The 40-day coldest spell of winters in Kashmir, locally called Chilay Kalaan, has commenced in Kashmir. But the unrest which erupted during hot summers when Hizbul commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed on July 8 has spilled over to the harsh Himalayan winter.
For the first time ever, a sustained agitation seeking a solution to the Kashmir issue has stretched for so long. Though the scale of agitation has climbed down, the united Hurriyat has still decided to continue protests on 2 days in a week.
The government believes that life is limping back to normalcy, but many are calling this an uneasy calm. Over 90 people have been killed and over 15,000 have been injured during protests since July 8. While the police have arrested around 10,000 youth, 5000 are still reportedly wanted.
When a team of “Track II” delegates from New Delhi recently visited Kashmir, they made some unusual observations. ‘Kashmiri youth are no more scared of death’.
A group of youth who interacted with visiting Yashwant Sinha-led delegation reportedly said: “The biggest thing India has done for us is that it has removed the element of the fear of death and gun from us. So we don’t care now.”
Thousands attend funerals of militants killed in gunfights, and new recruits especially educated youth to keep joining the ranks of armed guerillas, hence the fear of death in the valley has clearly vanished.
But the youth believe that second a round of trouble may be worse than 2016.
Making desperate attempts, the government is trying to rope in youth mainly through promotion of sporting activities. But replacing stones with balls won’t do.
A youth, whose arm was fractured by “bullish cops”, will think twice before crossing sticks with cops. Also, how unfortunate is it that over 1,000 youth and children who lost their eyesight in pellet firing by government forces will never be able to watch these matches.
This higher magnitude repeat of the 2008 and 2010 uprising in 2016 has strengthened the belief that New Delhi needs to look at Kashmir beyond a vacuum that is craving for an economic package. Economic prosperity is essential but is only subject to sustainable peace. And that is what the Valley craves for.
Kashmiris have been deprived of the bare minimums, like even seeing light in an electric bulb. When the unrest was at its peak, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti inaugurated ‘Ujala’ scheme in Kashmir but the poor power supply is ensuring andhera in the Valley.
Interestingly, the commencement of Chilay Kalaan coincides with December solstice, an astronomical phenomenon that happens every year when the north pole tilts farthest away from the sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year. But amid freezing cold as the Sun struggles to shine, there’s a hope of a spring after winter.