GK NEWS NETWORK | Greater Kashmir, August 31, 2008
NOTHER BITING AND BITTER, PERHAPS THE BITTEREST, LEAF WAS ADDED TO THE 60 YEARS SOMBER AND TRAUMATIC HISTORY OF KASHMIR ON SUNDAY MIDNIGHT.
Not only were many a Kashmiri leader who had led peaceful public rallies over a week earlier were arrested in an overnight crack down but announcement piercing the deathly silence of the night proclaiming curfew in all the 10 districts of the valley were made from megaphone fitted police vans. There is nothing new in the imposition of restriction on public movement in the state. In fact, Kashmir and curfews for indiscriminate use of the later have become synonymous. In the 60-year history, there has hardly been a year when there have not been restrictions on the assembly of people or section 144 has not been in force or when curfew has not been imposed in one or another town.
The curfew in force all over Kashmir for the past seven days is unprecedented. Terming the caging of 60 lakh men, women, children, young, old, toddlers and infants and denying them food and medicine, as curfew can be a misnomer. It will be too mild to call it even an emergency. The Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, very aptly described it as the martial law. Martial law in no way is different than the situation that has been prevailing in Kashmir during the past week.
Humanity was torn to shreds when hundreds of patients suffering from serious ailments could not be shifted to hospitals. Stories instilling awe and fear about many pregnant women gasping for breaths on roadsides and even breathing their last have been galore. Reports about men in uniform beating doctors have disturbed the entire medical fraternity. It was for the first time that restrictions had been imposed even on the movement of hospital ambulances. There are reports about the paramilitary forces firing on ambulances which were not contradicted. It is not an overstatement but a hard reality that because of scarcity of baby food in the valley and restrictions imposed by the government many crying infants were lulled to sleep by their mothers’ empty stomach. Many chronic patients depending on daily medication had to go without medicines during the unparalleled curfew.
Kashmir, particularly during past two decades, has seen many a grave situations when not only the law enforcing agencies but the entire state as such had gone out of gear.
But during those tough times too, newspapers continued their publications. In recent history, it was for the first time when no newspaper was published because of strict restrictions on the movement of newsmen and other newspaper staff. It was nothing but muzzling the media when the government, besides banning private news and current affairs cable channels, very tactfully prevented publication of newspapers. The situation as has been obtaining in Kashmir since Sunday mid-night is reminiscent of the 1976 Emergency in India.
The question arises what prompted the government to create a situation which reminds one of primitive times when human values were almost irrelevant. Ostensibly, there was no reason for placing entire Kashmir under an undeclared emergency. The All Parties Hurriyat Conferences and other allied organization were holding absolutely peaceful rallies in support of their known political demands. True, the APHC rallies attracted hundreds of thousands of people and about a million had responded to the call of conglomerate at Eidgah but these rallies were so disciplined and orderly that not a brickbat was thrown on the security forces at any place. This has been acknowledged even by the known critics of Kashmiris. There was no law and order breakdown anywhere in the valley. Instead, if one looks dispassionately at the law and order situation in Kashmir in the backdrop of the months gone by, it was much more peaceful. Instead of reacting harshly with strong arm methods to the violence-free political scenario, the government should have capitalized over it and given peace a chance to strike deeper roots. It is high time for New Delhi to reassess the Kashmir situation and find out ways and means for a lasting solution to the nagging problem which cost the Indian nation no less.