Kashmir Portal

A digital Kashmir Info Network

Violence revisits Valley

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

The violent agitation over the rape of two young women in Shopian again shows that situation in the Valley remains on the knife’s edge
Sushil Vakil
It seems some forces in Kashmir are not in favour of letting peace and glory return to the state, once flocked by millions of tourists from far flung areas of the world. The two decade old militancy has, indeed, kept most of the tourists away from the Valley due to the bloodshed let lose by Pakistan sponsored militants. However, at given opportunities tourists dared to throng the Valley as everything seemed normal but they had to cut short their visit due to the sudden eruption of violence and halting of essential services. This was done on a mere bandh and hartal call issued by separatist leaders.
Evidently, the latest shutdown also crippled life for eight days against the rape and murder of two women in Shopian, forcing tourists to flee in a huff and panic. It is quite unfortunate that this ugly incident happened at a time when the urge for peace was reigning supreme in the state. Besides, the violence caused huge loss to tourism which had seen a slight hope of revival. No doubt, the killing of Ms Ahanger, a pregnant woman and mother of a three year old and her teenage sister-in-law Asiya Jan, a bright student needs condemnation in strongest terms. Yet the role of Hurriyat (G) and PDP is most appalling. It is indeed an affront to human dignity. The inflammatory speeches and protest calls given by two parties have not only led to sporadic violence, leaving more than 100 people injured but also dealt a hard blow to state’s tourism industry. Moreover, the ineptness on the part of administration and cashing in on the situation by separatists and militant sympathisers have fuelled the fire to the extent of no return.
With the recent invitation and assurance of safety to tourists by separatist leaders it appeared that Kashmir has returned to its golden days. Travel agents had bookings from both domestic and foreign tourists. In fact, many guests had already made a beeline for Dal Lake and other spots but that was least acceptable to separatist forces who again indulged in old political games-whipping up a storm on a murder cum rape issue. The disgruntled elements incited the gullible to indulge in violence and to create a scare and embarrass the government and bring pressure to yield to their demands.
In the first sight the government shouldn’t have remained a silent spectator to such heinous murder incidents. Had the local police filed an FIR on time immediately after the bodies were fished out from a stream on May 30 the situation would have been defused much earlier and also not given a weapon to Geelani to use against the centre. Nonetheless, the situation received further push when Chief Minister Omar Abdullah endorsed the officials version that the death has been caused due to the drowning. It was, indeed, an irresponsible statement on the part of the Chief Minister to summarily declare that deaths were caused due to drowning. This angered the local people leading to wide spread protests by Kashmir outfits.
The Sopore incident involving army and local people, twin rape and murder case and attack on Sikhs in Badgam area have exposed the hollow claims of youngest ever Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who has already completed six months of his tenure. This is perceived to be his first measured failure.
Worse is the politicisation of the issue by the secessionist political groups and the PDP. The need of the hour is a free and fair investigation into the incident. The blame wholly lies on both the centre as well as state government. As they grossly failed to handle the situation despite knowing that separatists will turn the situation in their own favour. It is ironical that while the centre was busy in portfolio allocation and victory celebrations the state administration was caught napping. Had the government acted in time the state wouldn’t have missed another opportunity to put the valley on tourist map.
It is the worst kind of political opportunism that is on display in Kashmir. The incompetence of the J&K government in handling the sensitive issue has led to the Shopian tragedy snowballing into a huge controversy. There is no doubt that Centre despatched Home Minister P Chidambaram and other senior officials but it was too late as the agitation has served the purpose of separatists and shattered the tourism industry.

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