Politics of bandh in Kashmir and Jammu-Ladakh
by Hari Om on 19 Jul 2016 6 Comments

Kashmiri separatists, including Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and many others on July 8 called for Kashmir-wide shutdown on July 9. Ever since then, Kashmir has been observing bandh some time on the call of the separatists and sometimes because of curfew. The call was given following the liquidation of Burhan Wani, the dreaded poster boy of the Hizbul Mujahideen, along with two of his associates, in the Kokernag area of South Kashmir. Burhan Wani was involved in several heinous crimes against the Indian State and carried on his head a reward of Rs 10 lakh. He was one of the “most wanted” terrorists.


It is a different story that former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, Omar Abdullah, didn’t know that Burhan was a Hizbul operative. Omar Abdullah was not just Chief Minister of the sensitive border State. He was also the Home Minister, who was supposed to know each and everything concerning the security of the State and about those who were active over ground and behind the scenes to jeopardise its security.


Abdullah’s July 8 statement that he was not sure if Burhan Wani was involved in terror-related activities during 2009-2014, when he was in office, and after January 2015, when he submitted his resignation to Governor NN Vohra to make way for the People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition, has dumbfounded everyone in the state. The reasons are not far to seek.


However, Omar Abdullah and his statement are not the subjects under scrutiny. Our concern is with the liquidation of Burhan Wani and his associates by security forces and the situation that developed in the Valley in the wake of what the Director General of Police K Rajindra described as one of the most significant achievements.


As previously stated, Kashmiri separatists and Pakistani agents reacted to the event by asking the gullible Kashmiri Muslims to observe complete shutdown on Saturday (July 9) to protest what they called the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and his Hizbul associates. As was expected, the law and order authorities swung into action to keep the situation under control. They suspended mobile network services across Kashmir Valley, imposed curfew in most Kashmir districts, suspended rail services within the Valley and took all measures calculated to thwart the game plan of the secessionists that aimed at motivating Kashmiri Muslims to come out of their houses to join the funeral procession of the slain terrorists.


This was not the first shutdown call given by the separatists. Nor was it the first time that the law and order authorities did what they did to foil the separatists’ attempt to create law and order problems in the rest of the Valley. This has been going on in Kashmir at regular intervals since 1987, when secessionist violence gripped the Valley following the wholesale rigging of the 1987 Assembly elections by the National Conference-Congress combine. Kashmir also witnessed shutdowns and police action against the disturbers of peace and tranquility before 1987 as well. The only difference was that such things did not happen at regular intervals.


What has been happening in the Valley and what Kashmiri separatists have been doing there to heighten break-and-hate-India activities is one side of the story. There are cogent reasons to believe that the nation is fully aware of the politics of shutdown in Kashmir Valley.


The other side of the story is very significant, inspiring, and far more revealing. The case in point is the political behaviour of the people of Jammu province and trans-Himalayan Ladakh, who constitute almost half the State’s population and occupy more than 88 per cent of its area. They have not once endorsed the Kashmiri separatists’ anti-India politics of shutdown.


Not just this, Jammu and Ladakh never allowed any of these Kashmiri separatists and communalists to establish a foothold anywhere in the two regions, not even in areas where the Muslims were, and are, somewhat more numerous. Their slogan “Islam in danger” never clicked either in Jammu province or in the frontier region of Ladakh. They did try to extend their tentacles beyond the Kashmir Valley on a few occasions, but the nationalists in these two regions comprehensively defeated all of their attempts.


These separatists are mortally afraid of the nationalist people of Jammu province and Ladakh region. They know that the commitment of the people of these two strategic regions to India is unflinching and exemplary, notwithstanding the fact that the powers-that-be in New Delhi hardly appreciated them for their spirit of nationalism and supreme sacrifice. It is no wonder these separatists dismiss the people of Jammu and Ladakh as reactionary, anti-Kashmir and communal and dub them “anti-resistance movement” (read separatist movement).


However, it is a hard fact that the people of Jammu and Ladakh are extremely angry with the authorities in New Delhi. Their grouse is that New Delhi’s whole approach is “Kashmir-centric”, and “not holistic”. Yet another oft-heard refrain is that New Delhi has never appreciated the fact that the “State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is not one organic unit” and that “by not appreciating this stark reality and by pursuing patently Kashmir-centric policy/policies, New Delhi has only weakened Jammu and Ladakh, which otherwise constitute the nation’s backbone in the State”.


The complaints of the people of Jammu and Ladakh are as genuine and deserve positive consideration and appreciation and nothing would be more politically prudent than that New Delhi should evolve a definite mechanism that empowers the people of these two regions to manage their own politico-administrative and socio-economic affairs themselves in a meaningful manner.


Such a mechanism would, on the one hand, strengthen the nationalist constituency in the State, and, on the other, enable New Delhi to engage with Kashmiri leaders of all shades of opinion, including those who represent the internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, to find what could satisfy them and their respective constituencies, subject to the condition that everything is within the ambit of the political and constitutional organisation of India.        

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