Kashmir: Development won't be a panacea to Valley’s anger driven by political betrayal

Two months from now, it will be one year since Kashmir plunged into violence following the death of Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani in the hands of security forces. Though the severity of violence has since tapered off, the situation on the ground continues to remain tense, with frequent bouts of attacks erupting across the valley.

The latest outbreak of violence which marred last Sunday’s bypoll to the Srinanagar parliamentary seat left eight civilians dead and scores of others injured. This was the first election to take place after Wani’s killing and the subsequent, prolonged spiral of violence which left over 100 people dead.

Describing Sunday’s bypoll violence, a report in The Indian Express said: “The main theatre of stone-pelting and violent protests was Budgam, a district that traditionally records high voter turnout in the Valley — in the last Assembly election, the turnout in the district was 59.11 percent.” In sharp contrast, the abysmal 7.14 percent voter turnout in the just concluded bypoll has touched a new historic low.

In the wake of the development, Tasaduq Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the Anantnag parliamentary seat, advised the Election Commission to postpone the 12 April bypoll in south Kashmir, “till the situation becomes conducive.”

 Kashmir: Development wont be a panacea to Valley’s anger driven by political betrayal

Representational image. PTI

The question that comes to mind is: how much has the PDP-BJP government got to do with this renewed violence? In her article in The Indian Express, Nirupama Subramanian writes, “A senior functionary of the PDP-BJP government said the near wipe-out of the election was a ‘rational’ reaction after nearly six months of turmoil in the Valley during which 96 people were killed, more than 12,000 suffered some kind of injury, 1,000 lost vision in one eye after being hit by pellets, and 5 were blinded.”

As many analysts have argued, the PDP-BJP ruling alliance has brought nothing but political disaster to Kashmir, reinvigorating the cycle of violence. The writing on the wall – the political message repeatedly signalled by the Valley – has been clear for a while. But the political class in its entirety has preferred to turn a blind eye to the genesis of the conflict, with official political discourse remaining hamstrung by the stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fundamental trigger behind the widespread disaffection in the valley.

In a futile bid to justify the coming together of the two ideologically disparate parties, the advocates of PDP-BJP ruling coalition keep stringing together statements that come packaged in sterile political euphemism. Even as the valley simmers, political parties shuffle back and forth, carrying on with their old rhetoric of development projects and financial packages.

By now it should be apparent to all but the blind and faithful that building roads and tunnels, even providing jobs, is surely not going to make the problem plaguing Kashmir go away. Consider for instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent message to the Kashmiri youth. Inaugurating South Asia’s longest road tunnel that will connect the 9.2 kilometre stretch from Chenani to Nashri in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month, Modi asked the youth to choose between stone pelting and joining the mainstream development process.

The juxtaposition of such forced choices exposes the political class’s stubborn refusal to talk about the actual problem at the root of Kashmir’s continued political ferment. Experts, time and again, have argued against posing artificial questions like ‘development vs political autonomy.’ Whether manifest in open violence or driven underground, continuing to ignore the sweep of political restlessness is no doubt an immeasurable folly.

Given the historical trajectory of the state, development will not be a panacea to the valley’s long gestating anger, which is driven by a sense of political and social betrayal by the Delhi durbar. Yet development is the only mantra political parties are willing to chant. That the real stakeholders are not even listening to the refrain does not seem to matter.

In the past, political leaders and the central government have often leveraged high voter turnouts in the valley as an index of the voters’ confidence in the Delhi dispensation. By that same logic, the dismal 7.14 per cent turnout in the bypolls on Sunday should be read as the voters’ sweeping lack of confidence in the administration.

But are we ready to admit the truth and face facts?

Updated Date: Apr 12, 2017 09:02:39 IST