Hope becomes the biggest casualty in restive Jammu and Kashmir

Updated - December 30, 2016 01:38 am IST

Published - December 29, 2016 11:26 pm IST - Srinagar:

Kashmiri protesters throw stones at paramilitary soldiers during a recent protest in Srinagar.  — Photo: AP

Kashmiri protesters throw stones at paramilitary soldiers during a recent protest in Srinagar. — Photo: AP

Hope became the biggest casualty in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016, as the ruling alliance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) struggled to give one reason to smile.

The year began with the militant attack on an airbase in Pathankot on January 2, dashing any hope of India normal ties with Pakistan.

The death of Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed on January 7 shifted the political equations in just less than a year of his attempt to forge a workable link between the Peoples Democratic Party, which he called the “North Pole”, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, or “South Pole” in his words, to solve the problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

The 40-day mourning period saw wrangling between the PDP and the BJP, with the Mufti’s 57-year-old daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, pushing for fresh ground rules. However, Ms. Mufti’s attempt to prolong Governor’s rule for almost three months only weakened her political standing, with a split within the party.

Ms. Mufti was forced to yield to the BJP and continue with the earlier Agenda of Alliance. The new Chief Minister faced her first challenge in the first week itself: agitating students at the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, saw the Centre directly dealing with the law and order situation.

Thereafter, controversy after controversy such as the Sainik Colony for ex-soldiers, the Pandit Colony for migrant Hindus, and the Industrial Policy pulled the PDP and the BJP in different directions. The anxiety triggered by contentious issues such as a separate State flag, beef ban and judicial activism on erosion of State subject laws shifted to a new plane.

Pellets wreak havoc

The strong PDP of 2002 was reduced to the state of the National Conference of 1996, clueless on how to pursue the poll promise of addressing the larger political problem of J&K. On July 8, Eid celebrations saw an abrupt end. Idolised by many youngsters after his spree of online videos, Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed. As hundreds of civilians joined his funeral, many more took to the streets overnight, even in the interior parts of Kashmir, resembling the 1989 situation when the entire State structure remained frozen. Ninety-three civilians were killed. Pellets wreaked havoc on over 1,000 civilians, with over 300 losing their eyesight partially or permanently. The 20,000 injured included 5,000 security personnel.

In a fresh turn of events, separatist leaders — Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik — saw themselves at the centre of a challenge they were not ready for: to spearhead the protests of youth on the streets. It was not separatist ideologies that dictated the course of action but stone-wielding youth..

Separatists do not know how to take the protest-politics forward and make New Delhi and Islamabad work for peace in Kashmir.

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