If the groundswell of euphoric support for the militancy was reflected last year in the ever-growing participation in the militant funerals, this year people are determinedly trying to save the militants by disrupting encounters.
The recurrent bouts of violence reveal a grim state of affairs prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir. And that too at a time when the harsh winter has given way to the spring and summer, and the people were looking forward to an increase in trading and tourist activity. If anything, the continuing protests have come as a reminder that far from being over, the turmoil that followed the popular militant commander Burhan Wani’s death last year is on a pause and may resume soon.
If last year the groundswell of euphoric support for the militancy was reflected in the ever-growing participation in the militant funerals, this year people are determinedly trying to disrupt encounter sites. And not only those where the militants have been tracked down by the security forces and engaged in encounter, but also where the militants storm a security installation.
What is more, this everyday revolt is predominantly self-driven by the teenagers and the youth in their early twenties. Hurriyat has little control over the situation, except for issuing calls for hartal and the boycott. The amalgam seems unable to control organisational management and the ideological direction of the situation. As of now, the protests are completely spontaneous, triggered by the perceived and imagined small and big provocations. Hurriyat has no choice but to react to them, and largely follow the youth on the streets.
Alongside this, the militancy has gained some more heft. From a position in 2014 where it had declined to an average annual figure of around 150 militants, the number has doubled, with local youth outnumbering the foreigners.
However, New Delhi has chosen to deal with the situation through exclusively military means thrown in along with some lame rhetoric about the development. In April, when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met the Prime Minister Narendra, she was rebuffed on her request for a dialogue with the separatist groups. In her subsequent interaction with the media, Mehbooba said that the dialogue with the stakeholders in Kashmir can only be initiated once the situation was peaceful, a condition that attracted ridicule from the separatist and civil society groups in Kashmir.
Similarly, the separatists snort at the idea of a dialogue with New Delhi geared to usher in normalcy and not resolve the festering political problem. They talk scornfully about Mehbooba’s efforts to get the centre to hold talks with stakeholders in Kashmir.
Though the centre has chosen to skirt the political outreach to Kashmir, even telling the Supreme Court it didn’t want to talk to the separatists, the J&K Government in which BJP is partnered with PDP has come under severe strain, threatening its premature end.
In popular perception in Valley, the coalition has long lost its rationale. Adding to the PDP woes is the BJP’s bellicose Hindutva-inspired nationalism. While PDP, a putative soft-separatist party, plays up the fact that it stalled Sangh Parivar bid to repeal Article 370, BJP has moved the political discourse on Kashmir away from the resolution of the dispute to the integration of the state into India. BJP has also reneged on all its commitments such as the partial revocation of AFSPA and initiating dialogue with separatist groups.
Besides, the rising intolerance in the country and the attacks on minorities, have been a source of further discomfort.
There is a growing disquiet in Kashmir about the non-implementation of the Agenda of Alliance, and PDP’s silence about it. BJP has shown little inclination to meet its commitments in the agenda, which formed the basis of the ideologically antithetical coalition. At the same time, while PDP seems to have gone quiet over its ideological agenda or entered into a sort of ideological and political trade-off with its alliance partner, BJP has more or less freely plied its agenda.
The issue for PDP is not only how to deal with the worsening current state of affairs but how to restore its credibility which is in tatters. And that can hardly be done by continuing in a coalition that has effectively reduced the party to a second fiddle, letting it only enjoy the power, not exercise it. What is more, the PDP has been complicit in this denial.
But choices for BJP are also limited. Devoid of an elected government, the centre’s approach to Kashmir would turn overriding military in nature. And the military means, as has become clear over the past three years, have only further messed up the situation in Kashmir. The choice in Kashmir, however, is not the coalition or its absence but how to address the deepening turmoil in the state. The coalition may not be doing any good but the Governor’s rule will only make things worse. Things are on the brink and unless steps are taken to address the deepening crisis, it won’t be before long that the situation tips into yet another unrest.