The fidayeen attack on the playground in Bemina near Srinagar is a crucial pointer to Kashmir’s state of affairs. Ever since the hanging of Afzal Guru in February, a fierce clamp down has drawn a curtain over the simmering resentment that has often surfaced in the form of sporadic protests. The attack shows that its perpetrators have adjudged the public mood well. The shock and the spectacle of the police and the paramilitary under fire are expected to prove the vulnerability of the State forces and direct the discontent into the well-trudged path of militancy. This is an open challenge to the Indian State, for which it does not seem to be in any kind of preparedness. There is complete dissonance between the state and the Central government, the former symbolized by a teary-eyed chief minister who pleads powerlessness and the latter by a conglomerate of cabinet ministers working at cross-purposes. Caught in between is the army, which finds it impossible to balance its call of duty with the expectations of the political masters and those of the people it is supposed to serve. The invariable victims of this chaotic interplay of politics, administrative inefficiency and lack of leadership are the people. Despite the efforts they have put in — by braving bullets, poverty, inclement weather and a history of neglect — they are yet to have a government which is responsive to their needs and sentiments.
If anything, the fidayeen attack should bring back attention to Kashmir’s steady alienation. About two summers ago, the Central government had woken up to this fact after the recklessness of its armed forces, matched by the fury of the valley’s stone-pelters, had dragged the Kashmir situation to a new low. It had somehow rescued the situation with its promise to act on the findings of the interlocutors it had appointed. The report has since been submitted, but no action has been taken on it. The government has added insult to injury by not only refusing to consider pleas for phasing out the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, but also turning a deaf ear to the Verma committee’s emphasis to look into excesses committed by the armed forces. In the absence of any peace initiative, the hanging of Afzal Guru has deepened Kashmir’s sense of hurt. The government will be adding to this sense of hurt and discrimination if its response to the fidayeen attack further strips the people of their rights and dignity.