Home Minister P. Chidambaram has been candid in his description of the situation in Kashmir as “not yet normal”. Clearly, with protesters erupting in the cause-and-effect spin-cycle of irate stone-throwing crowds and deaths caused by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) firing, the clashes are deeply worrying for Delhi as well as Srinagar, not to mention for the ordinary people of Kashmir whose normal lives have been disrupted for the past two months. If the reported deaths of five protesters, including that of a 13-year-old, by CRPF fire last week isn’t bad enough, the images of women joining young men in pelting security forces with stones — along with an image of a policeman stripped down to his underwear after being beaten by a mob returning to his post — tell a story that hasn’t yet reached its climax, never mind its end. Yes, vested interests such as the Hurriyat (Gilani) have ensured that there is a method to this madness. But it would be wise to consider that the latest rupture between the Kashmir Street and the Valley’s administrators is also a genuine show of frustration and protest, not just manufactured dissent fuelled by professional secessionist groups under the tutelage of Pakistan.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah doesn’t have an enviable job. The fact that Mr Abdullah and the Centre are seen as the common adversary by those protesting in Kashmir, adds to the mindgames that are sinking Kashmir into the proverbial quagmire. Mr Chidambaram has said that the Government of India has no reservations on “talking to our own people”. Without crying blasphemy, he should consider the possibility of a divergence in the government’s and many Kashmiris’ definition of ‘our own people’.
Curfew has been clamped in the Valley and, at this stage, the priority has to be to stop the violent action-reaction cycle. But the onus is on the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi to ensure that there are no more fatalities, no more unexplained ‘disappearances’ — considering that the latest round of deaths was caused reportedly after the CRPF ‘defended’ itself against a violent mob near Sopore protesting against the ‘disappearance’ of a teenager who was allegedly in police custody. Those willing to exploit the latest round of ‘troubles’ in Kashmir are being fuelled by fatality figures. Despite the difficulty, Srinagar and New Delhi must do all to ensure that there are no more deaths caused by security forces. Let them show — rather than tell — the Kashmiri people that it serves no one except vested secessionist interests for the Valley to go down the road of ‘abnormalcy’.