The prolonged street violence in Kashmir valley causing tragic loss of human lives has been distressing for one and all in the valley as well as in rest of the country. Unexplainable suspense looming large over the way Kashmir politics is taking turn. Incidents of turmoil are not new in Kashmir valley as there was never ever any sincere effort on the part of home grown or New Delhi leadership to emotionally and politically integrate the Muslims in Kashmir to the national mainstream.
Deliberate and calibrated maneuvers were employed all along to keep a wedge and trust deficit among the local populace and rest of the people in two big regions of the state- Jammu and Ladakh and also in rest of the country. Nursing communal sentiments were the core spirit under the guise of so-called secularism and exclusivist narratives professed by those who believed in monopoly politics to perpetuate their grip over the power for their generations.
But one phenomenon that remained unique in the post-accession Kashmir politics was that it always had popular leaders at the helm of affairs like Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, Moulana Masoodi, GM Bakshi, DP Dhar, GM Sadiq in Kashmir valley and Pt. Prem Nath Dogra, Tirlochan Dutt, Girdhari Lal Dogra and others in Jammu region who commanded respect and confidence of the people in their respective regions of the state. They played constructive roles in carving out the political future of the people of this state. They always used their huge influence over the masses whenever some disturbing situation arose due to some foul play.
For the first time the vacuum of men of political stature is missing in both the regions as shallow leaders have succeeded the legacy which they do not deserve. Whatever little hope remained was lost with the demise of Mufti Mohd Seyeed and the fate now has given free hand to new leadership that has yet to demonstrate much needed maturity in dealing with similar situations particularly available in Kashmir valley. ‘Stakeholders’ began making speculation about the shape and stability of the new coalition government. Uncertainty after the demise of Mufti Mohd Sayeed and long delay in forming the new government had further deepened the confusion and suspense.
Pakistan openly declares Kashmir as its ‘Jugular Vein’ and has always been on prowl to grab any available opportunity to disturb peace in Jammu Kashmir and to internationalize the issue. Her policy on Kashmir features two important aspects to hit India hard - One the vulnerability of Kashmir valley population to whipping up of religious frenzy and the second is India’s docile democratic set up governing the state through appeasement rather than rule of law.
What perturbs Pakistan the most in current political scenario, is India’s growing proximity with US and Modi’s diplomatic forays in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries that seemingly have politically out-spaced her.
Further, realizing at the end of the day that infiltration and attacks on Indian installations or security camps are not much productive and after facing assertive response to her cross border/LoC shelling, Pakistan for the time being shifted the focus to on Kashmir to try its old and tested card that could bail her out.
This summer and especially after the demise of Mufti Sayed, Pakistan activated Jamaat-e-Islami of Kashmir to intensify Pan-Islamic teachings through the mullahs and mosques. Flags of ISIS and Pakistan began to be waved in congregations and protest rallies in the down town Srinagar and later in other towns particularly in southern districts of Anantnag and Pulwama.
For Jamaat, youth below 26 years of age born and brought up in disturbed Kashmir valley were the most vulnerable targets who know nothing of pre-1989 era of Sufi influence, tolerance, peace and development. This age group has been more responsive to Pakistani propaganda through electronic media which is now very commonly used not only in urban areas but by the rural population also. Internet facility and high-tech gadgets have given big boost to dissemination of this propaganda across the valley.
Obviously polarization has taken its roots in the valley. Initially, protest demonstrations were confined to southern towns of the Kashmir valley and in Srinagar (downtown) only but later spread to other parts of the valley.
Modus operandi of separatists remains the same using mosques to resound with religious songs and for eulogizing the “martyrs of freedom.” Known separatist faces take up the job of giving calls for shut-downs and extending the protest calendars that they have overstretched to nearly two months now without realizing the hardship to the sick, students and weaker sections.
If the present stalemate continues, further polarization within Jammu and Kashmir is inevitable. Protests and demonstrations may die their own death in coming days but the damage this spell of violence has done to the secular polity of India is a big blow.
A semblance of hope has emerged after few initiatives taken by the Centre including two visits of the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh for meeting a cross-section of people in the valley within a fortnight and also meetings of opposition parties of Kashmir valley and the J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi.
Let us see what comes out of series of discussions and dialogue between New Delhi and Kashmiri leaders. Expectations are also high from forthcoming visit of All Parties delegation to Kashmir valley and perhaps, Jammu too.