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Rediff.com  » News » View from Kashmir: The lengthening shadow of Afzal Guru's gallows

View from Kashmir: The lengthening shadow of Afzal Guru's gallows

February 11, 2013 14:38 IST

The impression in the valley that Kashmir is not only 'expendable' for buttressing New Delhi's partisan interests, but also a preferred choice to do so, is getting strengthened, feels veteran Kashmir commentator Mohammad Sayeed Malik.

The inherent complexity and unpredictability of the knotty ground situation in Kashmir is, once again, asserting itself in the wake of the fallout of Afzal Guru's execution in New Delhi on January 9.

Leaving aside the so-called anti-India camp, the pro-accession forces are gripped by mortal fear of its eventual consequences. The ruling National Conference-Congress coalition is not on the same page. The National Conference's governmental wing is out of tune with its organisational apparatus; the chief minister has been labouring hard to distance himself from 'Delhi,' that is generally perceived as 'India' in the Kashmir valley.

The Peoples Democratic Party -- the major pro-India Opposition bloc -- finds itself caught in an awkward, precarious, position and, more than anything else, the emotional disconnect between Kashmir and 'India' is, yet again, ominously potent.

The unsettling effect of these developments is beginning to show itself in various ways. The trend of scaling down the presence of security forces in Kashmir, as a consequence of 'normalcy' on the ground, has been reversed with the rushing in of paramilitary forces to cope with the possible fallout of Afzal Guru's execution.

The Kashmir valley has been virtually gagged into the silence of the graveyard, demolishing the facade of peace and stability.

Feeling the heat under its feet, the National Conference and its Abdullah dynasty-dominated leadership have been emitting confusing political signals.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's uncle Dr Mustafa Kamal, the National Conference's additional general secretary as well as its spokesperson, has sharpened his familiar 'anti-New Delhi' rhetoric.

The chief minister has been labouring hard to position himself closer to the predominant sentiment on the ground by claiming -- unconvincingly -- that he was not kept in the loop until the last moment and that Afzal Guru's hanging was a 'selective' action.

Usually loud and clear, the PDP has been fumbling for words to define its precise position on the Afzal Guru issue. It is caught between its conflicting desires of symbolising the sentiment on the ground and protecting its pro-accession image beyond Kashmir.

With Mustafa Kamal -- virtually let loose by his family and the party -- going on the political rampage, the PDP is trying to match his 'anti-Delhi' (synonymous with anti-India) sentiment in the Kashmir valley.

The Congress finds itself in an equally precarious position. Afzal Guru's hanging has suddenly turned its image in the crucial political ground of the Kashmir valley as that of a villain even as it stands to benefit in the Jammu region.

The local Congress leadership has virtually lost its voice. Only a couple of days ago, its political campaign was unusually strident across the valley, with its ministers in the coalition government counting the 'blessings' flowing from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi.

The plight of the 'moderate' separatists led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is almost equally pathetic. At a time when the way was sought to be paved for resumption of dialogue with New Delhi, especially after the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat leaders's 'officially blessed' recent Pakistan visit, Afzal Guru's hanging has unravelled everything.

In a way, even the hardliner component of the Hurriyat, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is unsure of its position.

As was seen during the mass uprising in 2010, it is the current flow on the ground that dictates the course of events at the political and organisational levels, rather than vice- versa.

A whole new generation, brought up on the 'alienation' diet and self-empowered by social networking, has become too assertive to be manipulated from above or below.

It is this particular aspect of the situation that makes even Omar Abdullah visualise 'greater emotional alienation' in the wake of Afzal Guru's hanging.

Potential implications of this genuine fear factor are hard to imagine. The state administration was struck by paralysis as the two month-long agitation in 2010 consumed over a hundred precious lives in police firing. Those scars are still raw.

Governance in Kashmir has never been anywhere near what it generally is in other parts of the country. A seasoned administrator, Governor N N Vohra, in his public speeches, stresses the significance of good governance and, in his discreet style, keeps prodding the coalition government in the state to improve its performance in this sphere.

Any hope of improvement on that front is unthinkable, at least in the foreseeable future.

The timing of Afzal Guru's hanging also reveals a clash of interests between New Delhi and Srinagar. The ruling coalition parties, the National Conference and Congress, had just begun to step out and mobilise support ahead of the assembly election due next year.

Right or wrong, the impression in the valley that Kashmir is not only 'expendable' for buttressing New Delhi's partisan interests, but also a preferred choice to do so, is getting strengthened.

Omar Abdullah's worry that Afzal Guru's hanging would be perceived as a 'selective' action in Kashmir actually seeks to express this particular fear and its potential cost to him and his ruling National Conference.

Mustafa Kamal's heightened fears leave nothing to doubt that the Congress party's political partner in Kashmir feels as if it is being dragged to the political gallows in the aftermath of Afzal Guru's death in far away Tihar jail.

Mohammad Sayeed Malik