Udhampur Attacks Highlight Kashmir's Vulnerability

12 October 2015
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: The Udhampur attacks which led to serious injuries to two Kashmiris are ominous. On the face of it, they do not seem to be pure vigilante attacks by lone wolf vigilantes; they appear to have all the hall marks of orchestrated attacks designed to vitiate the atmosphere and polarize the state of Jammu and Kashmir along communal lines. We will not speculate further on the motives informing the attacks; we will, however, dwell on the implications- especially political ones. The attacks occurred in a surcharged atmosphere- one defined by the beef ban controversy, the killing and lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri, UP and other sensational themes. The point here is that a charged the attacks sit atop a charged environment. In this context, the attacks appear to suggest a signaling mechanism by the perpetrators or those behind the perpetrators, to the people of Kashmir division of Jammu and Kashmir. Given that the attacks occurred on the National Highway- the critical life line to and for Kashmir- the signaling inherent in the attacks appears to that Kashmir and Kashmiris are vulnerable to attack(s). This will make Kashmiris fearful of travelling along the highway - for personal, business, commercial or other reasons. Once the element of fear sinks in, this will have ramifications and implications on relations between the Jammu and Kashmir divisions of the state- especially if the condition deteriorates and snowballs into more violence or violent acts on either side of the state. The message of the perpetrators and the ones behind the perpetrators then is loud and clear: Kashmir is at the whim and mercy of Jammu. (This is not to indict all Jammuites but merely those who want politicize the issue and polarize the region along communal lines). While Kashmir's vulnerability to these kinds of incidents and threats was well known and recognized, the Udhampur attacks underscore this vulnerability. From a mass and mob psychology perspective, the attacks, if they are repeated, can lead to a tit for tat reaction in Kashmir. In a charged environment, this can have insalubrious and negative consequences affecting the peace of the state. In essence, if this chain reaction happens and the cycle of tit for tat violence takes hold, the street will once again become the arena for politics in Kashmir. Kashmir's vulnerability to black mail, threats and violence along the National Highway, leads to an obvious and nagging question: what leverage does Kashmir have over this vulnerability? The leverage of politics would be one obvious means of leverage. The political representatives of the Kashmir division of the state could use their heft and clout both in the Assembly and the Parliament to point out the perils and dangers of vulnerability to threats, violence and blackmail. In other words, it would be the nature of centre state relations that could have been the source of leverage given the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But alas, this source of leverage appears to have been squandered by mainstream politicians for puerile reasons. It appears to be the Centre that appears to have all the cards with political representatives of the state reduced to politics of managerialism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is further weakened by political developments in Kashmir. Incidentally, again from a mainstream perspective, the structure of politics in the Kashmir division of the state is duopolistic; two major parties-the NC and the PDP -jostle and compete for votes in Kashmir with a marginal presence in Jammu division. But, Jammu appears to be on the cusp of being consolidated by the BJP. In all likelihood, the polarization induced by the beef ban controversy and developments thereof will strengthen the BJP in Jammu; the BJP will then have a vantage point in the state and negotiate and govern from a position of strength while as the Kashmiri political space will be fragmented and inchoate further weakening the strength and voice of mainstream political parties of Kashmir. In a way, this strategy corresponds to the divide and rule policy wherein the NC and the PDP will be played against each other. The beneficiary will be the BJP. Unfortunately, this scenario may well already have panned out and may only strengthen in the future. This means that Kashmir and Kashmir will not only have scant leverage and political heft to pre-empt and prevent Kashmir's vulnerability but also very little clout in dealing with the Centre. All in all, gloom and doom appears to be in store for the state.