Mystifying stone pelting

The Centre must desist from weaving myths about Kashmir and instead make a political intervention.Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar has a penchant for speaking the most ridiculous of things. After suggesting an alteration of India’s nuclear doctrine and promotion of nuclear strikes with a sense of responsibility, an oxymoronic phrase on its own, Parrikar has now claimed that the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has brought the terror funding to zero and that the move has stopped the stone pelting in Kashmir. The statement is a reflection of his ignorance of both the impact of the demonetization of currency notes and the Kashmir situation. Needless to say that it is neither based on any ground assessment of the situation, nor supported by any evidence.

It would be premature to believe that the demonetization step has had any impact on terror funding and hawala money channels, leave alone have any impact on black money or corruption channels, which may in all probability thrive even more. Secondly, the remarks tend to de-legitimise the indigenous nature of the Kashmir unrest and the element of spontaneity involved even if the inducement of money factor is deemed to be true. The perils of such irresponsible and unjustified ways of self-congratulation cannot be ignored and overlooked. In the past several months ever since unrest erupted in Kashmir post Burhan Wani killing, similar irresponsible remarks that tend to normalize the situation or ignore the spontaneous nature of protests have acted as agent provocateurs, forbidding the tempers from cooling down.

Despite that, there has been a considerable decrease in the stone pelting protests and clashes with security forces in recent months and the decline has been gradual and happened much before the Indian prime minister came out with the currency change shocker. According to a report quoting police officials, in September, there were 535 incidents of stone throwing. In October, that figure shrunk to 79. In November, only 49 such incidents were reported. While officials attribute the gradual drop to a massive clampdown on stone pelting youth with massive arrests, mostly under public safety act, the fatigue factor due to the four month long agitation is also likely to have played its role. Besides, there has been no visible change in the patterns of violence which still go on, though now restricted to certain days and certain pockets, or in response to fresh violations of human rights abuse. There is no evidence to suggest that demonitisation of currency has increased or decreased in any way the stone pelting in Kashmir or induced any magical admiration among the angered and alienated Kashmiri masses for Indian mainstream.

The BJP government at the Centre should not only ensure a moratorium on such clownish remarks with respect to a serious issue but should also shun the false beliefs and myths about Kashmir. The government needs to grapple with the truth about Kashmir and stop pampering its delusions with false beliefs that the only thing propelling the Kashmir unrest was money and much worse that the step of de-validating currency notes has stopped the flow of that money. Instead, now that protests are on the wane, the government should seize the occasion and prepare ground for intervention at two levels – one at the political level and second at the humanitarian level. In view of large scale trauma owing to brutality, choking atmosphere, restrictions, arrests and an economy in shambles, some meaningful interventions on humanitarian grounds will help build confidence for initiating a political dialogue. To that end, gearing up the legal justice system to address the issue of human rights violations would be the most effective confidence building measure. However, by remaining in denial, the government will not be able to address the Kashmir issue despite all the might of the security forces it employs or the reckless and undeserved self-congratulatory statements it seeks to make.