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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Valley’s shadows and sunshine run parallel to each other

Kashmir calm as 2 militants die in gunfights, CM visits passing-out, DC mired in ex-gratia controversy, separatists reduce shutdown to two-days-a-week

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 14: Fourteen years ago when Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conceived the idea of raising Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) at Awantipora, in close vicinity of the headquarters of Army’s counterinsurgency division Victor Force, he dreamt of diverting the Valley’s teenagers to academics, technology and science. Last two years, post-Assembly elections of 2014, this institute of learning has produced a breed of the youngsters who dedicated the prime of their youth to killing and getting killed.

As rhetoric often eclipses intentions, many of the IUST students nourished the dreams of achieving what a generation from Sufi Mohammad Akbar and Maqbool Bhat to Salahuddin and Yasin Malik had failed to accomplish. Paradoxically, they drew inspiration not only from the separatists but also from the genetically equivocal pseudo-separatists who delivered speeches, issued statements, penned articles and sang paeans for everybody from the British soldier Robert Thorpe to Yasin Malik. Many of them are now enjoying dignity and fortunes in the corridors of power in PDP-BJP government.  

Second year student of a diploma in civil engineering at IUST, Basit Rasool Dar, who died in an encounter with Police and security forces in Beowora village, near Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown of Bijbehara, on Wednesday, is the latest in South Kashmir who ended up dying as a martyr to the ever-elusive cause of Azadi. His father, Ghulam Rasool Dar of Marhama (Bijbehara), a manager with Jammu and Kashmir Bank in Anantnag, wanted him to rise as an engineer. Basit chose to follow Burhan Wani, became a confidant of his successor and IUST student Zakir, Ishaq ‘Newton’ and others who emerged as “icons of freedom” in the last two years.

When Basit breathed his last, his mother was in Delhi — escorting elder son, who has been posted in the union capital after his selection in J&K Bank. Both returned to home to attend Basit’s funeral rites in the evening. Police maintained around 5,000 participated in the militant’s burial, though some reports put the numbers between 7,000 and 8,000.

But what is significant at the end of five months of the street turbulence in Kashmir is that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti attended a Police commando passing-out parade a few miles short of Bijbehara and closer to IUST. She spoke of peace and the militants’ families’ right to ex-gratia munificence from the government. Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, and Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, escorted her to the venue. The spot at Lethapora was just furlongs away from the place on Srinagar-Jammu highway which witnessed hundreds of attacks on the mainstream politicians, officials and even the students ferried to Srinagar for a competitive examination. This is exactly where additional DC of Ramban was attacked while a mob torched his vehicle and his PSO opened fire, killing two persons.

For over three months, nobody from politicians to officials dared to venture into this area. Police and security forces surrendered it completely to militants, stone-pelters and demonstrators. Minutes after Basit’s burial, that marked a few incidents of stone pelting but failed to suspend the train services or traffic on the highway, Valley’s separatist leadership issued the fresh shutdown calendar. To everybody’s surprise, it asked the Kashmiris to continue their shutdown only on Saturday and Sunday every week and resume normal activities on five days a week. This relaxation was granted after five months of turmoil.

While the country’s television channels churned their brains on the Mehbooba Mufti government’s “temerity” of granting ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to Burhan Wani’s family over their another son Khalid’s death during an encounter in Tral in April 2015, DC Muneerul-ul-Islam stood unfazed, flanking Chief Minister at the passing-out parade.

In North Kashmir, LeT’s “Divisional Commander” Abu Bakar died in another gunbattle in Bomai area of Sopore.

Is this the denouement of the melodrama enacted through summer of the year 2016 that brought enriched statements from the separatists, leading to death of around 90 people, devastation of hundreds of properties and injuries to thousands of “protesters”. “We have been never this close to Azadi in last 26 years”, the separatists told the Kashmiris. Now the same people ask questions: “What have we achieved out of the five long months of shutdown? Where is the Azadi you promised us for five months? What makes you reduce the 24x7 shutdown to just two-days-a-week show?”


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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