Monday, October 4, 2010
OVER 100 DAYS OF UNREST IN KASHMIR
The ongoing unrest in Kashmir valley has caused unprecedented loss to life and property. Media Scan correspondent Amin Masoodi writes in the article below.
During past 100 days of an unprecedented wave of ongoing unrest in Kashmir valley more than 107 people, most of them youth and children have been killed by security forces firing on protestors.
Curfew, protests and clashes is nothing new to strife-torn Kashmir valley but it has now become the order of the day. Even on the day of Eid, massive protests were held in Srinagar, which later turned violent, triggering fresh wave of unrest in the valley. Few government buildings were set ablaze in the heart of Srinagar city on Eid.
The fresh cycle of violence started from here and at least 19 civilians’ were killed by security forces firing the next day. The Valley continues to reel under strict curfew restrictions for the past four months and there seems to be no end to the ongoing tension in the near future.
The ongoing turmoil in Kashmir for the past four months has inflicted a loss of over Rs 26,000 crore in business. Valuable academic sessions have been lost and public property worth crores destroyed.
The education system in the Valley has received a great set back due to curfews, protests, clashes and strikes. Despite claims of the state government that most of the educational institutions were functioning normally in the valley, students at large have failed to attend schools during past few months.
Even the examinations have been postponed time and again due to the ongoing tension.
A meaningful Kashmir-centric dialogue between Delhi and representatives of Kashmiris is inevitable at this moment to at least bring back the situation under control and restore much awaited normalcy.
People in Kashmir have been demanding withdrawal of troops from Kashmir soil, scrapping of special powers given to the security forces in 1989 when militancy broke out in valley, abolition of draconian laws including the Public Safety Act (PSA) and release of all political prisoners languishing in jails and interrogation centers for years.
Despite strict curfew, people have held protests across Kashmir valley and followed the protest calendar given by the separatists from time to time.
The newspapers are not being published and local cable channels have also not been able to telecast news bulletins after Eid due to the strict restrictions imposed to prevent protests. People are facing great hardships due to the restrictions and life has come to a halt.
Miserably failing to bring the situation under control, the state government sought army’s help and the counter insurgency force was deployed in strength in north Kashmir towns of Kupwara, Trehgam, Handwara and Baramulla. Even as a deterrent army was deployed in some areas of Srinagar to enforce curfew but still the protests and clashes took place.
To prevent further protests and bring situation under control, thousands of youth have been arrested under different acts. Separatists have been jailed and also put under house arrest and time and again curfew remains enforced in the valley but the tension continues in the strife-torn valley.
Hundreds of people have been injured in the police action during the ongoing tension and dozens have been maimed. To break the cycle of protests, army, CRPF and police launched crackdowns in major towns and hundreds of youth were arrested. In the summer capital of the state, curfew was relaxed in several parts after seven days of clampdown after Eid while in most of the urban areas army was out to contain the protests.
Two civilians were killed and three others injured when police and paramilitary opened fire on a group of protesters near Palhalan, Pattan. People at large allege that police and CRPF had let loose a reign of terror in the valley and peaceful protests are being targeted.
A youth was killed and at least 12 others injured in Anantanag when security forces opened fire on a funeral procession of teenager Maroof Ahmad Nath whose body was recovered from river Jehlum, one week earlier. He went missing after being chased away allegedly by the CRPF cadres.
The anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) called in last month for mob control was sent back to New Delhi after it too proved to be a failure.
The RAF personnel were brought in last month on the request of chief minister Omar Abdullah to contain spiralling unrest proved ineffective. All the three companies have left the valley and reported to their base camps last week.
During their engagement, the RAF personnel were deployed in several sensitive areas including downtown Srinagar and Sopur and at least 30 cops were wounded in clashes across the valley. Like Indian army, RAF also carried out flag marches in several parts of the city but failed to act as deterrent to protesters.
Their deployment also generated controversy with United Nations (UN) saying that the force was misusing their logo as cops were carrying helmets and shields with the UN mark.
Interestingly 2010 witnessed stone pelting as a violent means of protests in the valley. The protesters were accused by the government of using a stone pelting as a violent means of creating tension.
Security forces cited stone pelting as a substantial reason for their firing in retaliation as many cops were injured in stone pelting. Even Congress leader and state school education minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed’s house was attacked with stones when he was celebrating Eid with his family at Damhal-Khusipora in Anantanag. Earlie protestors had attacked many politicians’ houses during protests across the valley.
Not only the people of Kashmir are demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state, some politicians too openly support their demand. Independent MLA, Mr. S. A. Rasheed said that police and CRPF too need to be made accountable, which do not come under the purview of the said law.
Rasheed viewed that the present stance of union and state governments regarding AFSPA is insulting to people of Kashmir, which according to him was a mere eyewash to divert attention from real issues.
“There are talks of removing this law from few districts only, but how will that make any difference,” the MLA asked adding that the repealing of AFSPA from whole of the state is necessary to instill confidence amongst the beleaguered people of the Valley.
By Amin Masoodi