Marred by countless controversies, the year 2016 caused some of the major setbacks for entire J&K. The longest ever curfew and strike for consecutive five months, beef ban, attack on J&K special position by rightwing parties and challenge to the state’s own flag kept the state simmering, hardly giving time to the state government to perform and showcase anything on the political or economic front.
Aware of the bitter realities of ruling the state, Mehbooba Mufti, who was seen as a successor to her father, toughened her stand after Mufti’s demise, seeking political and economic concessions from the government of India before taking a call on continuation of the coalition which was just a year old. The negotiations continued between the PDP and the BJP for three months, both in New Delhi and in the Valley, which finally culminated with a meeting between Mehbooba and Prime Ministers Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
As the PDP-BJP-II government was still in its honeymoon period, crises after crisis knocked their door. The first incident happened when police and Army personnel gunned down five civilians in Handwara. The killings followed protests over alleged molestation of a school girl by an Army man.
But Mehbooba faced the biggest and unexpected challenge in July with the killing of a new face of militancy, Burhan Wani, along with his two associates by security forces in South Kashmir’s Kokernag area. The killing gave rise to 2016 unrest, sparking a series of violent protests. Curfew was imposed in all 10 districts of the valley for over two months and mobile services were suspended.
Police and paramilitary forces used pellet guns, teargas shells, rubber bullets as well as assault rifles, resulting in the death of close to 100 civilians, with over 15,000 civilians injured. Two security personnel also died while over 4,000 personnel were injured in the clashes.
The situation was followed by many other ghastly incidents including the attacks on state Education Minister Naeem Akhtar’s residence with petrol bombs, on the cavalcade of Law and Rural Development Minister Abdul Haq with stones and on the vehicle of the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Ramban, etc.
Furthermore, the press community faced the anger, both from the government as well from angry protesters. On 16 July, the government literally imposed a press emergency by sending police to raid the newspaper installations in order to seize copies of newspapers and printing plates. Dozens of journalists got injured in clashes and various others were thrashed by police and others security agencies.
Whatever happened and whatsoever the reasons, Kashmir valley witnessed the longest and most violent civilian unrest which not only took toll of human lives but also became one of the worst setbacks for our economy.
However, in adversity, there is opportunity. Will our political leadership make any meaningful contribution to change the status quo? Here’s hoping that the New Year brings some good news for us.