It needs no political genius or secret intelligence inputs to know that Pakistan and its agents in Kashmir will gladly jump at any opportunity to add fuel to any fire raging in the Valley. But attempts by the central and the state government to disown responsibility for the present mess in Kashmir will only make for greater tragedies.
I don’t think any chief minister in the history of India has ever faced such widespread revolt against his misrule as Omar Abdullah. He is at war with his own party. National Conference cadres as well as government employees are joining mobs that pelt stones. The state bureaucracy is completely estranged and dysfunctional, the J&K police are rudderless and openly defiant, the CRPF and the army are seething in rage against Omar for using them as scapegoats by putting them in the firing line, thus successfully deflecting the tide of anger against his own misrule into an anti-India hurricane.
This is not Omar's fault alone. The Congress high command has lived up to the worst fears of Kashmiris by dismissing the volcanic outburst of people’s anger as the stagemanaged job of paid troublemakers, thereby proving what Kashmiris have alleged for decades: that India’s intelligence agencies deliberately mislead the central government, resulting in a callous and insensitive Kashmir policy. Even senior army officers express misgivings about the role of intelligence agencies, saying they have acquired a vested interest in promoting instability as it gives them tremendous clout to play devious games and get unlimited amounts of unaccounted money ostensibly to cultivate local politicians and information sources.
Kashmiris are right in asking: ‘When there are protests against a ruling party in Bihar, Andhra or Tamil Nadu, have national parties ever joined together to issue statements in favour of the beleaguered chief minister and insist that the nation must stand behind him? Why is it that despite such a major, prolonged wave of unrest
in the Valley resulting in daily deaths and injuries of civilians and CRPF personnel, none of the MPs or leaders of national or regional parties thought it fit to visit the Valley and find out what the source of trouble is? Instead all they do is issue jingoistic statements. Does it mean there is a national consensus that Kashmiris do not deserve basic democratic rights available to all other citizens of India?’
The recent anti-price rise agitation by the BJP and Left parties as also most other small and big agitations in India witness widespread stone pelting, burning of buses and other violent acts. Nowhere have the concerned state governments used bullets to quell stonethrowing mobs, arrested people under the draconian Public Security Act or called in the CRPF or the army to maintain law and order. This is not to justify stone-throwing as a desirable means of protest. But Kashmiris have a right to ask why, in the case of Kashmir, do the prime minister, home minister and even BJP leaders treat the same act of stonethrowing as an “anti national” act? Why add insult to injury by labelling their anger as a stage-managed affair at Pakistan’s behest?
Most of those reporting from the Valley repeatedly warn that the current upsurge is not linked to a newfound love for Pakistan. The men, women and children risking their lives by defying prolonged curfews with shoot-at-sight orders are expressing their utter despair at the callousness and insensitivity of the coterie ruling them and the central government’s rudderless policy after installing a man perceived as Delhi’s puppet.
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi enjoyed considerable goodwill in Kashmir. That is why several prominent leaders of Kashmir have openly appealed to the prime minister to intervene personally and save the situation. Instead we find the central government giving daily endorsement to Omar’s disastrous handling of the situation and sending additional CRPF battalions to Kashmir. If the CRPF and the army are the main face of Indian democracy in Kashmir, we should not be surprised at repeated outbursts of anti-India sentiments.
News reports of August 5 announced Omar’s open declaration of a pact with Syed Ali Shah Geelani whereby, in return for an appeal for peaceful protests, the pro-Pakistan secessionist leader is to be provided “political space” for his secessionist agenda. This was meant to be a trump card. But it backfired the very same day. On one hand, it has brought the hitherto marginalised pro-Pakistan Geelani on to political center- stage. On the other, it has left the security forces fuming because they are being given conflicting signals everyday – one day asked to shoot at sight, the second day to make peace with stone-pelters.
In addition to helping Geelani reclaim his lost eminence, Omar has systematically maligned the PDP, the main constitutional opposition in the state, because this party alone is capable of challenging him electorally. The more he lies about the PDP’s role by repeatedly accusing it of instigating riotous mobs, the more he loses credibility. If this devious game is being knowingly backed by the central government, Kashmiris would not be wrong in believing that those in charge of Kashmir policy at the Centre are not even well-wishers of India leave alone of Kashmiris.
Madhu Purnima Kishwar is professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi