those at the helm want to sidetrack the basic issue and maintain status-quo . They must understand that neither the basic Kashmir problem nor the widespread unrest and alienation can be wished away by either repeatedly asserting that Kashmir is an integral part of India or claiming that the situation has changed dramatically and the people no more favour secession or azadi . For bringing peace and normalcy and for putting an end to voices of secession it is imperature to take steps for winning over the hearts and minds of the estranged people of Kasdhmir. For this New Delhi will have to establish a rapport with them and initiate a meaningful process of dialogue for addressing their concerns and finding a just and democratic solution of the problem.