Kashmir Valley ceases to spring shocks. The latest one is the brutal and dastardly killing of Islamic cleric and Jamait-e-Ahle-Hadith chief Maulana Showkat. The loss of the separatist leader, known for his moderate views and his repeated calls for peaceful modes of agitation is indeed a great one for the Valley in these distressing times when frustration has sunk in deeply and alienation is at an all time high. The incident naturally inspires horror and grief, and with that fear, panic and confusion. The people of the Valley came out in the streets to reiterate their opposition to the cult of violence to which they have been so routinely exposed. While it needs to be probed who is behind the killing, it is important to understand that restlessness and despair that reached its crescendo last summer, and despite the evasive calm has not ebbed, creates a conducive atmosphere for this culture of violence which takes its toll, not only in terms of loss of precious human lives but also has a long term psychological and social impact that is dangerous. The government has made no earnest effort to even win over an iota of confidence of the people ever since the summer agitation ended with a long and shocking list of 112 deaths, another one adding up a month ago with a woman succumbing to her injuries after several months. The only FIR registered is in the case of Tufail Mattoo, the first person to have been killed in the aftermath of the Machil fake encounter. That too after a prolonged legal battle in the court. Investigation and prosecution of the cases, which should have been a normal practice under law, has been denied. The government promised an inquiry commission in only 17 of the cases and that commission, doubtful as its integrity stands out to be, has not even come out with its report still, despite several extensions. The progress of the case in the Machil fake encounter, in which five people were killed, itself is quite tardy. Obviously, the faith of the Kashmiris in the legal justice system is totally shattered. Far from ensuring the safety and protection of the people and thereafter denying any process of legal justice, behind the false façade of confidence building and reconciliation, there has been constant state sponsored harassment of the people in the Valley through continuum of random arrests, many of them booked under public safety act.
It took a long time for the government to even sit up to the fact that a minor had been illegally booked under the draconian PSA and responded with emphatic denials and stage managed medical tests till a massive campaign was built up against minor boy Faizan’s incarceration. After nine long months, the Kashmir Bar president Mian Abdul Qayoom, detained under PSA was released, and as yet there is no basis to justify his arrest in the first place. Delayed as they are, these two releases in recent days fail to measure up to a genuine confidence building effort. The fact remains that hundreds of youth and teenagers have been arrested along with separatist leaders and those with an ideology that does not suit the government. The recent Amnesty International report has rightly pointed out how the government in Jammu and Kashmir has been focusing on keeping so many people ‘out of circulation’ by detaining them under PSA. Even as Mian Qayoom and Faizan was released, many more persons have found their way to jails and vast chunks of population are still facing the threat of routine crackdowns and harassment. Such a policy does not make a recipe for a conducive atmosphere for peace. Rather, it facilitates incidents like Maulana Showkat’s killing, which is obviously the handiwork of vested interests who want to vitiate the atmosphere. Such vested interests, both state sponsored and non-state players, are burning midnight oil to vitiate the atmosphere. A responsive government should understand the designs and rein in atleast its own official agencies at work, an effort that would also squeeze the space of non state vested interests in getting away with violent, brutal and disruptive acts.