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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Hope battles with betrayal in Kashmir's new voices

Samar Khurshid, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 16, 2013
First Published: 22:00 IST(16/2/2013) | Last Updated: 22:02 IST(16/2/2013)

Even as shops downed their shutters for the curfew in Kashmir, the repercussions of Afzal Guru's hanging, which led to new restrictions in the State, are being watched closely across the world.

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Most evident is the sense of betrayal and seeming reversal of normalcy and peace achieved over the past two years. "The government is guilty of arrogance as it unilaterally takes decisions without considering the sentiments of Kashmiris," says Noor Ahmad Baba, head, political science, University of Kashmir.

Between 2008 and 2010, Kashmir saw a sustained 'Azadi' movement which got global recognition and embarrassed the government for its failure to act. Phrases like 'trust deficit' and 'alienation of Kashmiri youth' became commonplace. What followed were confidence building measures from both the Centre and State, including the appointment of three interlocutors in 2010 by the Centre.Other measures include reduced presence as 3 CRPF bunkers were dismantled and troops vacated, ironically, from Sopore in June last year. Tourists went up in record numbers. Trade and the bus service at the LoC have been promoted. Several rounds of dialogue have been attempted with separatist leaders as well - they are allowed to travel unrestricted within and outside the country. Now, there is even talk of removing the AFSPA from certain regions. By the end of 2009, the central government had sponsored Rs. 1425 crores for schemes. The planning commission had also approved a Rs. 6,600 crore annual plan for the state for 2011-12, R600 crore higher than the previous year and the highest ever allocation.

Renewed attempts are now being made for special concessions for the state, including a flagship livelihood scheme - the National Rural Livelihood Mission - modelled on a similar scheme in Rahul Gandhi's constituency, Amethi and renamed Ummeed in Kashmir. The government is set to consider and fast-track a cabinet proposal to waive off the below poverty line benchmark to bring all villages of Kashmir under NRLM, at the cost of Rs. 960 crore. In 2011-12, the rural development ministry also launched the Himayat programme to train 1 lakh Kashmiri youth and place them in the organised sector within five years.

But the peace that these measures might have brought is gone. "When there is a sense of hope, there are higher expectations and quicker disappointments. That is why the anger in the Valley was so immense after Guru's hanging and the subsequent clampdown on the Valley," says sociologist Shiv Visvanathan. "Now, the voices being articulated are not those of separatists and nationalists but younger people and women - new voices of common people who simply want to live normal lives," he adds.

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