The fury of the powerless
|January 8, 2012||Posted by Shehla Rashid under Kashmir, Politics, Shehla Rashid in Print|
AFTER THREE long summers of discontent, Jammu and Kashmir was in relative calm in 2011. The summer of 2010 was particularly difficult. The death of Tufail Mattoo, a 17-year-old youth, on being hit by a teargas shell fired by security forces unleashed a storm of protests and pitched street battles between security forces and the protesters leading to another 126 civilian deaths in police firing. In the months of June and July 2010, there were 872 incidents of stone-pelting in which 1,456 police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were injured. Widespread arson and destruction of government property also occurred. The security forces had to dig in and slowly bring the situation under control by mass arrests, many probably teenagers. It would be natural to assume that such arrests only increased the seething resentment, even if it was inevitable. The only positive outcome probably was New Delhi’s appointment of a three-member team of interlocutors on Kashmir, who have since submitted their report, even though scepticism about real change is widespread.
Such being the circumstance, wisdom would demand that the minimum the government of India and the government of Jammu and Kashmir should do to sustain this tenuous peace would be to not precipitate a new situation, which would either ignite a new fire or stoke anew an old ember to turn it into another winter of discontent. Wisdom would also demand that the bare minimum the people of Jammu and Kashmir desire of their governments, which may be far less than what they deserve, be sincerely delivered to them. It is in this context that the abysmal electricity shortage in the state and denial of even this basic amenity to citizens assumes serious significance. With most rural areas remaining without electricity for up to 18 hours a day and even Srinagar being subject to 12 hours of power cuts, it doesn’t need clairvoyant to guess that sooner or later people would take to the streets to protest and the resultant clashes could become another thorn in the effort to sustain the peace. Those closely observing the situation were apprehensive about such a situation and unfortunately that has happened.