Jammu is quiet, Kashmir is tense

The Kashmiri psyche is volatile and, in these circumstances, there is potential for being swayed by anti-India sloganeering and an underground campaign calling for resistance.



By Johnny Williams (Burning Issue)

Published: Sun 11 Aug 2019, 8:59 PM

Last updated: Sun 11 Aug 2019, 11:01 PM

There is an eerie hush, more so in the Kashmir Valley, because the communications remain pretty much effectively shut and no one is venturing out. Not worth the risk.
The internet is blocked and the only people you see on the streets are TV crew from various channels.and little children who have snuck out of the house much to their parents' concern.
I am sitting here in my home unable to hold any meaningful conversation with people in the area that once came under my command. The status last heard from the whispering campaign is that the mainstream leaders remain under house arrest and can meet nobody.
Kashmir is no stranger to routine shutdowns. A call from Hurriyat in the past has often enough resulted in the last shutter coming down with great alacrity.
For now, the Hurriyat is mute. No doubt the situation is tense, but it is fraught with an unanswered 'what next?' when the curfew is lifted and no one knows when that will be.
The momentum of daily life has come to a grinding halt. In the silence, rumours hold sway.
Despite a 'scavenge' in the early days of the shops for essentials the common man is now without basics and with the restricted movement access to hospitals is not easy.
Following the clampdown, lanes and bylanes are being patrolled by security forces at saturation point and the overall effect is intimidating. Armoured vehicles whizz past and show of armed strength is everywhere. Barbed wire roadblocks string along the roads and anyone daring to venture out is being checked. When people meet they talk about it being like Palestine.
From my perch I see that the welfare of the near and dear ones and an absence of information on their being safe and well is a very sore point and causing the most agony.
Having spent a lifetime in uniform in Jammu and Kashmir, I can say the Kashmiri psyche is volatile and, in these circumstances, there is potential for being swayed by anti-India sloganeering and an underground campaign calling for resistance.
Ordinarily, over the years, the government of India has operated, depending much on advisories from the Abdullas and the Muftis. That thread is now snapped off and the two have a hostile equation.
Adding fuel to the fire, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a scathing attack on the Indian government and offered support to Kashmir. There are great academic reflections on the genesis of Kashmir story. The youth of today has lived with two decades of turmoil, and things are on a hair trigger. Will they seek martyrdom or look for a silver lining?
In Jammu, too, Section 144 CRPC remains imposed but for all practical reasons, it is an undeclared curfew. Jammu was never going to be the region of trouble. The population by and large has an entirely different perspective. The Kashmir factor has drained India, Jammu being its biggest victim. The curfew like situation has only hindered the people of Jammu from celebrating the decision and what they see as liberation. Though the focus is Kashmir, not Jammu, it is also going through the grind with the same impositions. One imagines that when the restrictions are lifted they will first ease up in Jammu.
Johnny Williams is the former Inspector General of Police, Jammu


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