Kashmir: A Hellish Paradise?

The Kashmir valley was once referred to as heaven on earth. However, unfortunately in the recent past, the valley has been witness to many acts of violence and atrocity, and mostly because of external forces. There have been many wars with Pakistan in the valley characterized by turmoil and bloodshed.

This time around too there is turmoil in the valley, and yet again, there is bloodshed and violence. Nevertheless, it is different because the fight is not between two governments, or organizations or militant outfits. It is the people who are fighting – the Hindu’s against the Muslims, Jammu against the Kashmir valley.

On May 26, earlier this year, the government allotted 40 hectares of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Soon after the declaration was made, there were protests from environmentalists and politicians (both mainstream and separatist) saying that the state’s autonomy was in danger. The outcome of this was the death of six people in a police firing. After that, the PDP, a member of the ruling coalition, pulled out and the government was left a minority. The state cabinet then revoked the transfer of land to the Shrine Board. This was the spark that ignited the prevalent violence in the region. There are 30 groups including mainstream political groups like the BJP and the VHP which plunged into the protests. The problem avalanched to such a great extent that the highway to the valley got cut off and reports of deaths come practically everyday.

This, however, is just one part of the story, the other half is what makes this issue of Kashmir more complicated. Since the highway has been blocked by protesters, the valley has suffered greatly on the economic front. There is no fresh supply of food and medicines, also the fruit growers are being deprived of a market for their wares. They are threatening to take another route via Muzaffarabad (POK) and then to Amritsar. The Srinagar-Jammu Highway is the lifeline of the region and cutting that off is a serious concern.

The trouble with such a scenario is that the people in the Kashmir valley will either retaliate in protest and we will see large scale communal violence in the only state in the country that has a majority of Muslims, or the traders will choose the other route and become dependent on Pakistan for food, medicines and markets. Either of the two options is obviously undesirable.

In a scenario like this one where any possible outcome is not desirable, the solution must lie at the source of the problem itself. In this specific case, if we take careful note of the protestors on either side, the people protesting against the allocation of land were environmentalists and politicians. On the other hand, when the transfer was revoked, the people protesting were again the Hindu political parties. They are creating a divide between the Hindus and Muslims of a secular state. They are dividing Jammu and Kashmir. The people of the region have never wanted to fight, against the foreign insurgents or against their own people. It is this understanding alone that can clear the cloud of violence that is hovering over Kashmir in these times.

The politicians must sit down together and hopefully, the all party meeting called by the Prime Minister will bear fruit and bring some stability to the valley that was once heaven on earth.

Kanishk Kakkar


[Image Source: http://sachiniti.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/800px-lord_amarnath.jpg]