Response of Jammu & Ladakh to Afzal Guru’s hanging
by Hari Om on 15 Feb 2013 18 Comments

On February 9, the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack case convict and Jaish-e-Mohammad operative Mohammad Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri terrorist, was sent to the gallows and finally brought to justice. This should have happened between 2005 and 2006, but the Congress-led UPA Government delayed his execution for reasons best known to it. The BJP and other organizations say that Congress delayed the execution for votebank politics and that it implemented the judicial verdict again for political reasons, including its desperate bid to deflect public attention away from real issues like price rise, inflation, corruption, scams, high prices of petroleum products, acute unemployment problem, maladministration, insecure internal situation and so on. Pol parties feel the UPA took this decision under pressure from the nation; this seems credible.


The execution of Guru, who at the behest of the JeM planned and executed the terror attack on the Indian Parliament, a virtual war on India, evoked response on expected lines. Kashmiri leaders of all hues, without exception, and other Kashmir-based activists, including those who masquerade as “civil society” members and fake human rights activists, in one voice denounced the execution of the enemy of India and humanity, condemned New Delhi and the Indian political system and questioned the judicial verdict, a verdict based on a thorough and comprehensive investigation, as also on the procedure laid down by the Indian statute book.


Afzal Gurus’s hanging roused popular passions in certain parts of Kashmir Valley, the real trouble spot. Apprehending retaliation and backlash, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who also holds the crucial Home portfolio, strengthened the security grid in the Valley and other parts of the state even before the hanging took place. He was informed by the Union Home Minister 12 hours before executing Operation Star Three: 8 pm on February 8.


The regime took several precautionary measures to ensure that no untoward incident took place anywhere in the state, especially Kashmir Valley, including imposition of curfew, notwithstanding his February 10 highly controversial  and provocative interviews in which he asked the Government of India and the Supreme Court to prove that Guru’s execution was not “selective” and said that the hanging of Guru would further “alienate” the people of Kashmir (read members of a particular religious sect), especially young men and women. His interviews evoked strong reactions across the country. The Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde stoutly rebutted his allegations.


Omar Abdullah’s fear that violence might break out in certain areas, especially Kashmir Valley, was not unfounded, as became clear on day one of the execution. Kashmir Valley witnessed some people coming on to the streets in different areas, violating curfew and other restrictions. Even four days after Guru’s execution, things in Kashmir have not really improved to an appreciable extent and so it continues to remain under curfew, though there has been some relaxation here and there to enable people to buy essential goods, including medicines.


In between, Kashmir witnessed a number of police-crowd clashes leading to a couple of deaths and injuries to several protestors; security personnel had to maintain law and order while “maintaining maximum possible restraint”. It will take some more time before peace returns as the separatists and Pakistani agents in Kashmir are hell-bent to provoke protests across the Valley to remain in the limelight and demonstrate their relevance. There is no doubt that the state government, in collaboration with the security forces and the Army (if needed) would succeed in maintaining law and order in the Valley and creating an environment conducive for resumption of normal day-to-day social and economic activities. There may be some incidents here and there in the next few days (Kashmir is known for such incidents consistently engineered by Pakistan and its Kashmir-based agents). There is no need to worry unduly about this as the authorities in the past have very effectively tackled such situations.


The point is that what happened in Kashmir in the past few days and what will happen in the next few days in the Valley should not surprise anyone. What should inspire the nation is the remarkable role of the people of Jammu and Ladakh, including Muslims, who constitute nearly 29 per cent population of Jammu province and almost 40 per cent in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh comprising Buddhist-majority Leh district and Shia-majority Kargil district, in these tricky days.


The people of Jammu and Ladakh again reiterated their commitment to India through their remarkable conduct and response. They, including Muslims barring a few disgruntled elements, welcomed the hanging of Guru and conducted themselves in a manner which helped the authorities to tackle the Kashmir situation more effectively.


True on February 9, three-four towns in the erstwhile Doda district – where the proportion of Hindus and Muslims is 45:55 and which houses thousands of ethnic Kashmiris – did witness stray incidents of violence and a shutdown, plus a few demonstrations, but this was no more than an aberration. Indeed, things became absolutely normal by evening and ever since then perfect peace and communal amity prevails across Jammu province. Jammu province is known as an oasis of communal amity. As for Ladakh, it did not witness a single violent incident. The Kashmiri leadership has undoubtedly in its heart of hearts considered the response of Jammu and Ladakh to the Guru’s hanging a great setback to its secessionist and communal movement.


It is a different story that the national media – both print and electronic – did not appreciate the people of Jammu and Ladakh and their commitment to and solidarity with the country, notwithstanding the fact that New Delhi had consistently ignored them and treated them very shabbily. It needs to be underlined that bulk of national media sought to create an impression that the hanging of Guru had the potential of further “alienating the already rather alienated people of Jammu & Kashmir”.


It would be only proper to suggest that the national media did a great injustice to the people of Jammu and Ladakh by not appreciating their unflinching commitment to the nation and the fact that they have been defeating the Kashmiri secessionists and votaries of autonomy ever since October 1947 when the state lawfully acceded to India. It would also be proper to say that the people of Jammu and Ladakh constitute India’s most trusted and tested constituency in Jammu & Kashmir State – a fact that needs to be appreciated and that should motivate the authorities at the centre to strengthen it by protecting and advancing further its socio-economic and political interests, especially as their policy of appeasement towards Kashmir has gone down the drain.


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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