M. M Khajooria
A school bus carrying children to Rainbow International School at Degam, Batpura, Shopian on Wednesday, the 2nd of May came under heavy stone-pelting by an unruly mob at around 90clock in the morning. Seriously wounded, a class 2 student, eight year old Rehan Ahmed Gorsi had to be shifted to SKIMS, Soura, Srinagar after he was patched up in the District Hospital. Thirty-five students traveling in the bus had harrowing time as showers of stones suddenly hit the school bus.
The insane incident understandably evoked all-round condemnation, “It should not have happened to children who go to school to study and make a future” said eight-year-old Insha”. It is unfortunate that such an incident took place, “said Sameer, another student.” “Whatever may be the reason, school children should not be targeted like this. It could have been anyone’s child,” remarked the father of the student who was injured and added “This is not humanity”. Routine condemnations also poured in from CM Mehbooba Mufti, former CM Omar Abdullah and other big shots. Ironically, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Ali Shah Geelani, patrons of the stone -pelting brigade also expressed “dismay.” “Those who indulge in such hooliganism should realize that these actions tarnish our movement and provide an opportunity to our adversary to defame it,” Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted. Geelani, however was more forthright and forth coming. “Our strength lies in discipline. In resistance movement, we need to demonstrate our mature thinking and follow strict discipline,” Shorn of frills and fancies it boils down to insistence on disciplined behavior i.e “Pelt stones only when you are told to do so.”
They had no problem with stone-pelting as such. The truth is that they were losing grip over the street-fighters. In fact riding the tiger who would not let them dismount. Let me illustrate. On February 22, 2008, 11-day-old Irfan was travelling to Hospital in the cozy lap of his mother in a vehicle being escorted by Police. It was waylaid by stone-throwers who were imposing a shutdown declared by Geelani. The passengers were forced to disembark and in the melee, the infant fell from the lap of his mother. Blood oozed from his nose and he died before reaching the hospital. In second such incident, a government employee from Natipora was killed by a stone that hit the passenger bus he was traveling in at Batmaloo. The incident occurred on a day when Syed Ali Shah Geelani had called for a “peaceful protest.”
Apparently, the Separatist leadership themselves are so much “disciplined” that they do not stop to ponder over the implications and impact of their diktats that they routinely transmit on the young immature minds after receiving from Islamabad. They seem to be forgetting that going by the SOP of the “Freedom struggle”, violation, I repeat any violation of call for ” Shut down” by plying vehicles and keeping schools operational merited punishment like stoning of the school buses and punishment to the drivers and passengers.
Moreover, the clout and moral authority of these two leaders and others like Shabir Shah, and Yasin Malik who mortgaged their politics to Islamabad under threat had been subject to diminishing returns since quite some time. In fact, they forfeited even a semblance of the moral authority after they shamelessly surrendered before PAK ISI and ganged-up pre- Burhan Wani era discarding long held and publically declared political stands on the so called “Kashmir issue”.
Looking back we find that for the first time ever, a group of masked stone -pelters held a press conference in the downtown Srinagar city in 2008. They ridiculed Hurriyat for calling for only one day’s hartal on Tuesday over the death of the 13 year old Wamiq Farooq in police action and unilaterally resolved to extend it for several days. They matched their words with deeds. From Islamabad to Varmul, the entire Valley was taken over by the stone pelting mobs paralyzing the transport and throwing the entire life out of-gear.
This is what they had to say: ” No more Hurriyat leaders. We won’t listen to them. They are agents. It is our stone-pelting that has resurrected the movement. We will have our own hartal programme and enforce it on our own”. The masked young men had suddenly appeared from nowhere soon after the burial of Wamiq in Srinagar’s Martyrs Graveyard.
This was not an isolated incident. When on the following day Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led a procession through the downtown city, the youth in the gathering were not all that devoted to him. In fact, when Mirwaiz said that Hurriyat will chart a protest programme over the ongoing atrocities, many in the audience were not impressed. “So, Mirwaiz has yet to formulate a program. There is no need now. We know how to carry on the struggle without them (separatist leaders),” a few young men in the crowd were heard saying. Since then the emergence of ISIS and open threats to Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatist leaders by Zakir Musa has further diluted their stature. The Money laundering cases have lowered them in the estimation of the common man.
This dirty game has its own calculus and will play out as the actors act and react. With separatist leadership losing their relevance a frightening spectacle of anarchy in the realm of “Stone pelting” stares us in the face. My worst fears seem to be coming true. As I pen these words a tourist from Chennai on his way to Gulmarg has been stoned to death apparently by a “Free lance” Stone Pelters group tearing into Tourism, the main stay of the livelihood of Lakhs of Kashmiris. The attack has been roundly and strongly condemned by all sections of society which puts a question mark on the Shri Amarnath Yatra also. The Tamil Nadu governments’ demand for safe return of all130 Tamil tourists safely highlights the enormity of the situation which neither the State government nor the mainstream political parties or separatists could afford to ignore. Alarmed into action, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has called for an all parties meeting. It should be hoped that political class recognizes the distinct possibility of the situation in Kashmir getting much worst even irreversible with predictable disastrous consequences and respond responsibly.
While the state government and political class wrestle with the complex and explosive developments and hammer out a consensus at ways and means to preserve the social harmony in what is left of the Kashmir society and repel the challenge to the economy in general and Tourism including Yatra tourism in particular. The permanent services can no more afford to neglect their fundamental duties flowing from the oath of allegiance to the constitution. They need to urgently go to the drawing board and come up with a concert plans of action effectively addressing the preventive, punitive and reformative dimensions of the challenges in a professional and scientific frame work. They have number of operational options but option of evasion, or inaction is not one of them. On the internal security front, the bureaucracy should come out of hiding and senior police officers lead the boys upfront ensuring that the Force operates in the prescribed organized, restrained and responsible manner. This may, incidentally break the cycle of firings and death. Once peoples’ faith in the organs of governance at the grass root level is restored, the situation will dramatically turn around. Let the Police leadership rise to the occasion, show the way , provide resources, bring magistracy and other agencies on board to deliver the winning punch. They can do it. It has been done before.
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