End of ‘unrealistic expectations’ in Kashmir
By Col S Dinny (Retd)
The Kashmir Valley is once again at crossroads. Ever since the repeal of Article 370 and 35 (A), there is an uneasy calm in Kashmir, disturbed only by the occasional bursts of terrorist violence. These terrorist-related incidents have also seen a decline in the last one year.
According to the MHA, 188 terror-related incidences were recorded in Kashmir Valley from 1 January 2019 till 15 July 2019, which had reduced to 120 in 2020. Further, the report brought out that 126 terrorists were killed in Kashmir during this period in 2019, while 136 terrorists were eliminated during the same period in 2020. There were 51 grenade attacks in Kashmir from 1 January 2019 till 15 July 2019, while in 2020, this had reduced to just 21.
But most importantly, even after a year of the repeal of Article 370 and 35 (A), there has been no sight of the much-anticipated, “Sailaab”, or ‘mass civilian protests’ by Kashmiris. The deafening silence of the common man on the streets of Kashmir was initially attributed to the internet clampdown and also due to the arrests of the local political leaders. It was widely perceived that once the internet clampdown was lifted and the political prisoners released, Kashmir would “burn”.
But even after lifting of internet ban and release of most of the political leaders, Kashmir continues to remain calm. This ‘studied silence’ of Kashmiri awaam is ironically giving a loud and clear message to the entire world and that is, they “do not want to be led down the garden path anymore”.
Shah Faesal, the first IAS topper from Kashmir Valley, was once the beacon of hope for many Kashmiri youths. However, he later transformed himself into a ‘manufactured symbol’ of Kashmiri frustration. He resigned from the IAS in protest and had plunged himself into political activities. But after a year post the repeal of Article 370 and 35(A), he now acknowledges that the ground realities are different. In an interview to The Indian Express a few days back, Shah Faesal said, “In the last one year due to some of my problematic utterances, a perception was built that I am an anti-national… due to some of my statements, I let down a lot of people who had immense goodwill for me. I want to undo that”. He further said that, “I did not want to lead Kashmiris down the garden path and raise unrealistic expectations”.
Shah Faesal, in many ways now, echoes the sentiment of a vast number of the ‘silent majority’ Kashmiris. They yearn for peace at all costs and have realised the nefarious designs of the ‘separatist-Pakistani deep state’combination in creating havoc in Valley. Many Kashmiris in the Valley understand that Pakistan can no longer have any worthwhile influence for Kashmir. Pakistani efforts for reviving its “jugular vein” project, is merely restricted to making noises at international forums which apparently no one listens, trying to push in more terrorists across the LoC and of course, ridiculously making cartographic changes.
On the other hand, the average Kashmiri looks at the immense developmental opportunities unleashed by the Government of India. Over 10,000 job vacancies for the youth have been identified for recruitment in various State departments in the first phase. As part of the massive infrastructure developments, the world’s highest railway bridge over river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir will be ready by next year and is expected to connect the Valley with the rest of India by train for the first time by 2022. Metro rail is on its way to Srinagar and Jammu. These are just a few of the plethora of developmental projects undertaken in Kashmir.
The last three decades of terrorism in Kashmir has seen many tumultuous changes. From AK-47 totting ‘uprising phase’ in the early nineties, to the stone pelting ‘agitational phase’ till 2019, much water has flown down the Jhelum. However, 2019 will remain etched in the annals of Kashmiri history as a turning point, with both Balakote air strike and repeal of Article 370 and 35 (A) happening in this year. The stage was set in Kashmir for a meaningful political process. Today, we are witnessing the start of a new political phase in Kashmir. A new generation of young Kashmiri political leaders and workers have emerged in the Valley. They are trying to fill the vacuum in honest, realistic, secular and democratic political leadership in Kashmir. The coming days would be extremely crucial for the future of Kashmir. There will be desperate attempts to revive the fading terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan. The security forces will have to remain in the highest state of alert, both along the LoC and in the hinterland.
But at this critical juncture in Kashmir, the ‘silent majority’ has to show courage by raising their voices to give peace and development a chance in Kashmir. In coming days, truth of ‘unrealistic expectations’ in Kashmir, as laid bare by Shah Faesal, would be heard and echoed more often across the beautiful Valley of Kashmir.
(Colonel S Dinny (Retd), served in the Indian Army as an Infantry officer. He has multiple operational experiences of Kashmir, having served along the Line of Control, Line of Actual Control and in Rashtriya Rifles. He was also a faculty at Defence Services Staff College. He contributes regularly on issues of strategic affairs in both print and electronic media).