« Back to articlePrint this article

250 days after 5/8, tense summer ahead for Kashmir

Last updated on: April 11, 2020 18:00 IST

'Terrorists are killing ordinary citizens, huge crowds brave a pandemic to attend militant funerals, and artillery is booming on the LoC.'
'This April seems like a run-of-the-terror-mill Kashmiri spring: Violence is emerging like a prickly new bud,' warns David Devadas.

IMAGE: A policeman chases away young men for defying the natioal lockdown in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph: Nazim Ali/ANI Photo

It has been 250 days since the Constitutional changes that were meant to integrate Jammu and Kashmir.

250 days is a long enough time for a new dawn to have matured into a bright and purposeful day. But with a sinking feeling, one realises that nothing has changed.

Terrorists are killing ordinary citizens, huge crowds brave a pandemic to attend militant funerals, and artillery is booming on the Line of Control.

This April seems like a run-of-the-terror-mill Kashmiri spring: Violence is emerging like a prickly new bud.

Although people had largely settled down after their initial extreme shock at the Constitutional changes in August last year, they have become steadily frustrated at the lack of meaningful progress since.

That frustration is not only apparent in the Kashmir valley, but even in Hindu-dominated Jammu. One hears that the Chenab basin, which lies between the two, is even more alienated. Nor are people satisfied in Ladakh. There seems to be all-round dismay.


Lost opportunity

These 250 days -- indeed, nearly two years since governor's rule was imposed in June 2018 -- should have been utilised to infuse a sense of confidence in the people that better times had arrived.

Improved education and healthcare, responsive and uncorrupt administration, robust infrastructure development and economic opportunities should have urgently been put in place.

Instead, distressing stories from some Kashmiri hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic have given glimpses of just how badly the opportunity has been missed.

The top-heavy, often corrupt and exploitative bureaucracy has been strengthened. Nothing has been done to reach out to young people at large.

Entrenched narratives have not been answered with credible logic. There is no sign of a vision or road map.

Internet anger

People have been getting steadily angrier over the cussed refusal to restore 4G Internet speed even amid the pandemic.

One hears from the ground that the increased militancy does not stem from Net-based recruitment, but from personal contacts and from overground workers's fear of being picked up during National Investigation Agency investigations.

In fact, young men and boys who might otherwise be lured by militants roaming their villages would be more likely to remain home if they were occupied on the Internet.

Anger over the Internet shutdown is even greater in Jammu where people complain that they are being made to pay a price for others's potential misdoings.

Surely the State apparatus would have the cyber resources to monitor terror-related and violence-inducing sites, and traffic to and from them, in order to check the misuse of the Internet. That might be more advisable than a blanket ban on fast Internet.

Roots of conflict

While the NIA goes after terrorists and their overground field workers, there is no focus on the still well-nurtured roots of terror.

Established promoters of conflict have resumed their narratives over the past couple of months. Their strategy apparently is to target specific persons who speak and write credibly about the erstwhile state. Some of them recently used social media to openly call for the elimination of political activists.

Despite long-pending FIRs against some of them, they blithely go about their lethal work. It would seem that the symbiosis between them and powerful sections of State forces and agencies has survived the Constitutional changes unscathed.

I have explained in my book The Generation of Rage in Kashmir (OUP) that their symbiotic relationship kept conflict artificially going from around 2007 to the end of that decade and then revived it to full strength during the decade just ended.

In a chapter on the Conflict Economy, I have shown how both sides in this shameful collaboration prosper from secret and other funds, from abroad or from New Delhi, or from both.

Geopolitical challenge

Recent infiltration bids on the Line of Control, one of which cost the lives of five Special Forces commandos, indicate that more highly trained operatives are being pushed in.

Meanwhile, China highlighted the Kashmir issue at the UN again on Thursday. I have maintained for a decade now that the country faces a triad of challenges vis a vis Kashmir: Pakistan's exertions, China's strategies, and street-level anger among millennials.

Policymakers have responded dismissively. Indeed, votaries of the government insist that last year's Constitutional changes resolved the problem.

The fact is that it addressed none of these three challenges. While policymakers keep their heads buried in the sand, this could prove to be a long hot summer.

David Devadas is the author of The Story of Kashmir and The Generation of Rage in Kashmir.