Eye of the Storm!

If the present ominous lull in Kashmir is like the typical eye of a storm, then all concerned need to take immediate corrective action to prevent the other part hitting them in June!

One has the possibility of being branded a pessimist or a dooms day sayer if one considers the present calm in the valley as a temporary lull. However, keeping in view the history of Kashmir’s numerous upheavals it is safe to say that the present lull is the proverbial eye of the storm.

The cyclonic disturbances usually have front and rear storms while passing over a place. In the middle, known as the eye of the storm, there is exceptional calm. It is very deceptive and gives the feel that the storm is over. But then the rear hits with a vengeance! For last 60 years Kashmir has witnessed countless storms. Things have even reached a point of no return many times but then again we came back to square one! Kashmiri has most of the time been an unpredictable character. In the middle of a storm one gets the feeling that the game is over and soon Kashmir would be “free” but then comes a time when one wonders whether the storm was real or just an illusion? A person who visits Kashmir during a political storm and the days of calm would be totally confused. The reason often given especially by historians is the centuries of oppression which have sharpened the survival instincts of a Kashmiri. He knows when to rise and when to stop but does not give up! As a foreign author has remarked an outsider can never know what is really in the heart of a Kashmiri! He never genuinely and truly opens up before an outsider. A kind word and a joke get the best out of him!

People are confused regarding the outcome of the recent 6 month long agitation. Did it achieve anything? There are several views on the subject. Some feel that the greatest achievement has been the revival of the dormant Kashmir dispute. The issue had been put on the back-burner by both the Indian authorities and the world at large. Even though the problem in Kashmir continues to be on the back burner for the west and the world at large, yet the Indian authorities seem to be more concerned now about its resolution. Last three years of occasional turmoil in the valley has brought in a change in the thinking of a section of the Indian Civil Society and there is appreciable sympathy for the sufferings of the Kashmiris. This has been more so during the current year because of the peaceful and basically non-violent character of the movement notwithstanding attempts by a certain section of the bureaucracy and the security establishment to connect militants with stone pelting. They have always tried to overlook the fact that the stone pelting or other violence is a reaction to the suppression of peaceful protests. In fact, the Union Home Minister himself on the interim report of the interlocutors has remarked that there is necessity of allowing peaceful protests! This in itself is an admission of the use of excessive force to quell the peaceful movement.

As in the past, the tactics being used by Delhi seem to be usual ones for conflict management and not for final resolution of the problem. They are again trying to buy time. However, they should consider the fact that the traditional leadership itself is confused and are in the dark about the future plans of the new generation. There is a small window made available by the onset of winter which is usually a time for hibernation in Kashmir. Everything freezes under a blanket of snow but the spring is not far behind! The so called mainstream politicians who were slightly singed by the scorching heat of the turmoil are busy in a disinformation campaign. They are repeatedly taking the line that the six months agitation has only got misery and disruption for the common people. They are feeling apprehensive that they may lose the power if Delhi decides to act earnestly in resolving the problem. However, this time it may not be possible for them to take the common people for a ride as has been happening in the past. The anger is too high and continues to simmer. There is already a whisper campaign going on about the “Blood revenge in June”! The origin of the whisper is not known but many people seem to be talking about it in their conversations. In Kashmir every rumour has some basis even though the substance may have got distorted in circulation. Delhi instead of talking should take some concrete measures to lessen the alienation. There are no two opinions that the major cause of alienation is the excessive use of force and an overwhelming security grid all over the valley. Kashmir has been converted into a security camp. The civilian side is conspicuous by its absence. The most visible presence everywhere in the urban as well as rural areas of the valley is of security forces of all hues and shades with no accountability. The authorities are still debating and discussing whether there should be some accountability. In spite of the visit of so many delegations there has not been a sizeable and really appreciable movement on the ground. Cosmetic measures of removing 24 odd bunkers out of 400 in the city itself do not show the sincerity of the authorities in giving a real healing touch. Kashmiris are keen observers.

They are also very patient and their patience sometimes borders on passivity! But the new generation is not so much acclimatised to the historical happenings and seems to be very impatient. They are also leaderless or so it appears overtly.

One does not know what is happening covertly? Connecting them to militants or to the agencies across the border would be a colossal blunder. It has been amply demonstrated that the present movement in Kashmir is indigenous. The youth have reached the limit of their patience. So is the case with other generations. Kashmir truly has an eye of the storm passing over it.

Delhi should make best use of it to sort out the problem once and for all not only internally but externally also. If they do so, the storm will dissipate. In the alternative it is going to hit us harder and may turn into a cyclonic disturbance engulfing the entire sub-continent!