Peaceful summer in Kashmir, calm before the storm?
Everyone is satisfied that the summer in the Kashmir valley this season remained peaceful. Of course barring some incidents of stone pelting and strike calls by separatists. However, timely response by the government in most cases, including custodial death case of a youth in apple township of Sopore in north Kashmir. Though the separatists still dissatisfied, have helped to cool down the tempers and saved the situation from going out of control as last summer. Horrifying memories from last summer still saddens most of us back in the valley, when death of a youth in security force action in the down town resulted in about four month long turmoil, taking more than 120 lives.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abudullah too expressed his satisfaction over the peaceful summer while Union Home and other central ministers and leaders praised the state government for maintaining peace.
But the question remained that Is peace in Kashmir hiding something worst in store as was witnessed after 1987 alleged rigged polls, when Mohmmad Yousuf Shah, now Syed Salahiuddin, heading Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) based Jehad Council, an alliance of different militant outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir was declared defeated when he was leading in Amira Kadal Constituency. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Mohammad Yaseen Malik and others who later joined militancy, were arrested for standing agents of Shah.
This time Army, CRPF and state police took the initiative before the onset of summer and conducted public meets, hold seminars and organized cricket and other games to keep the people, particularly youths away from the stone pelting and other violent activities.
More than two dozen cricket tournaments were conducted by Army, CRPF and State police in different parts of the Kashmir valley, which received very good response.
The first Kashmir Premier League (KPL) was organised in the valley and matches were played in different parts to engage the youths in sports activities.
This was an effort to keep away the free youth from indulging in act of violence. But what about the ones who are have been put behind the bars and are in lock-ups for months together. Some of them are detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) for two years.
Is anyone interested in voicing their interest?
According to official figures the number of those held for stone pelting and other activities was less than 150. But the separatists and others said the number could be more than 1000. The youth, allegedly involved in stone pelting last summer and evading arrest, were detained and were put in jails.
It is also being said that arrest of these alleged known stone pelters has helped to maintain peace during the summer this time. Majority of them in their teenagers and some in their 20s and 30s, and it is yet to be seen if in near future there will be any progress in taking their case forward.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that youths in the Kashmir are on run from their houses because of police harassment. They declared that coalition government has outsourced the governance to police, who are free to arrest, torture, kill and humiliate anyone for "peace in Kashmir".
Whatever be the number of those arrested, whether they were really involved in serious stone pelting incidents in 2010, the dominating question is what will happen when they come out of these detention centres?
What future do they have in the valley and otherwise?
Jammu and Kashmir High Court has already quashed the detention of more than two dozen alleged stone pelters as prosecution failed to prove any charge against them. But the youths have lost their one year, whether they were students, labourers or working as salesmen, which will not be compensated.
Similar was the situation after 1987 alleged rigged elections in which the National Conference (NC) won, giving birth to militancy which finally surfaced in late 1989, after those who were allegedly victimized for standing polling agents of Shah, now heading Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), returned from POK with arms and ammunition after training there.
Is the situation in the Kashmir valley going same this time as well, when hundreds of youth are in jail?
Is anybody trying to maintain peace during his tenure without bothering about future when somebody else will be at the helm of affairs?
I remember a scene from the film "Kalia" of Amitabh Bachchan when he committed the first crime and set on fire the cloth factory of "Shani Seth" Amjid Khan and court sentenced him to six months jail though his counsel pleaded that he should be foregiven since this was his first crime. The counsel further said that if he was jailed he will meet top criminals and will come out with a degree of graduation in crime. What Kalia do after he was released is known to everyone.
Are we repeating same mistake in Kashmir, putting stone pelters in jail to provide them a chance to become hardcore instead of pacifying their anger by counseling or other means.
It is normal in any part of the globe, including in our country, that if there is stone pelting, youths get involved very quickly, which does not mean they are habitual offenders. If one go to the statements of CRPF and police officers in 2010, many youths taking part in stone pelting, does not know why they are pelting stones. There were statements of some ministers that opposition parties were financing stone pelting while Army and Police said militant organisations were sponsoring these activities, which, if true, clearly indicate that these youths can be won back with a bit sympathy and love.
But the constant apprehension and worries remain that would there be 2010 summer like situation again if these youngsters are released? They were put behind the bars for maintaining peaceful summer this year. But the realsation of the consequences goes missing realasing, as to what's in store in the years to come. Are we not putting them to wall from where they have no alternative but to create situation which may be a lot worse than any of us can imagine.
We have top militant and separatist leaders in jails, who have enough power to convert these youth into more dangerous till they are released.
It's ironic that we are trying to maintain today's peace, intentionally or unintentionally at the cost of storing more trouble for future. Instead we should bear some pain today for safe future just like our soldiers are sacrificing their today for our safe future.
The suppression and violence against the youth only leaves me worried as any other resident of Kashmir, who lives with a dream of a bright future for the valley. My concern is for the youngsters who like everybody else deserve a normal life, a safe and secure present and a future which is not clouded by any violence or fear.
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