The recent happenings in Kashmir, particularly the developments since July 2016, have been very scary. And if the government doesn’t behave carefully, there is good likelihood that things would once again spiral out of control and Kashmir may once again be face to face with the kind of unrest that dominated most part of the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, and now more recent 2016 as well. Notwithstanding the “external scapegoating”, which has been the standard operating procedure of the political executive, the developments since past summer have once again brought home many uncomfortable realities. The bigger worry being that the situation in Kashmir remains ever-volatile, and always waiting for a ‘trigger’ to explode the latent anger and frustrations people have with the system.
Unfortunately instead of acknowledging the ground realities, governments in New Delhi and in Srinagar have perfected the art of being complacent. After each episode of blood-letting follows a period of public unrest; but once the same calms down to some semblance of normality, governments forget what had happened, and think everything is just fine and that they can get on with the usual routine. Then, there is again some unfortunate development provoking another bout of unrest and situation once again recedes to proverbial square-one. This has all along been happening here.
“Once a country has had a conflict it is in far greater danger of further conflict: commonly the chief legacy of a civil war is another war,” says World Bank Policy Research Report 2003. The places plagued by conflict (like Kashmir) are caught in a vicious ‘conflict trap’, and witness renewed cycles of violence until and unless the underlying causes of conflict are neutralized. Indeed a political initiative for Kashmir has been long over-due, but for the selfish politics of various parties in the ruling echelons, the same has not come about. Instead the government has besides the massive security apparatus only relied on its managerial skills to maintain some semblance of calm while the real causes of public anger and alienation have been left to fester.
For those at the political helm, it is essential to realize that they cannot deal with Kashmir through military means alone. Militarily speaking, the situation may no doubt have been salvaged to an extent, but beyond that it is the political initiatives that will have to take care of the latent as well as visible causes of public unrest and alienation. Over-indulgence on military measures is bound to be counter-productive and this is exactly what is happening here. By relying solely on the police, paramilitaries and army to keep the public anger and unrest at bay, government has already lost its face as well as rapport with the public. Kashmir’s alienation is complete and government has nobody but itself to blame for it.
Tackling the situation in Kashmir both at political and administrative levels merits looking at and understanding the conflict here as the manifestation of peoples’ anger against- and alienation from New Delhi, which is also the popular resentment against the successive (state) governments, and above all, the “denial of democratic rights” to the people. This anger climaxes every now and then. Like molten lava flowing beneath the surface, the popular anger here is always ready to vent out and its fury and rage has the potential to cause enormous destruction. It has happened in the past and there is likelihood that it may happen yet again if measures are not initiated to neutralize the anger and alienation.
Unfortunately, as if unmindful of all these dynamics, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been tackled till date through means and measures that are completely bereft of proper momentum and motivation for the resolution of grave underlying and core issues on a sustainable basis. This has to change, and now is the time when New Delhi will have to show, and explicitly and practically express its resolve to deal with the problems confronting Kashmir. And this is, and must not be difficult because this is what the ruling coalition of PDP and BJP have already agreed and pledged in their “Agenda of Alliance”.