Local Goa News

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kashmir unrest: It's clear that velvet glove will stay, but may now be used with steely resolve

Efforts to control the situation in Kashmir appear to be going into a new phase. At the beginning of the fourth week after militant commander Burhan Wani was killed, a top functionary of the state government spoke of the need to take some tough steps even while remaining sensitive and restrained to the extent possible. The replacement of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, last week points towards this new phase.

Restraint was the hallmark of the government’s response during the second phase, which began a couple of days after Wani’s death, and has continued until now. The first phase of disastrous unpreparedness for the highly emotional outburst of anger lasted for about a day after Wani was killed on 8 July.
Perhaps more than half of the over 50 persons who have died from bullet and pellet injuries suffered those injuries on that disastrous Saturday, 9 July. Many succumbed later. Some remained on respirators for several days.
Trying to explain the large number of close-range pellet injuries, the top functionary alluded to the restraint of the police and other forces: 'They did not fire bullets and, even when crowds attacked police stations and security camps, they held back. Then, when the crowd was almost on them, they fired pellet guns. By then, the crowd was at close range.’
So far, the policy of restraint has been largely effective. Apart from Kupwara district in the north, tempers have cooled among the majority in large parts of the Valley. Three weeks after the initial disaster of unpreparedness, senior doctors at Srinagar’s leading hospital say that most of those with eye injuries seem likely to recover.
Generally, agitations are now being sustained by young boys, often in their pre-teens. These boys throw stones, assault passing vehicles (particularly targeting larger, relatively costly ones) and occasionally assault shopkeepers. One shop in Pampore was reported to have been burnt. A bearded shopkeeper in Parimpora area was said to have been slapped several times by one boy. These incidents reminded many of a trend that came up in 2010.
Boys, often in their pre-teens, appear to be among the most enthusiastic participants in meetings at which slogans and songs of jihad and freedom reverberate every evening at many places.
Meanwhile, volunteers of the Jamaat-e-Islami and other religion-based groups, and some other students’ organisations, have organised food distribution langars at hospitals. Almost all everyday needs appear to be available in many areas, albeit from the back entrances of shops that keep their shutters ostensibly down.
in tandem with the emergence of evening slogan-and-song sessions, a coercive campaign to enforce hartals has become visible in the past couple of days. Posters appeared in some areas warning specific shops to close.
Some of these posters further warned that girls riding scootys would be burnt along with the scooty. In the murky, propaganda-filled environment of Kashmir, some have questioned whether these posters are an attempt to discredit `stone-pelters.’
Either way, the public meetings and pelting mobs are obviously being funded and organized. Jamaat-e-Islami has been reported active. It had been on the back-foot about a decade ago after years of being battered by the horrific mercenaries who are generically called 'Ikhwanis’ in Kashmir.
In 1990, the more politically driven and militant faction of the Jamaat-e-Islami, then led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had taken the responsibility for wresting control of the militancy from the JKLF through Hizb-ul Mujahideen.
If indeed a third phase is now underway, it will be tricky. Tough steps might include locking up those orchestrating trouble. This runs the very real risk of alienating afresh the very large proportion of Kashmiris who might at present be somewhat tired of the continued hartals and coercion.
In Kashmir, it is often worth waiting for common people to see through the layered games that might be playing out around them. When vast numbers of troops were inducted in 1994 to fight Hizb and Lashkar, a large proportion of Kashmiris had already been alienated from their restrictive Islamism. But, blind to this reality on the ground, a state apparatus focused on `friendlies’ and `enemies,’ alienated people afresh.

Firstpost India News

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