While people the world over were observing the 151th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and re-dedicating themselves to ‘ahimsa’ [nonviolence] that this apostle of peace championed as a form of protest, pro-Pakistan terrorists shot dead two innocent locals in Kashmir Valley- Majid Ahmad Gojri, a resident of Chattabal, Srinagar and Mohammad Shafi Dar from Batamaloo.
Initially, these cold-blooded murders appeared to be random acts of trigger-happy terrorists to settle personal scores or target suspected informers. However, with the killing of Makhan Lal Bindroo, a 68-year-old Kashmiri Pandit [KP] just three days later, it became clear that these murders were part of an elaborate and meticulously planned sinister plot. Bindroo was one of the few KPs who didn’t leave Srinagar despite the targeted violence unleashed by terrorists in 1990 against his community that led to a mass exodus of KPs.
Besides Bindroo, two other civilians were also murdered by terrorists on October 5. While one of the victims was a taxi driver named Mohammad Shafi Lone, the other was Virender Paswan, a Hindu Street food vendor hailing from Bihar. Two days later, terrorists entered a government school in Srinagar and shot dead the principal, a lady named Supinder Kaur belonging to Kashmir’s minority Sikh community as well as a Hindu teacher named Deepak Chand hailing from Jammu.
Such killings continue unabated and in October alone, 11 civilians were murdered and the majority belonged to minority communities. While these murders won’t help the terrorists’ in achieving their avowed aim of securing Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan in any way, it has nevertheless created an aggravated sense of insecurity amongst the people, which is exactly what Islamabad wants. By creating mayhem in Kashmir Valley, it is trying to convey an impression that the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated after abrogation of Article 370, as is evident from its recent statements on this issue.
There’s hardly any risk involved in targeting unarmed and unsuspecting civilians. Armed with a pistol, [which can easily be concealed underneath the ‘phiran’, a traditional Kashmiri robe-like cloak], all the assailant has to do is ensure that there are no security force personnel in close vicinity of the ‘target’, and then closing-in with the unsuspecting victim, pump him [or her] with bullets at point blank range before melting into alleys or mingling with the crowds.
The only way to arrest this bloody trend is by increasing the number of ‘boots on ground’ to ensure enhanced surveillance and this is exactly what the center has done. With the winters fast approaching, additional central armed police force [CAPF] units inducted for this purpose require to be appropriately billeted and so a few community halls have been temporarily requisitioned.
A majority of Kashmiris understand this compulsion and since terrorists are on a senseless killing spree, arrival of additional forces has given them a greater sense of security. However, some politicians, who should have been hailing the center’s decision to send more CAPF units to enhance public safety, are surprisingly, greatly upset by this development and the reason their reasons thereof are downright hilarious.
While boasting that “My Government built community/marriage halls & demolished bunkers in Srinagar,” NC vice president and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that “It’s disappointing to see the security situation in the city has now regressed so far that new bunkers are being constructed & the marriage halls are being used as barracks for security forces.” Creating a storm in a teacup is Abdullah’s forte and his lament regarding use of community as temporary CAPF accommodation reveals his amazing ability to extract political mileage from even the most unlikely situations.
Not to be outdone, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who sees a ‘conspiracy’ in everything, seems less worried about the spate of civilian killings by terrorists and is more concerned that “After placing security bunkers at every nook & corner of Srinagar, CRPF personnel have been pushed into marriage halls which is the only private space left for people here.” By adding that “Every day more draconian laws are brought in with the sole purpose of suffocating people into silence,” she has once again lived up to her reputation of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’ as well as a Pakistan apologist. By according “private space” to people greater importance than their physical safety, Mufti has once again exhibited her misplaced sense of priorities.
Right since 1947, various governments at the center had given NC, and subsequently PDP, a carte blanche to run J&K. Both exploited this opportunity to establish their own fiefdoms and convince the public regarding their indispensability by sowing seeds of insecurity and inculcating a deep sense of alienation amongst the people. So, while making best of their position and enjoying all benefits and perks provided by New Delhi, both parties retained their relevance by making anti center statements and claiming to be the sole bulwark that was preventing Kashmiris from being short-changed by the center.
The so called ‘mainstream’ political parties also made it a point to ensure that the pro-Pakistan lobby was kept in good humour. This is being done by glorifying their fissiparous philosophy and at times even going to the extent of paying obeisance to secessionists. NC patriarch Farook Abdullah openly expressed solidarity with pro-Pakistan Hurriyat, which demands merger of J&K with Pakistan by saying “I’m with them [Hurriyat] as far as their asking for the right of the people is concerned.” PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed went to the extent of saying that “we must credit the Hurriyat, Pakistan, militant outfits for the conduct of assembly elections in the state.”
On the issue of CAFP personnel being accommodated in a few community centres as a temporary measure, could the amazing convergence of views articulated by Abdullah and Mufti with Pakistan Foreign Office statement that “Equally reprehensible is the housing of Indian occupation forces in community centres, erection of additional bunkers in cities and daily aggressive and humiliating frisking of Kashmiri men and women,” bea mere coincidence- or an attempt to please Islamabad?
Both Omar and Mehbooba apparently consider ruling J&K as their birth right, but after abrogation of Article 370 and creating the union territory of J&K, both NC and PDP face the live threat of being rendered politically irrelevant. So, they appear to be desperately trying to convince people about their indispensability for protecting the rights of Kashmiris by demonising the center through misinformation and trying to promote sub nationalism through alienation.
Expressing concerns on trivial matters like short term temporary use of community halls by CAPF while disregarding critical issues like protection of people against senseless killings by terrorists, though unfortunate, reflects the harsh and tragic reality of politics in Kashmir.