After the summer unrest of 2010 during which hundreds died, Kashmir is once again witnessing violent, widespread protests in 2016.
While 117 people died in 2010, the number of those killed is mounting in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani last Friday. The death toll has already crossed 30 and many of the injured are critical.
Experts say every funeral has the potential of setting a chain reaction that may lead to much more. They believe that the volatile situation can be brought under control only by stopping the killings.
Separatist and mainstream parties alike have appealed for peace and calm.
But the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition National Conference, however, have a different tune to sing. The NC is raising a storm, asking the PDP to take control and the PDP, on the other hand, says “there is an NC hand in the unrest’’.
Hindustan Times analysed the statements made by the leaders of the two main political parties this time and in the past and found that their language during the time of crises (street protests) remains the same, only people at the helm change.
The parties in power prefer to be in denial as the opposition alleges excess and human rights violations.
Here are a few examples of how these leaders have reacted:
‘Opposition’s role in violence’
Speaking to Hindustan Times on Tuesday morning a senior cabinet minister in Mehbooba Mufti cabinet, who insisted anonymity, alleged that “the killings had a pattern”.
“The violence was more in areas like Anantnag, where you have a good cadre of National Conference. In other places, protestors were not as violent. Look at Tral, two lakh people came for the funeral but it was peaceful,’’ he added.
In 2010, National Conference had the same argument.
“We had credible information that there was a concerted effort by some parties to spread the agitation out of the urban pockets it is concentrated in, out into Kashmir’s interior. This was a matter of great concern to us because the Amarnath Yatra is under way,’’ Omar Abdullah told a national newspaper after 20 people died in the cycle of violence.
Police even issued a statement saying more than 70% of the people arrested in connection with stone pelting during the 2010 summer unrest were either drug addicts or had parental problems.
‘Unmindful use of force’
“This vicious cycle of violence would not stop. Only after the lethal use of force ends, can we begin to pull the valley back from the abyss...,’’ Omar Abdullah tweeted on Monday.
During her campaign before the 2014 assembly election in Guddar in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, Mehbooba Mufti spoke the same language. She told supporters that “pellet guns are not even used on dogs in rest of the country, Omar Abdullah treated people worse than dogs’’.
‘CM should lead from the front’
In another of his tweets, Abdullah said that Mufti should take charge of the situation and lead from the front and not hide behind an army of spokespersons and security forces.
When two civilians died in army firing at Bomai in February 2009, Mufti accused Abdullah was away skiing with his family in Gulmarg. “The governor tried to speak to him on the phone, but Omar couldn’t be reached,’’ she said.
When asked why he did not bother to visit and handle the situation directly, Omar’s reply, Mehbooba told a newspaper, was that he will deal with it from Gulmarg.
In repeated statements, Mufti has asked the state and Centre to set an example by “punishing the culprits who killed 120 people in 2010’’. In a speech in New Delhi in 2011, she even said that “Kashmiri’s will not mind hanging Parliament accused Afzal Guru if 2010 culprits were brought to book’’.
“When you demonise a protest as prepaid stone throwing, it is a recipe for disaster. He (Omar Abdullah) has turned every house into a jail,” she said more than once.
Her senior minister on Tuesday, however, justified the killings saying police acted in retaliation.
“The youth have become fearless. They would have roasted the policemen alive more than once. So what will the police do’’, the minister said
PDP leaders insist the protests are a spillover from 2010.
“Youth were angry after 2010 as Omar Abdullah handed them to police, police will take time to unlearn what they used to do in his tenure,’’ PDP youth leader Waheed Parra said.
However, Mufti will need to be out of power to regret the current deaths.
“It is easy to sit in judgement with the wisdom of hindsight. The 2010 summer agitation could have been handled differently. That phase haunts me. There won’t be a time when it won’t haunt me. Handling the agitation was more difficult than dealing with the flood,’’ Omar said recently.