Despite two peaceful summers, peace is fragile in Kashmir (Kashmir Newsletter)

September 21st, 2012 - 6:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Sep 21 (IANS) For the last two weeks, street protests against an anti-Islam video have erupted at many places in Kashmir. Though by far and large peaceful, the clashes between the protesters and the police at some places have come as a grim reminder of the summer of unrest that besieged the Valley in 2010.

Kashmir has a history of sporadic protests snowballing into major law and order problems.

The fragile peace in the Valley has often been shattered in the past not only by locally sensitive issues but also because of developments outside.

In the predominantly Muslim majority Valley, discovery of some blasphemous pictures in a general knowledge book triggered massive protests in 1974, culminating in bloody clashes between protesters and the police in which four people died.

When former Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Bhutto was hanged in April 1979, five people died in Valley-wide clashes and property worth millions of rupees was rampaged by unruly mobs across the Valley.

The 1979 public anger had remained focused on the cadres of the local Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose counterparts in Pakistan were perceived to have supported then Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq’s personal vendetta against the Bhuttos.

In 1983, protests against an increase in electricity tariff turned bloody, resulting in the deaths of two people and forcing authorities to impose a long spell of curfew in summer capital Srinagar.

Protests against Operation Bluestar in Punjab turned violent in Srinagar in June 1984, resulting in the deaths of five protesters.

Ironically, when Zia-ul-Haq, the man widely believed in Kashmir to have masterminded Bhutto’s hanging, was killed in an air crash in 1987 violent protests again rocked Kashmir in which four people died in police firing.

In the summer unrest of 2010, unruly mobs torched public property, including government offices and railway stations.

The over four-month-long unrest resulted in the deaths of 110 people and brought life to a grinding halt. Businesses, education and the public distribution system virtually halted during the unrest.

The death of a student, Wamiq Farooq, 14, after he was returning home from school in old Srinagar city triggered the 2010 unrest. The administration blamed the death on a stray tear smoke shell.

Against this, the intensity of the protests against the anti-Islam video has been far subdued than what was witnessed in the past.

Even though the generally peaceful protests are believed to be an indication of the maturity and farsightedness of the people, the authorities are keeping their fingers crossed.

“Hopefully better sense has prevailed on the people. While everyone of us condemns the blasphemous act, one has to understand that the state has stood in one voice with the people condemning the act,” said a senior intelligence officer here.

The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet, in its meeting Wednesday condemned the anti-Islam video. The cabinet also said steps would be explored to take legal action against those attempting to hurt the religious feelings of millions of Muslims across the World.

The continuing peace for the last two years has seen businessmen, transporters and small traders flourish and any reversal would dampen their spirits as they look forward to another booming tourist season next year.

(Sheikh Abdul can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

–Indo-Asian News Service
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