Kashmir calm on the surface but awaits fruits of promises
Take away the shine of Srinagar and a few other tourist spots, and one will find rural Kashmir deeply steeped in misery and neglect.
The traditional Indian Independence Day ceremonials shifted from gaiety in Jammu and the adjoining districts to a subdued aura in Kashmir. During the turbulence period in the 1990s, it was a matter of honour and prestige for India to have its flag fluttering in Kashmir. However, the overtones of a subdued atmosphere signify an unease or a feeling even beyond that. Something is just not right. The security machinery is taking no chances for any misadventure by terrorists.
Once life returns to normalcy in the valley and people get their breath back, the course of Kashmir after the scrapping of article 370 and 35A will be less unambiguous.
It seems like India is looking at flooding the Kashmiri terrain with massive infrastructure.
Corporates and big business houses have been pledging to make their presence felt in the valley. Hi-tech sports academies are all set to fire the Kashmiri youth's penchant for soccer and cricket. It's in their blood. Bollywood is readying to regain the lost paradise of Kashmir through its studios. Who can forget the youthful and romantic scenes of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha? And the mystique and adventurous scenes shot in Kashmir?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a glorious picture painted for Kashmir. But the road ahead is challenging. Things cannot change as fast as visioned. Certain underlying complications have to be dealt with. Ground realities are grim. Kashmir has been a bone of contention since long, and neighbours are not going to lie low. Yes, China may have Hong Kong to worry about. But no country should be underestimated. The crux of the problem is that Kashmiris are living in abject poverty. Take away the shine of Srinagar and a few other tourist spots, and one will find rural Kashmir deeply steeped in misery and neglect. A few families ruling the roost is hence like a red rag to the bull. People hate the fact that a few have looted the valley.
Moreover, the mainstream leadership is in confinement. But this should not make much of a difference for there are not many takers or sympathisers for these leaders. That could be the turning point that defines Kashmir. The people now want evidence of the fruits of Modi's promise. The Prime Minister gave an assuring speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15. A new horizon awaits Kashmir. Yes, even the worst critics want peace and progress for the valley.
Johny William is former Inspector General of Police, Jammu