Everything that could have possibly gone wrong in Jammu and Kashmir between Saturday — when the Valley erupted with violence on Eid — and today seems to have gone wrong. Mobs have erupted in various parts of the Valley, security forces have responded with bullets, the Omar Abdullah government has thrown up its hands at its own irrelevance, and various separatist factions have made attempts to tap the groundswell against the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi. The turmoil has left 17 dead and the region in a state of anarchy. So inextricably linked are the (lack of) politics and (breakdown of) law and order in the Valley that it would be easy to think that a total clampdown will make all the problems go away. It won’t. But the mess of lawlessness and acts of destruction must be removed so that there can be movement — in any direction. Nothing can stick if Kashmir continues to lava-melt.
In a situation where symbols are invested with much more than what the symbolise, the latest catalyst for mobs to lash out against the State is the alleged airing on a Tehran-based television channel of the news of the desecration of a Koran in faraway America. A strong and unequivocal condemnation of the supposed blasphemous act from New Delhi must be repeatedly and visibly made as an immediate measure. Coming from a perceived adversary, this may not amount to much for the ‘faceless’ agitators, but it certainly can do no harm in an atmosphere now surcharged more than ever with anger and retribution.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has offered a dialogue to protesting Kashmiris that will include issues of “trust deficit” and “governance deficit”. Whether New Delhi likes it or not — and even though such a dialogue is indeed pertinent and necessary for a solution or not — these issues will fall on deaf ears in Kashmir Street today. The out-of-control protestors need a different kind of dialogue with New Delhi, one that will address the latter’s reasons for putting off a plebiscite for independence conducted by the United Nations. Restating that Jammu and Kashmir is an “integral part of India” can’t be the basis of a dialogue; those setting their own backyard aflame quite obviously do not believe that. It’s not our case that New Delhi gives up on its own belief. But some kind of explanation will be required at some stage after law and order is forced back in the Valley as to why Kashmiris were promised something and then it was taken off the table. It’s not easy to turn dogma into a rational argument. But it must be done to bridge the ‘trust deficit’.