Stone rage pushing Kashmir back to stone age

    By Sheikh Qayoom

    Srinagar : It’s been almost a month and Kashmir is still in disarray. The region has been locked down — the separatists have been raging over the July 8 killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, and the security forces are sparing no effort to retaliate.

    The end result has been harrowing for common people who are reeling under the curfew and the clampdown imposed by the administration. It seems the cycle of violence and protests is pushing the region towards an abyss. Uncertainty hangs heavy in the air, and the future looks bleak.

    Over the last one month, 52 persons have been killed in the violence, over 3,500 injured and dozens have lost vision due to pellet blasts by the security forces.

    Even as the government tried to grapple with the situation following Burhan Wani’s killing, the simmering rage erupted like a volcano across south Kashmir.

    The state government had hoped that with the passage of time, violence would lead to fatigue among the masses and the protests would fade. But that hasn’t been the case so far.

    Separatists, who have been placed under preventive detention, are orchestrating protests and the Valley remains shut down.

    Today, be it Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian or Kulgam districts, the situation is extremely volatile. Militants are brandishing weapons at protest rallies in the region. They are exhorting the people to join this “freedom struggle” — this “fight to finish”.

    And it’s taking a toll on the jawans of the security forces. Long duty hours, the tension of implementing curfew in a hostile region and the criticism of the way they handled the protests are not helping the men in uniform.

    So too with the commoners who are badly hit by the curfew and the protests.

    Shops are running out of essential items, food and medicines; panic has gripped the residents here who are trying to stock up all they can. As a result, profiteering has become the order of the day with unscrupulous elements making the most of the crisis.

    Most of the institutions here are closed — schools and colleges have been shut for nearly a month. Banks, post offices and state government offices are managing with skeletal staff.

    It’s an equally grim situation for the fruit growers. With the roads blocked and the protests refusing to subside, it has become difficult to transport fruits to the terminal markets.

    Repercussions will be felt in the local economy as a result.

    While the state government is still hoping that the protests would die down without further bloodshed, one wonders whether there would be a permanent solution to this vexed problem.

    Each time the region erupts, it’s the people who suffer the most. Protesters pelt stones and security forces fight back. Streets and lanes become battlegrounds. There are debates, discussions and assurances. But all of that seems to be futile as the region is pushed back to the stone age.

    When will it end? No one seems to know.

    There’s just the hope that Kashmir will be an abode of peace again. After all, no civilised society can remain permanently shut, stuck in a quagmire.