It was a two-day normalcy in Kashmir after four months, but on Hurriyat terms. Businesses reopened as usual over Saturday and Sunday, when Hurriyat had ordained in its weekly protest calendar for them to do so. Public and private transport plied as usual. The pedestrian movement substantially increased.
But while people were breathing easy for some sense of peace, at Kakapora in South Kashmir, a familiar pre-unrest spectacle played out: a massive number of people once again participated in the funeral of a militant killed in an encounter with the security forces on Sunday morning.
Rayees Ahmad Dar, 25, had completed three-year diploma in civil engineering and was working as contractual IT trainer at a local college. He was locally known as Rayees engineer.
So, basically, there is little that has changed in Kashmir. It was the overwhelming turnout in militant funerals over the past two years that is said to have built up to the current situation, with militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing acting as a trigger.
The unrest also led to a drastic drop in anti-militancy operations, more so in South Kashmir, where not a single Kashmiri militant was killed in four months. The ferocity of the public rage and the ongoing protests wouldn’t let police and paramilitary personnel to hold cordon and search operations.
However, with some limited improvement in the situation in recent days, the forces are trying hard to move back in and rebuild the pressure on the local militants. And in some parts they have already re-established the writ of the government.
But with resumption of the killings of the local militants have returned the massive funerals. The situation, as it were, is back to square one. It will build up to a fresh critical mass, waiting for a new trigger to erupt. The current upsurge, meanwhile, is far from over.
And its toll so far has been unconscionable: 96 dead, several hundred blinded and over 14000 injured. The government has also arrested over 7,000 people and slapped the Public Safety Act on around 500 persons. And the separatists have not called off the protest roster.
The shutdown, as of now, will continue for five days a week. And it is likely to be renewed again with more or less identical timetable. But the advantages of the strategy have already worn out thin and its renewals appear more for its own sake than geared to an end. And by doing so, separatists are only postponing the inevitable: the return to normalcy in addition to bringing Kashmir to the brink of an economic collapse.
Hartals have already quickened the fatigue and forced thousands of people lose their livelihoods. This situation calls for a wayout. There is a desperate need to exhibit political imagination and innovate the approach to unfolding situation. But this hasn’t happened so far. And delaying it further will only harm rather than help the cause which Hurriyat claims to represent.