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Kashmir: A Militarist Mindset and Lack of Accountability Continue to Prevail

by Kashmir Times, 13 March 2009

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Kashmir Times, 13 March 2009


Ruling elite’s blind spot

Ground situation in Kashmir is simmering ominously because of systemic failures

Handling of the situation on the ground in the Kashmir Valley over the past few weeks reveals a fatal flaw in the attitude, behaviour and conduct of the Omar Abdullah-headed state administration. Worse, there seems to be functional disconnect between the administration on one side and the security apparatus on the other. This, in turn, points to a major political blind spot within the establishment. The ground situation today far better, far more normal than it was a decade ago, five years earlier or even just a couple of years back. This visible improvement ought to have reflected itself in corresponding improvement in the so-called delivery system of the administration. But, in reality, it is just the opposite. The militaristic mindset seems to be regaining its grip in dealing with the incidents on the ground even though outwardly there is supposed to be wider civilian control in the existing regime. That is the undisputed foremost message of the 2008 assembly polls which were, justifiably, being held up as a significant achievement and a huge breakthrough with still more promising prospects. But that is not the case. Wanton killing of innocent citizens, intolerance towards democratic dissent and utter lack of political judgement point towards a different course. This is outrageous, to say the least.

The least that the administration was expected to do, but failed to do, is to give out a message that the whiff of the improved political climate has also touched the portals of power. Lack accountability in the system continues to stick out as a sore thumb. Ordinary justice is simply impossible without a minimum level of effective accountability. That is why the level of public grievances which should have come down with the political climate generated by the assembly polls has been shooting up and up. Impositions of curfew coupled with atrocious excesses on protestors are disturbing indicators of the helplessness of the political establishment vis-a-vis the security establishment. The latter is not only unwilling to yield any space to the former but doing its worst to demonstrate its superior might. The face of the administration has not changed as far as the common man is concerned. He continues to be at the receiving end of the anti-democratic conduct of an ostensible democratic regime. Barring change of faces at the helm, nothing really has changed for the ruled. Wanton killings continue to go unquestioned. Normal life continues to be held under the weight of military boots, atmosphere of fear and insecurity resulting from this kind of high handedness reminds again and again that the dispensation at the top remains unchanged. If all this breeds feelings against such impotent political-democratic order there can hardly be any surprise. Who does not know that cynicism does not take long to set in as grievances pile up and redressal mechanism fails to respond.

It is pathetic to see the ruling National Conference unconvincingly trying to hunt with the hound and run with the hare. On the one hand they shed tears in sympathy with the victims of callous misgovernance and on the other they behave as hapless foot soldiers of the guilty. Obstinate refusal of the security apparatus to budge only adds to the helplessness of the ineffective political instrument of the administration. The civil authority continues to be where it was in relation to the military-security establishment way back in the 1990s. Attitudnal change has not kept pace with the symbolical removal of a security bunker or a pillbox from here or there. Criminal acts including killing of innocents goes unpunished as it did two decades ago.

The discontent is simmering below the surface even as it occasionally bursts out into the open when things become intolerable like that happened at Bomai in Baramullah or Nowhatta in Srinagar over the past few weeks. It does not take long for the ground situation in Kashmir to swing if the urgent imperatives go unheeded.