UNEXPLAINED PANIC IN KASHMIR

Blaming the public for ensuing chaos in the Valley amounts to shirking from the responsibility of good governance
Amidst the spiraling panic in Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik on Tuesday sought to put the entire onus of the ensuing chaos on the public and their weakness of relying on rumours. While describing the situation as normal and there being no threat of abrogation of Article 35A, he said that the official orders in circulation on the social media were ‘invalid’. Last week, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) officer in Kashmir in a communique to the railway employees, asked them to store “ration, drinking water and essentials” and prepare for the “deteriorating law and order”. In a belated move on Monday, the officer was transferred as part of damage control. On Tuesday, the Governor suggested that the order in circulation was fake and had given rise to a simple rumour. The explanation remains insufficient. If indeed the order was fake, then why was the RPF officer transferred out as part of punishment. Also, if the orders were mischievously put in circulation by some miscreants, why was there no enquiry ordered, as also suggested by National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah, who said, “Fake orders were circulated under the signature of senior government officers. This is not something that can be dismissed with a simple sound bite by the Governor.” The Governor’s remarks also do not explain the other sources of the panic that is being generated in the Valley with speculations that BJP-government would tinker with Article 35A soon after Amarnath yatra is over.

A day before he reacted to the RPF order, the Jammu & Kashmir Police issued a note to all its Superintendent of Police level officers to provide list and details of mosques located across the Kashmir valley. The details sought included the name of the mosque, ideological affiliation, name of the local imam and the management head. While police officials have called this a routine exercise to profile all religious places, why has it been leaked in the media at a time when the Valley is already reeling under immense uncertainty and insecurity. Besides, the said order has singled out only mosques and not other places, making it a case of religious profiling. The mosques are already under surveillance and all the information pertaining to them is already available with the government, Muslim Auqaf Trust and the police. The fresh survey being ordered is definitely not without a reason but the government is either unable to explain or trying to hide something.

Such mysterious trends in the Valley are further coupled by union home ministry’s announcement for extra-troops in the Valley. What is worse is that while the Centre is tight-lipped on why this was considered necessary, different officials have offered to explain in different ways. While the Governor’s advisor maintained that mobilisation of 10,000 additional troops was a deliberate and calculated response to the need of security grid in view of Amarnath yatra, local police officers have opined that the fresh troops are meant to replace the previous ones in a phased manner. Yet another security officer, quoted in national media, had hinted at worsening security situation which is at odds with Governor’s claims that everything is normal in the Valley. If there is anybody to be blamed for the rumours and the confusion, it is the state and the central government who have been reckless enough, if not deliberate, in making announcements pertaining to a state as sensitive as Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, either the state government as well as the centre were not treading carefully in dealing with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or both of them were insensitive to the needs of the people. A clarification should come from no less than the Prime Minister’s Office on what New Delhi intends to do in Kashmir. Persistence of this atmosphere can be further dangerous for the already fragile eco-system of the Valley.