Why The Call For A March Is Losing Relevance In Kashmir

Why The Call For A March Is Losing Relevance In Kashmir

20 September 2013
Firstpost
Sumeer Yasir

Srinagar: On September 9, the Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a march to south Kashmir’s Shopian district to protest against the killing of four persons in an alleged CRPF firing. But interestingly, the call for a public march to Shopian town by hardline Hurriyat leader was met with a surprisingly tepid response. No doubt, the state government had made every effort to prevent people and separatist leaders from reaching Shopian, but in the end it was just another day in Kashmir. Shops and business establishments were open. Schools and colleges functioned normally. That is what is likely to happen on Friday - another march call has come from the moderate faction of the Hurriyat conference, and the public response may be identical to the last one. Maybe it’s just fatigue from 24 years of violence and bloodshed. Everywhere in Kashmir, people will tell you they want to live peacefully, but then every time “there is an attempt to build bridges”, an incident such as Shopian takes place. It is followed by a Palestine-style intifada, situation turns ugly, the Central government sends a team of interlocutors but later fails to even recognise their report. Friday’s call for a march has come from the Hurriyat Conference (Moderate) led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, but as a precautionary measure the Omar Abdullah government is likely to continue curfew imposed for the fourteenth day in Shopian. And, if sources in the security establishment are to be believed, all Hurriyat leaders will be put under house arrest. Apart from Shopian, restrictions are likely to be imposed in the downtown Srinagar too. But in the rest of Kashmir, it will e business as usual. In Shopian, for the thirteenth consecutive day, south Kashmir’s Apple town remains under the siege of armed forces. As dawn breaks, a large contingent of Jammu and Kashmir police and central paramilitary forces set up barricades inside the town. Concertina wire is spread out on arterial roads connecting the town to the rest of Kashmir. There is a shortage of food and daily essential items. A resident disclosed that he was running short of insulin for his diabetic father. Towards the evening, when the wary forces withdraw to their barracks and agitated youth who pelt stones at them decide to call it a day, locals come out of their homes to buy rations for the next 24 hours. The two sides retire for the day in the evening, as if it were a Test match, to resume their innings the next day. Sopore town is at the forefront of protests, raging against the killing of five people in firing by the 14th Battalion of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force posted in south Kashmir’s Gagren village. In north Kashmir, two militants were killed in Palhalan town on September 19. Thousands of men, women and children attended their funeral. The Jammu and Kashmir police confirmed that one of the two boys had joined militancy a few months back. These boys represent a renewed phase of armed insurgency in Kashmir which has been sparse but deadly, even catching the agencies off guard, as the Bemina attack testifies. Protests have erupted in Kashmir valley since Zubin Mehta performed on the bank of Dal Lake. But if the response of chief minister was to be taken as an indicator, the state government is back to basics. Armed with chili grenades and pellet bombs, security forces fight day long battles with agitated youth. Kashmir’s Hurriyat leadership is put under house arrest. Wherever there are protests, a severe curfew is imposed and the state government, as if in delusion, pats itself on the back for ‘maintaining calm’. Ironically, the state government treats public outrage against such incidents with its old, tested tactics leading to more anguish. It is only the Opposition which draws mileage out of such incidents. With upcoming Assembly elections and victims of human rights violations their signature votebank, particularly in south Kashmir, former chief minister Mufti Mohammad’s People’s Democratic Party responded rather meekly, so much so that the party issued a press statement five days after the first four killings in Shopian. And it was on Thursday, ten days after it was actually registered, that Mehbooba Mufti claimed credit for forcing J&K police to file an FIR in Shopian killings case. Curfew, meanwhile, continues in Shopian town.