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Freeze defreeze

The valley may have been in deep freeze for weeks but it has shown no sign of hibernation or inactivity
M.L. Kotru
Srinagar | Posted : Jan 14 2018 1:21AM | Updated: Jan 13 2018 11:05PM
Freeze defreeze
File Photo

Must I be told that this is chille kalan, the season of deep  frost, in Kashmir. The valley in particular, one recalls from long, long ago,  would virtually go into slumber, hibernate like bears, movement restricted to the minimum. No more. The valley may have been in deep freeze for weeks but  it has shown  no sign of hibernation or inactivity. The militants continue to confront the uniformed might of the State  which,  for its part, appears only too eager to respond and to give the surrounding snowscape a massive bloody tinge. Kind of winter sport, that keeps the soldier and the militant engaged.  Dead militant numbers in  these snowbound confrontations  rarely exceed twos and threes but enough to provoke a horrifying display of the State’s might. And, mind you, for every two or three militants getting  killed now  there often are occasional  casualties among the Security Forces  as well.

 Never a dull moment except that  as the State refuses to engage in purposeful talks a sense of suffocation  continues to envelop the valley and its  people;  no way can they hope to breathe in some fresh air, given the all-seeing eye of  the saffronite Big Brother, sitting across the hills. If you see the beleaguered valley - man pining for a change of breat without losing  his composure, you cannot but sympathise with him even as the  saffronites scoff it away. Nothing it seems will move those in power to engage with the people in terms other than dictated by the Big Brother  in  Delhi. The spirit off vengefulness (why, I do not know, except that it could be  caused by that little matter of  preponderance of a faith different from the saffronites’ out there)  has virtually thrown a wall of indifference between the aspirations of the valley and the designs of the Centre.

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 So far as the State Government is concerned we had it during the week from no less a person than the State Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that the State must remain grateful to New Delhi for all it has “got” from  India. (Didn’t  realise that Kashmir, unlike other States in the Union was not entitled to receiving Central assistance). Ms Mufti stridently maintained in the State Assembly, “whatsoever the people in Jammu and Kashmir, mainstream or outside mainstream,  get is from this country (India) and no one else. Whatsoever you have got till today and whatsoever you get in future, whether it is life’s dignity (sic), or opening of new routes, taking trade to the next level, or dialogue so as to end  the  bloodshed is only given by our country and not by any foreign nation”. Thank God for that and a remarkable giveaway by the Chief Minister, whose State has seen little development and is faced with grave unemployment. She even mentioned the appointment of Mr Dineshwar Sharma as New Delhi’s representative in Kashmir, an interlocutor of sorts, brought into reconcile the conflict within the State and whose mission so far has been as  uninspiring as similar other earlier appointments. The Chief Minister made the customary reference to broad-based talks between New Delhi and the State stakeholders, in passing taking note of the increase in the number of local youth taking to militancy and the consequent increase in the number of their falling to Security Forces’ bullets. Deploring the phenomenon is good but a representative government needs to do more than merely regret. It needs to ask itself why should even educated youth start looking out to join the militant ranks.  Authority must go much deeper in to the causes and the remedies. Like it should be the Mufti’s and New Delhi’s shared concern to find out why a brilliant Aligarh Muslim University research scholar Mannan Wani from Kupwara, chose to appear in a photograph posted on social media with a message informing he has joined militancy. The Wani announcement caused fellow scholars from Aligarh Muslim University to  plead with him  to shun the gun. In a poignant message they said “ On one side are those who have no idea of your talent and on the other people like us who know you well and trust that your talent could be channelized in a constructive manner ….You could be an inspiration to our youth. You could participate in the reformation of our society… You could directly address the people if you choose a non-violent course, one, without burdening your conscience… you could be a valuable asset to all of us… 

Any takers for this signed appeal to good sense by  AMU colleagues of Mannan Wani – among the signatories Shahul Rahman Lone, Peerzada Mahboob ul Haq, Javid Ahmed Ahangar, Mir Haseeb Abdullah, Showkat Mandloo. Mr Ashraf Khwaja …. All of them and more obviously dedicated to the redemption of their State and its people, their aspirations and willing to do so within the limits of democratic functioning. Hopefully to din some sense in to the unhearing ears of all those self-appointed defenders of democracy and democratic values, some masquerading currently in saffron colours and others, that preceded this dispensation, in more hopeful but very short on delivery. It is a heart-breaking situation – a helpless local leadership within the State, an uncaring, highly divisive leadership of the ruling party in New Delhi, atop a virtually meek and helpless  administration in Srinagar- both apparently unwilling to give serious talks/consultations/dialogue (call it what you will)  at the people’s level a chance. Am not suggesting a plebiscite lest I be listed as a separatist – just plain, civil discussions, shorn of political, religious biases. A hope which in the prevailing circumstances  remains just that, given that the parivar has yet to reveal its hand fully vis-à-vis its long-standing and well articulated Kashmir agenda.

In the meanwhile you have got another reminder  that New Delhi does not mean well by the State. Yes, I do maintain that, given the  backdrop of the warm relationship  between Modi’s New Delhi and Donald Trump’s United States, Kashmir (whatever remains of its tourism potential) could have been spared the ignominy of being declared unsafe for American tourists intending to visit. Yet that is precisely what Washington has done. The US State Department   has  issued a travel advisory warning American citizens against visiting Kashmir the “paradise on earth” of the poet’s imagination on account of terrorism and instability there. Can’t imagine, given the backdrop of the Trump-Modi  special relationship, the US taking the decision without prior consultations with New Delhi. Someone apparently decided to take advantage of Trump’s strong exception to Pakistan as a sponsor of terror –  to Afghanistan according to the US and in Kashmir according to Modi – and hence the squeeze on whatever little foreign travel to the valley remains. Add to it the the jingoistic war cries  emanating  from the Bharatiya Janata Party as a whole and  from the State in particular and that completes the picture.

Curiously there was no mention in the morning news bulletins after the newscast by the TV channel the previous night (Wednesday). Was it coincidence or a deliberate attempt to put the lid on the story getting  around. Whatever the case it is  indicative of a mischievous mindset. This business is carried out on the quiet rather than being splashed as a news story. If it turns out to be wrong I for one would be happy but then the question would be: how and why did the story make it to the channels. Another of those valley related conundrums !

Between an acquiescing  State  Government and a  Union Government that sees little going right in Kashmir, you can be sure that the bumper tourist season later this summer being officially touted for the State, must remain a non-starter. That should bring some more solace to whoever is wishing to add to the overflowing cup of misery of the State and its tourism industry.  Trust  New Delhi will ensure that Amarnathji yatris will make up  for the number of visiting  footfalls by inducting thousands of Sadhus and mendicants apart from genuine pilgrims in this pilgrimage. In fact a call for it has already been given; extend the duration of the yatra beyond two months, if necessary. That’s what I heard a BJP worthy demanding on  the channels earlier in the week.