Schools and education are the new targets in Kashmir. While it is business as usual with pellets, bullets and teargas (though in much lesser quantities) coupled with massive crackdowns and arrests under public safety act, more unhealthy trends are emerging. Masked men have appeared on streets hurling petrol bombs, militants have made their presence felt in civilian areas with rounds of firing or simply sighted with guns, standing crops have been set ablaze and now schools have been burnt down. Is there a pattern? Are these unrelated incidents? And who is behind this fresh madness that has been induced as Kashmir crisis shows no signs of ebbing, though predictably so. There are no easy answers.
Of particular concern is the burning of schools that further hits the education sector that has been virtually shut down, like everything else, since July. Mehbooba has directly blamed the separatists and the Hurriyat has obliquely held the government responsible. Kashmir has been a conflict for long and thus by virtue of that is entrenched with multiple agency networks from both sides of the borders as well as other vested interests who have cashed in on such situations of chaos. The need, therefore, is not to engage in blame game but in cobbling up collective strength and a collective effort, based on convergence of interests, to ameliorate the situation. All sides need to play a role and the biggest responsibility lies on the shoulders of New Delhi, which unfortunately is dictated by a confrontationist and rigid mindset. It should have realized by now that neither the pellet guns and bullets, nor the crackdowns and heaps of arrests have the ability to induce calm in the Valley. These methods instead have only exacerbated the levels of anger even though there is a visible decrease in violent protests. The natural fallout of such a policy is to perpetuate and even accentuate a crisis. The comparative calm may not be as much a culmination of fear out of military and brutal reprisal but appears to stem from fatigue due to prolonged strikes, curfews and stifling atmosphere. This fatigue does not imbue hope but injects liberal doses of skepticism and cynicism within a society, and together with prolonged period of violence and restrictions, this creates space for chaos and vulnerability at multiple levels.
Ideally, the Centre should have seized this opportunity of fatigue and built on it to induce necessary confidence building measures and begin a political initiative. But it shows neither any understanding nor any inclination to do so. In the face of that, the responsibility of the lesser powerful groups and individuals increases. They cannot wait till eternity for wisdom to dawn in the corridors of power at the highest echelons. They must respond without indulging in the blame game. Statements reveal unanimity of concern over the recent incidents, particularly burning of schools. Whatever the mystery behind these incidents, it is clear that vested interests do not want either restoration of calm or re-opening of schools and educational institutions. It is important to thwart the designs of such interests. Fair probes to pin the blame are indeed important. Equally it is important to condemn these incidents and collectively so, without turning the gutted school buildings into some kind of a political playground.
The situation calls for some kind of opening of channels of negotiation at the local level where all stakeholders can take charge and responsibility for ameliorating the situation and bringing education sector back on rails. This needs to be based on the basic understanding that calm is crucial for the way ahead, irrespective of political beliefs and ideologies. Violence in any form, militancy and brutal response to these resulting in chaos cannot lead to a meaningful resolution of Kashmir dispute. It is only ultimately through a dialogue that Kashmir’s political tangle can be resolved. All stakeholders need to understand that and need to step back a little to allow reason to fill in the gap, not miscreants, chaos and complete lawlessness.
The ultimate key, however, is in the hands of New Delhi which must understand the compelling need for dialogue at both the Kashmir level as well as one with Pakistan. The more it abdicates its responsibility, the more the descent into chaos and consequently, the tougher the task of reconciliation, dialogue and resolution. The absence of dialogue and the much needed compassionate response only deepens the wounds of people in Kashmir which fuel the Kashmir situation – from boil to fatigue and back to boil again. How long are we going to move in these vicious circles?
News Updated at : Saturday, October 29, 2016