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OpinionsVarying hues of the Kashmir Valley imbroglio

Varying hues of the Kashmir Valley imbroglio


Varying hues of the Valley imbroglio

Swapan Das Gupta

There are many themes that define the ongoing troubles in the Kashmir Valley and it is important to acknowledge the different strands.

First, and most important, there is a clear Islamist dimension to the present troubles that distinguish it from turbulent movements in the past. It is now sufficiently clear, and acknowledged by important Kashmiri leaders such as Muzaffar Beg who are identified with the pro-autonomy camp, that the religious dimension of the stir that began with the death of Hizbul Mujahedeen terrorist Burhan Wani is at the forefront. To some extent this could be a reflection of the growing influence of the Hurriyat Conference and Jamiat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. But while Geelani may certainly gain in popularity from the stir, it is more likely that the young men and boys who routinely come out into the streets to engage in stone pelting are actually influenced by the wider ferment in the Islamic world. This includes the Hamas-led assassinations in Israel and the West Bank and the barbaric movement for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The implication of this turn of events is ominous. In Parliament, many political leaders spoke eloquently about the need to rekindle and preserve Kashmiriyat, which they equated with a composite Sufi . The objective may be laudable but the realities on the ground seem to be different. It would seem that the Islamist impulses that first contributed to the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley have moved to a higher level. To deny this unfortunate turn of the mood and instead highlight human rights violations may suit a starry-eyed liberal agenda but is also calculated to shift attention from the nature of the movement we are witnessing in Kashmir.

THERE was an initial impression that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti lacks the political and administrative skills to cope with pressure of this magnitude. However, this unfavourable assessment of the Chief Minister may have to be reviewed following her clear and tough talking against the stone throwers waving Pakistani flags.

Secondly, there is an obvious role of Pakistan in fermenting the troubles and facilitating the cross-border movement of armed terrorists. This is not new and neither will the process stop in the foreseeable future. Pakistan has always believed that the Kashmir Valley is a low hanging fruit ready for plucking through a combination of civil unrest and pressure. There are also many elements in Pakistan that link the ‘liberation' of Kashmir with the larger vivisection of . Pakistan has always encouraged separatist and socially divisive movements because it believes that India's unity is fragile and ephemeral. This move has not yielded the requisite dividends because there is no charm left in the idea of a fractious and turbulent Pakistan but the recent Kashmir troubles have given Islamabad the opening to resume the ‘thousand cuts' project with renewed enthusiasm.

Third, there is section in India that sees the recent troubles as an opportunity to destabilise and facilitate the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government. It is true that the PDP at this moment feels particularly beleaguered owing to the disturbances being concentrated in its political strongholds of South Kashmir. There was also an initial impression that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti lacks the political and administrative skills to cope with pressure of this magnitude. However, this unfavourable assessment of the Chief Minister may have to be reviewed following her clear and tough talking against the stone throwers waving Pakistani flags. On its part the Centre has recognised that the coalition government needs all the political and logistical support Delhi can offer. It is heartening that the BJP has resisted pressures from its political fringe to dismiss the state government and impose Governor's rule.

Fourth, unlike the mid-1990s when the troubles in Kashmir became horribly internationalised, thanks in no small measure to the involvement of sections of the United States State Department, the world community has not reacted in any meaningful way to the recent troubles. Part of the reason has to do with India's growing economic importance in the world and the realisation that the country offers huge trade and investment opportunities. But far more than that, it is the Islamist dimension of the troubles that is making the West recoil in horror at the very idea that there could be another ISIS-type flashpoint that would in turn unsettle Pakistan internally.

This relative absence of international interest in the troubles has not been to the advantage of two sections that have always profited from conflict: the international human rights agencies and a section of the tear-jerking media who are captivated by the dream of a Palestinian intifada or Arab Spring being repeated in India. These ‘useful idiots' have to be benignly tolerated and not given the privileges of victimhood.

Fifth, Pakistan is truly stunned by the stubborn unwillingness of India to discuss the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir in a bilateral forum. It has also been disoriented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's outreach to the peoples of Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. They are unsure of how much of this gesture is real and how much is bluff. The Pakistan High Commission in Delhi is busy hosting India's so-called opinion makers (mainly media) trying to gauge India's larger game plan. Its frustrations stem from the fact that the present political establishment is largely insulated from media pressure.

Finally, like the dog that didn't bark, there has been hardly any invocation by any of the stakeholders of the controversial Article 370. Even in the parliamentary debates on Kashmir, Article 370 was referred to tangentially. There may be many reasons for this silence but it is worth considering a proposition. The separateness of Kashmir was emphasised because it was thought to be the facilitator for a gradual integration of the state to the rest of India. After six decades the effects seem to be the opposite: the Special Status has merely encouraged emotional separateness. This point needs to be considered by the political class.


Swapan Das Gupta

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.


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