KASHMIR is going through a prodigious conversion. Independence Day celebrations in the Valley on the eve of August 15 have surprised many outsiders who have a limited understanding of the dynamics of Kashmir.
- The flavour of I-Day, after ages!
It was for the first time, since the inception of terrorism in Kashmir in 1989 that the official venues for the celebration of Independence Day on August 15 were opened for the general public. The practice of entry passes to the venues was done away with. The people of all age groups and genders participated overwhelmingly in the Independence Day celebrations leaving many Kashmir watchers astonished.
The response was so huge at the Bakhshi Stadium in Srinagar city, the venue for the main function, that men and women were seen queuing up in huge numbers at the entrance gates. Though the UT administration had issued orders to the government servants to participate in the Independence Day celebrations at their respective places of postings, the gatherings at the official venues for the Independence Days celebrations were genuinely of the commoners.
At all the district headquarters across Kashmir Valley, the celebrations witnessed unprecedented participation of the common people. Hundreds and thousands of tricolours were flying high at the venues. Day before the Independence Day, there was huge participation in Tiranga rallies across the length and breadth of Jammu and Kashmir and people participated in these rallies in thousands. The response was genuinely overwhelming.
Now the question arises – how was it that a sea of people participated in the Independence Day celebration across Kashmir Valley for the first time in the contemporary history? Well, it only shows people’s yearning for peaceful existence. Provide a peaceful environment to the people of Kashmir and see how buoyant they are about celebration of joy.
- The colours of change
Credit must be given where it is due. The Manoj Sinha administration has been able to give a sense of security to the people here. When you remove the element of fear from the mind-space of the masses, the response would be like the one we witnessed during the Independence Day celebrations.
More than anything else, Kashmiri people are futuristic and aspirational, you can’t cocoon them for too long. You should see how jubilantly people in the hilly district Shopian in South Kashmir participated in the Independence Day celebrations! Since ‘violence silences’, and contrastingly, as violence goes down, people break silence, celebrate life, participate in lively events and cherish joy. This is precisely what we are witnessing currently in Kashmir.
- From mourning to sunny days
Life in Kashmir had been dull since early 1990s. Rather, there was no life. The Valley was in a perpetual state of mourning. There is hardly any family which was not affected by the violence. And what is even more shocking is that the so-called political leadership on both sides of the ideological divide never allowed people to celebrate life on special occasions too. People had forgotten to celebrate even Eid. A dictate would always come from a so-called leader not to celebrate the festival. He would instigate people to protest on the auspicious day. The result would be that the day would be eventually be marked with violent protests followed by causalities.
However inconvenient this may be for some to digest, the fact remains that people in Kashmir were pushed towards a perpetual state of mourning. I have been consistently arguing that the abrogation of Article 370 under which the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was enjoying a unique constitutional position within the Union of India, is debatable, but we cannot close our eyes to the post-abrogation scenario. Things have changed a lot. The level of violence has gone down to a decimal. There is no more engineering of protests. Stone-pelters have vanished from the scene. The element of fear is at its lowest.
The accountability of government employees has also played important role in normalising the situation in Kashmir. There was no accountability during the civilian governments. Work culture had suffered immensely and government servants would indulge in wrong practices and there was none to hold them accountable for their actions.
Two mainstream political parties – the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party used the violence orchestrated by separatists as a tool against each other on many occasions. I have recorded it in detail in my books ‘K File – The Conspiracy Of Silence’ and ‘Kashmir Beyond Article 370’ as to how the NC and the PDP would fuel unrest against the party in power right across 1990-2018.
Even circumstantial evidences would suggest that the leadership of both the parties were actually covertly indulging in killings of their adversaries within or outside their party folds. It was not specific with hawkish separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani alone that he would allegedly get his critics or competitors killed as in the case of late Abdul Gani Lone, the NC and PDP leaders allegedly facilitated the killing of many of their leaders who were seen as adversaries.
On October 8, 2005 the then Education Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led PDP-Congress coalition government, was killed by terrorists at his Tulsi Bagh residence in Srinagar. It was more like a Fidayeen attack. Later, Ghulam Nabi Lone’s son Shoaib Nabi Lone, who is currently associated with Sayed Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party accused the PDP leadership, even in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, that his father was killed under a conspiracy. Lone, it merits a mention here, was not enjoying a healthy relationship with Mufti and his daughter Mehbooba at the time of his killing.
On the 21st of May of 2006, two terrorists attacked a rally of the Congress party at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Srinagar which was scheduled to be addressed by the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Five persons and two police officers were killed in the attack and 21 others critically injured including the then IGP Kashmir Range K Rajendra. Munir Khan was SSP Srinagar at that time. It was allegedly a plot to assassinate Azad. The terrorists had come from Bandipora in a vehicle of a local Congress leader Dulla Mir. It was a brazen security breach which was never investigated. Dulla Mir was a Professor Saifuddin Soz loyalist.
On May 15, 2000 the then Minister of State for Power Ghulam Hasan Bhat, along with his two guards, driver, radioman was killed in a powerful mine blast that blew up the car in South Kashmir’s Chabran area when the minister was on way to his ancestral home in Dooru. His killing was allegedly politically motivated. The guy involved in planting the mine was a worker of his immediate rival in the constituency.
Five years after the killing of Ghulam Hasan Bhat, the accused decamped with many weapons from the residence of a political leader and was later killed somewhere in the Anantnag district by security forces. There are many such incidents when fingers pointed towards political leaders.
The nexus between terrorists and some political leaders is an open secret now. These political leaders would aid and abet terrorists to further their agenda through covert means. This is not a ‘startling’ revelation! People knew about it but could not speak out of fear.
Then, another aspect was – using terrorism as a tool for electoral gains. This too has been debated and discussed in detail.
Post abrogation, the administration has successfully and to a great extent, got rid of nasty stuff that was considered ‘normal’ by the civilian governments. The results are there for all to see. People have started celebrating life. That is the biggest and the happiest take-away from the present situation.