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Tension Continues In Kashmir

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Despite the military and police on patrol in Srinagar, the Jammu & Kashmir Government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has failed to control unrest and chaos in the Valley. Within less than four days, from July 30 to August 2, at least 20 civilians were killed in police firing agitating the ordinary people further. Defying the curfew, they took to streets protesting against loss of Kashmiri lives to state-controlled bullets. Alarmed at the unrest in Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to take stock of the situation (August 1). This was the second meeting of CCS in less than a month on tension in Kashmir. The CCS had earlier met on July 7.

During the July 7 meeting, the CCS had favored “maximum crackdown” on miscreants who had contributed to deterioration of the current situation in the Valley. The CCS in its August 1 meeting discussed the proposal received from Chief Minister Abdullah for a dialogue with people representing different shades of opinion. The CCS members also took note of intelligence agencies’ report that majority of Kashmiri protestors were former militants and at present unemployed. Among those who attended the CCS meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Singh were Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defense Minister A.K. Antony and senior bureaucrats from various ministries.

Meanwhile, the Congress party sounded warning signals for the J&K government. The Congress at present supports National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah’s government. The party is upset at his government’s “handling of the situation” and has criticized him for having “failed” to check the continuing violence. The state administration has also “failed in containing influence of separatists whose writ runs large” across the Valley, according to a senior Congress leader. Describing this as a “matter of serious concern,” he said, “The separatists are calling the shots. They are virtually running a parallel administration.”

It would, however, be erroneous to assume that all Kashmiris have taken to streets in response to call of separatists. They have a definite reason to be agitated if unarmed people of their region are shot at for no fault of theirs. For them living in curfew-clamped areas, despite their being innocent and not linked with militants, is equivalent to their own houses serving as prisons for them. Considering that such tension has prevailed for several weeks, Kashmiris cannot be expected to accept such a situation beyond a certain degree and phase of time. Since June, more than 35 Kashmiris, either in their teens or early 20s, have died in police firing while protesting.

Ironically, while J&K Chief Minister has tried giving the impression that he understands “anger” in Kashmiri youth, he also has indirectly accepted that his government has not been able to perform as expected. While appealing for peace, he said: “I know the youth of the Valley is angry…it sees no hope…no light in this darkness. I want to lead them…show them light but only if my government gets a chance to work.” (August 1)

Omar asked the people to cooperate with him in restoring calm in J&K. “There are people in the Valley who want the cycle of deaths and killings to continue…I don’t want them to win. I want your cooperation to defeat these elements who are using the blood of the youth for their political interests,” he said. Omar expressed his willingness to take “10 steps” forward if only the people took “one step” and helped in ending tension. He assured the youth that the state government would soon start a massive recruitment drive.

Earlier, Omar announced formation of three ministerial teams for Baramulla, Anantnag and Pulwama districts, which will work with citizen groups for speedy restoration of peace.

The gravity of the situation was further highlighted with J&K Chief Minister rushing to Delhi, where he discussed the issue with Prime Minister Singh, Home Minister and other members of CCS, following which he addressed a press conference (August 2). A political solution by taking measures was “possible if both center and state are able to restore normalcy,” Omar said. While evading from naming any particular group as responsible for the chaos, he said: “There are a number of elements fishing in trouble waters. It is largely leaderless. As Chief Minister, it is not possible for me to suggest as to who is directing these protests.” He said that he had requested the center for deploying additional forces to check the increasing cycle of protests, violence and firing. At the same time, he accepted that forces were stretched in the state. Omar emphasized: “People should stop taking law into their hands and attacking police stations and government buildings. Consequences of such action are often serious and tragic. I have been appealing to people to stop this lawlessness.”

Tension in the Valley has certainly given separatist leaders sufficient reason to issue their statements. Syed Ali Geelani, senior detained Hurriyat leader has condemned the killing of peaceful protestors in “indiscriminate firing” of Indian police. He described it as the “worst kind of Indian state terrorism.” He appealed to Organization of Islamic Conference to hold an urgent meeting on the worsening situation and take steps to “stop genocide of Kashmiris by Indian forces.”


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