India has scored an own goal in Jammu & Kashmir. By firing and killing unarmed protesters on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road on Monday, security forces have added fat to the fire raging on the Amarnath land issue in both the Valley and Jammu.
The flip-flop is much like the rigged elections of 1987, which presented a “cause” to separatist elements. The land issue has again provided separatists in Kashmir and fundamentalists in Jammu a handle to rekindle their constituencies.
“This is a very big dent in our claims to a secular Jammu & Kashmir,” Lt Gen. VR Raghavan, founder of the Chennai-based Centre for Security Analysis, told HT. “We have gone out of our way to disprove our claims on Jammu & Kashmir for the past 60 years... These are all sparks (the agitation). There is a cauldron out there (in J&K). All this will be exploited by others.”
Ironically, as fruit-growers of Kashmir wanted to make a point about taking produce across the LoC, India and Pakistan were all set to open trade across the LoC in October. An agreement on setting up customs posts on either side of the LoC, too, had been reached. What remained was a formal accord on the list of items to be traded, both Indian and Pakistani officials said. Suddenly, this looks like a distant prospect.
In any case, this was not the Kashmir of February 1992, when Pakistani forces fired on Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front protesters trying to cross the LoC, killing seven. This is a Kashmir where residents can legally cross the LoC, by scheduled bus services and at designated meeting points.
But, suddenly, with curfew imposed across the Valley and even Jammu, it’s beginning to look like the old Kashmir — where curfew, firing and militant violence was the norm; not the exception.
Former Naval chief L. Ramdas, chairman emeritus of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, felt that internal developments in Kashmir would impact the bilateral dialogue process. “At the official level, nothing much will happen (in the dialogue process),” he said by telephone from Alibaug in Maharashtra.
It’s our own mess. We can’t even blame the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of Pakistan.