The start of the winter session of Parliament on Monday was rather subdued, especially when compared with a few recent sessions. This is welcome. But most Opposition leaders did forcefully demand the presence of Farooq Abdullah, a fellow Lok Sabha member and a former J and K Chief Minister, in the House. Abdullah along with several hundred political leaders and activists in the State has been in preventive detention since a couple of days before the August 5 deletion of Article 370. A number of detainees have since been released, but Abdullah and another former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti continue to remain under house arrest in Srinagar. The central government did not indicate when Abdullah, the MP from Srinagar, would be released. It is ironical that on the one hand the Centre has claimed that normalcy is fast returning to the troubled Kashmir and on the other hand it has kept in captivity its senior politicians. Earlier this week news reports spoke of shops and other commercial establishments in the Valley remaining open for almost full day. Communications, barring internet, were also said to be back to normal. Vehicular traffic in the Valley had also picked up in recent days. In short, under the saturation presence of the security forces, Kashmir is slowly but certainly returning to normal. Here it is important to qualify ‘normal’. For even before the August 5 shocker, Kashmir was far from normal as we understand the word. The presence of security forces in Kashmir has been a constant feature ever since Pakistan-fuelled militancy threatened normalcy in the late 80s. However, it seems the Centre’s understanding, while deleting Article 370 and dividing the State into two Union Territories, might be partially succeeding. Recent reports of a near-normal life returning gradually in Srinagar is a positive sign. Tiring out ordinary people who need to resume normalcy to feed their families, educate their children and desire to lead peaceful lives is a time-tested approach. This, however, is not to suggest that the threat of insurgency has in anyway diminished. But then that threat had always been there from the time Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi reversed the electoral outcome of the Assembly poll which threw up a new winner. Kashmir has not returned to normal since the ill-considered rejection of the popular verdict through an executive fiat. It was also under Rajiv Gandhi that more than three lakh Pandits were forced out at the pain of murder, rape, plunder and worse from Kashmir. And they have not returned to their homes since, despite successive governments assuring them of a safe passage back to Kashmir. Meanwhile, it is hoped that soon a way can be found for Abdullah to attend Parliament. Fear that Abdullah will incite fresh trouble in Kashmir by speaking angrily and passionately in the Lok Sabha will have to be confronted. Let him have his say. It would help release pent-up anger of Kashmiris and maybe help further ‘normalise’ the situation in the Valley.
Also Read: Winter session: PM Modi drops a subtle hint