ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kashmir's Civil Disobedience

It is the Government of India that is solely to blame for the current crisis.

Kashmir is on the boil. Again. Just one and a half years after the conclusion of a peaceful and high turn-out election to the state legislature, the people of Kashmir are out in the streets, angry and unwilling to listen to the blandishments of the government or their “leaders”. In the last two months of street protests, at least 45 civilians have been killed in firing by security forces, most of them young adults and children. Initially, government spokespersons tried to pass off the protests and c ivilian killings as the failure of an inept state administration and a weak chief minister. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram lectured the state’s political leadership to “go out to the people”, as if that would have stopped the protests. When the protests increased in intensity and spread, the Government of India quoted its “intelligence” to suggest that agents provocateurs from across the border were instigating them. Doctored phone taps in support of these theories were released, which were obediently aired by a compliant media. Then a new balloon was floated, which claimed that these protests were confined to a few pockets of Srinagar and a few other towns, thereby implying that they did not have mass appeal. It was claimed that by a show of force and an increase in repressive measures like curfews and army flag marches, this “round” of protests would be stifled. As time goes on and each day brings more protests and killings of children and young men, all these explanations and theories have fallen by the wayside.

There could be some truth in each of the above-mentioned explanations for the current wave of protests. There is no doubt that the present administration of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is bumbling along with allegations of corruption and nepotism blighting its mediocre track record. Organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorists would surely try to make use of these protests to further their agendas. And it is true that these protests would have a specific class and regional spread, as all protests do. None of this, however, can take away from the fact that when thousands of people are coming out every day to protest in the face of a clear danger to their lives, they are expressing a deep and widespread anger towards the authorities. The home minister, rather than delivering homilies on the safety of children and the responsibility of parents, should consider what is driving the young of Kashmir to defy death and his security forces day after day.

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