Within 48 hours of Governor NN Vohra taking over the reins of Jammu and Kashmir, a civilian, a policeman and four militants have been killed in a gunfight at Khirham Bijbehara. Nine security forces personnel were injured in a grenade attack in Tral. Scores of civilians were injured in Bijbehara.
Kashmir saw another bloody day, bringing home the point that even with the change of guard, the Valley continues to slide towards a dark abyss of violence and uncertainty. In this context, no matter what power-hungry political parties are seeking from the new dispensation, the most important task is to restore a sense of security among masses.
If the developments of Friday morning were not enough, later in the day, an ocean of people, mostly young Kashmiris, attended the funeral prayers of deceased militants. Two of the militants were pursuing B. Tech, thus debunking hypothesis about why youth take up arms.
The scenes on Friday were a demonstration of how strong a constituency militancy has made in the minds of young Kashmiris. This is what the powers that be have failed to address. Unfortunately, the PDP-BJP combine ensured that the power being used to control this dissent is more emphatic and ruthless.
When the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed started his sojourn with the Right-wing BJP in J&K in 2015, he would often see this alliance as a coming together of ‘opposing poles’, aimed to bring positives for the state and its people. Three-and-a-half years down the line, the alliance has done everything except that.
As per the figures available, around 230 civilians were killed during this phase, over 1,000 were blinded in both eyes, thousands maimed for life. Sadly for Kashmir, the figures continue to swell with each passing day.
In these years, the socio-political demography in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh underwent a massive paradigm shift. From keeping a safe distance earlier, many in the Valley do not hesitate to put their lives at risk in order to help holed up militants escape from the security cordon. In the process, many have lost their lives, some have been maimed and blinded for life.
After withdrawing from the government and leaving the much-embarrassed Mehbooba Mufti in shock, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav played the hyper-nationalism card yet again. He put the blame for the Valley’s deteriorating situation on former ally PDP, thereby trying to exonerate his party from the mess that is Kashmir now.
While making a case for future permutations in the state, Madhav took everyone by surprise when he hinted towards the possibility of new government formation within months. His remarks evoked a lot of debate within Kashmir and outside, with many coming up with weird combinations involving prominent mainstream parties and the usual floaters. Nevertheless, he left the door open for horse-trading, which many believe will take the state deep into the throes of chaos and confusion.
In a stark contrast, former chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed his anguish over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, and the harm that horse-trading is capable of doing to its political scene. He urged the Governor to take the driver’s seat for now and ensure that things turn towards better.
“Elections are not the priority,” he said, depicting his political maturity.
At this time, J&K direly needs someone whose first priority is restoration of normalcy for the electorate rather than the elected. Vohra fits into that mould very well. And this would not be his first time.
In 2008, when passions were running high both in Jammu as well as in Srinagar in the aftermath of Amarnath land row, Vohra brought the state out of mayhem and violence in a record period of three months.
The same is expected of the old hand who has had a long association with Kashmir and its intricacies. He is a fit man to run the state and help restore the democratic institutions, which have been left scarred in the last three years. After losing trust in the elected government, this new dispensation might just do the trick in the state and cool the tempers running high in each of the three regions.
Vohra might be the Noah for the suffering masses, and lead them out safely from the quagmire of violence and dissatisfaction.
(The author is spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. Views are personal.)