For the past few decades, national celebrations like Independence Day and Republic Day have entailed massive efforts by the security agencies. It has become a feature that certain areas are sanitised or “locked down”, snipers position themselves at strategic locations and after 9/11 anti-aircraft guns are deployed on tall buildings. This year, in addition to the exercise at the Red Fort, the focus will be on Srinagar where the forces that have unleashed vicious violence for the past month and more are threatening to “make a statement”. The “regular” raising of the Pakistan flag might be a “picnic” given what has transpired after the death of villain/hero Burhan Wani. Local reports highlight cries of azad’ giving way to pro-Pak slogans. Perhaps not since 2010 has the strife assumed such horrific dimensions. The reported airlift of 4,000 CRPF personnel for additional deployment on August 15 indicates how worrisome are apprehensions over “plans” to bring the city to a standstill, thwart attempts at I-Day celebration. That airlift also points to a failure — at least in an “immediate” context — of the bid to reach out to the common folk, wean them away from separatist machinations. More than a thought must be spared for the cops on duty on Monday. Every effort will be made by anti-national elements to provoke them into what would subsequently be slammed as “excessive force”, and impart additional impetus to the circle of violence. Was there time enough to sensitise those 4,000 on the political quagmire into which they were being plunged?
Was the attempt to initiate all-party action aimed at reviving dialogue ill-timed? The reaction from “vocal elements” in the Valley has been negative, and Mehbooba Mufti&’s essay has been further complicated — if she ever was “up to the task”. The Prime Minister has done little to suggest he is sincere about following the Vajpayee line: his latest presentation virtually ruling out a dialogue with separatist forces indicates no opening of any window of opportunity. Only in theory is there value to the argument that a cessation of violence is a pre-requisite to talks — a pragmatic approach would favour “back channel” contacts. And the continued use of pellet guns lends itself to the “inhuman” charge. Mr Narandra Modi, among others, has failed to understand the gravity of the situation, the suffering of the common Kashmiri. Yet again has a speech been tailor-made to suit ears south of the Pir Panjal, irk those in the cauldron of unrest. As for talk of regaining areas under Pak occupation (Narasimha Rao had also made the point), does it not seem rather fanciful when fires rage in the region supposedly under New Delhi/Srinagar&’s control?