Poor Governance Behind Kashmir Ire?

Poor Governance Behind Kashmir Ire?

6 July 2010
Times of India
Arati R. Jerath

Srinagar: A month of curfews, Army flag marches and heavy patrolling by security forces has failed to douse the flames in Kashmir. With three more deaths reported over the past two days, the toll now stands at 14 since June 11. What is disturbing is that all the dead were young, unarmed and killed by security men. The oldest was 25 and the youngest just nine years old. It speaks of a dangerous level of frustration and anger among Kashmiri youth who have taken to defying security men in a stunning display of misplaced bravado. Analysts in Srinagar believe the situation could have been tackled better had the state government of Omar Abdullah and the Centre been more sensitive to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir instead of falling back on political expediency. Union home minister P Chidambaram’s crude attempt to blame Pakistan-backed Lashkar elements for the current spell of violence and Abdullah’s clumsy bid to pass the buck to ‘‘anti-national forces (read Hurriyat) and the opposition PDP only exacerbated matters and reinforced feelings of alienation. While the azadi sentiment is never far from the surface, the current resurgence seems to be more in response to issues of governance and the lack of political processes despite a successful assembly election just one and a half years ago. There is a growing feeling in Srinagar that Abdullah failed to consolidate and build on the gains of the 2008 elections by not taking the democratic process down to the grassroots. For instance, he has not yet held panchayat elections, although he has now promised to do so before the end of the year if the situation normalizes. People in Srinagar also talk of the indifference of the MLAs, most of who have not bothered to visit their constituencies after being elected. ‘‘Whenever there is a political vacuum, it creates space for separatist sentiments to reappear, said Gul Mohd Wani who teaches political science in Kashmir University. ‘‘It gets filled by angry youth who resort to violence to express their frustration. Unlike other states in which young people are allowed to let off steam in university politics and debates, there is no such outlet in Kashmir University. Even today, the university does not have a students union, nor does it allow its student body to discuss autonomy, Indo-Pak relations and other top-of-the-mind issues in Kashmir. While Abdullah’s disconnect from the people is a major talking point in Srinagar, people are equally upset with the perceived indifference of the Centre to the resolution of the status of Kashmir. Stop-and-go efforts with the Hurriyat have gone nowhere and there is a growing feeling that the Centre should reach out to the intelligentsia and other groups in civil society if it is serious. ‘‘Kashmir is not just a security issue,’’ said Sheikh Shaukat Hussain who teaches law at Kashmir University. ‘‘It is a political issue and the Centre must make a strong gesture to convince the people of Kashmir that it is sincere about a resolution. Talking to Pakistan alone is not the solution.’’


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