Fresh unrest in Valley

Human rights abuse must be addressed, restrictions withdrawn to meet the promise Mufti made while assuming power

The series of events in Kashmir Valley are more than disturbing. The Tral killing last week, mired in mystery, with army and police versions characterised by dissimilarities and in striking contrast to the assertions of the family of the slain youth, had already prepared ground for enhancement of skepticism and disenchantment of the masses. The killing of a civilian by security personnel in Narabal on Saturday has further compounded the situation and brought Kashmir Valley to a situation where flow of anger comes easily. Acting as catalysts to this anger are the re-imposition of restrictions on separatist leaders and the re-arrest of Masarat Alam for allegedly hoisting Pakistani flags and raising Pakistani slogans.

The situation today is in striking contrast to the promise of addressing peoples’ wounds and initiating dialogue by providing conducive atmosphere to people and democratic space to separatists made by chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed ever since he assumed the reins of power. There can be nothing more unacceptable than cops and security forces enjoying unbridled freedom to misuse the power they enjoy and indulge in gross violations of human rights like killing, torture and rapes.

The Narabal killing on Saturday morning when a teenager was picked up during street protests and shot dead at allegedly point blank range is a gruesome murder, condemnable and unpardonable. The state government suddenly caught in a whirlpool of fast turning events has not wasted much time in ordering an investigation and arresting two cops for violating Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and committing grave human rights abuse. The immediate response is far different from what one witnessed in 2010 when one death, ignored with virtual derision by the government, lead to an ugly chain reaction of protests and gory deaths, turning the streets of Kashmir Valley into free slaughter houses with security personnel and police enjoying unlimited freedom to treat every civilian as a sitting duck. The arrest of the cops may be able to contain some amount of anger and prevent it from over-spilling but not quite if the Mufti led government hopes for things to settle simply with cosmetic and temporary arrests and ultimately fails to ensure fast track justice in this case. Already, Mufti is being accused of buckling under pressure from the Central government and its alliance partner in re-arresting Masarat Alam and re-imposing restrictions on separatist leaders. Whether Alam did indeed hoist Pakistani flags as is alleged, it is a matter of probe but the issue does not merit the over-hype that has been associated with the incident, though such alleged acts cannot be justified. 

Trouble is brewing for the Jammu and Kashmir government, just one and a half months after it was sworn-in, with the perils of two ideologically opposed parties entering into an alliance for power but with the promise of peace, reconciliation and dialogue. The situation, as the chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed admits, is indeed complicated. It may be the beginning of a storm or a passing moment. The present state government can reflect on very recent history to learn that if it is unable to play its cards well, it may be doomed to follow the Omar Abdullah government way.

The present chief minister is known to be clever and shrewd enough to avert that possibility. He would also like to sincerely carry the peace process vis-a-vis India Pakistan and vis-a-vis Kashmir forward and facilitate an inter-regional dialogue at various levels and also be a catalyst in making atmosphere conducive for the same. But a millstone around his neck remains his alliance partner BJP which is known for its historic contempt for Kashmiris and the same party is also in power at the Centre, which has in six decades shown that it can go a few extra inches to control the politics of the most complex state in the country. It is hoped that BJP rises above its petty politics with respect to Kashmir and learns to deal with it with the sensitivity it deserves, something which Congress miserably failed to do. It must give Mufti the free leverage to operate but given its ideological moorings it may not. In that case the state government is faced with limitations that are far too many. Will Mufti be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat?