Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Midsummer Mayhem

Day Two

Kashmir continues to simmer. I woke up to gun-shots today. Curfew has been imposed in the valley and everyone is confined to their homes. I am also cooped inside. Cell phones just don’t stop ringing and each ring is a constant reminder that yet more violence has taken place. It is evening time, as I post, and I can still hear crackle of gunfire nearby. I am being told that the police and para-military troopers -- deployed all over the place -- are firing intermittently in the air to stop people from coming out. This is a major clamp-down, as the establishment looks for desperate measures to control the situation, which is clearly slipping out of their hands.

Trying to make most of my fallow time I managed to have a word with some neighbors, my friends and a couple of acquaintances over the phone. The general mood is somber and tempers are clearly on the roil. Almost everyone talks of double standards adopted by the government. While the authorities were lax in Jammu when the Hindu right wing hit the roof there, brute force was used in Kashmir from Day one.

Sample this: While the Jammu agitation was controlled by hooligans, who torched public property and resorted to mass violence, brandishing weapons and tridents, only three people were shot in more than 37 days in the temple city. Two days of protests have already left 20 dead in Kashmir. More than 500 injured. Why the iniquity? People ask. What happened to the famed democratic scruples of India? For once, I have no ready answers.

The separatist leader gunned down yesterday has been buried in Srinagar in the afternoon. A hundred thousand people marched in Srinagar today. They managed to free two prominent Hurriyet leaders -- Mirwaiz Omar and Syed Ali Geelani -- from their respective house-arrests. There have been reports of confrontation between the people and cops from across the valley. Sopore, where I live, witnessed similar scenes. All hamlets around the township are on a slow flame. Emotions are alpine high and curfew is being breached with impunity. For the moment it looks like there is no solution in the sight.

There is a mix of fear and bravado among the people. The defiance is new-found and alarming. Incidents of mob fury are continuously pouring in. Military bunkers are being razed, politicians’ homes are being stoned, police posts are being attacked with a never before ferocity. People justify their acts by citing police’s naked aggression. The government, which bundled in handling the situation initially, is finding it difficult to control the mobs. The flower blossom in the garden of paradise appears abruptly shriveled up.

Rhetoric is flying thick and fast, so are the rumors. Everyone has his own slant and a tale to tell. The curfew, clamp-down and clamor is reminiscent of the early 90’s. Is it back to square one?

Only the other day I saw a tulip trampled on the roadside.