The spiralling violence bodes ill for Omar Abdullah, says Parvaiz Bukhari
THE SPATE of recent killings in Kashmir at the hands of security forces brought normal life in the Valley to a halt, leaving the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government with no option but to impose curfew in Srinagar and other major towns. A cycle of intense stonethrowing protests and a harsh government crackdown on protesters, separatist leaders and activists has exposed the limits of political power the young chief minister actually enjoys.
Under three-pronged pressure from the opposition, the security grid and separatists, Omar, the greying poster boy of electoral democracy in Kashmir, has been pushed into a corner. The situation is fast headed for the kind of standoff witnessed in the summer of 2008 in the wake of the Amarnath land row. An indication of Omar’s loss of control over the situation is that the district authorities were asked to seek the Army’s help for preventing a mass anti-India upsurge in the Valley. The Governor’s office asked the Omar-led administration to report government activity to Raj Bhavan, reducing the CM to a figurehead.
Omar did not participate in the emergency UPA meeting called by the Prime Minister to discuss Kashmir. In his attempts to arrest the cycle of intensifying anger on the streets of Kashmir, Omar acknowledged the political nature of the crisis but finds himself left with little political room to manoeuver and wrest back control. “This is not a simple law and order matter brought about by lack of good governance. This is a battle of wits. It is a battle of ideas. It is battle of ideologies,” Omar said highlighting the political nature of the protests. “I can understand people’s anger and their discontent. But this anger and discontent is being exploited by anti-national forces to foment trouble.”
The Chief Minister was forced to defend central forces deployed in Kashmir, something that his ministerial colleagues pointed out were part of the problem by describing the recent killings at their hands as “unwarranted”.
The opposition PDP has been as unforgiving of Omar Abdullah as separatists, missing no opportunity to push him further into a corner. A war of daily statements by his bête noire, Mehbooba Mufti, criticising his acumen to deal with the restive situation has placed all the responsibility for the crisis squarely at Omar’s door. He has not been able to do anything beyond appealing for calm and yielding ground to the security grid.
The political nature of the Kashmir issue is bigger than any Chief Minister of the state
Once again, the political nature of the Kashmir issue has proved bigger than a Chief Minister of the state. Omar survived when army and CRPF killed civilians in unprovoked firings and faked gunbattles. He also weathered the aftermath of the Shopian incident. But the current crisis has diminished his authority to an extent where New Delhi has taken direct control without removing Omar, who represented renewed hope after the 2008 state elections.
The Prime Minister’s slogan of zero tolerance for human rights violations in the Valley has been inverted by the people to read zero tolerance for the political status quo.
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