People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 29 , 2008



Unrest In Kashmir

AT the time of going to press, the life in Kashmir valley continues to be paralysed by the strikes for the fourth successive day.  Three persons were killed and scores injured in police firing and lathi-charges. The protests have been sparked off on the issue of government handing over 39.88 hectares of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). The chairman of the Board till June 25 was the Jammu & Kashmir governor, S K Sinha who has now retired as governor.

The land transfer has aroused fears that this will alter Kashmiri identity. The manner in which  Gen. Sinha behaved as the governor and chairman of the SASB has exacerbated these fears. Earlier also, the governor came in conflict with the chief minister by insisting that the duration of the Amarnath yatra be increased to two months as against the one month schedule being continued by the state government.  The governor had also demanded the setting up of an independent development authority for Amarnath, which is opposed by the PDP, National Conference and other parties who see in it an effort to set-up an agency outside the jurisdiction of the state government and the legislature.  Sinha is known for his pro-BJP proclivities. He was appointed as the governor of Jammu & Kashmir after his stint as the governor of Assam. It is a mystery why the UPA government persisted with him in this sensitive position for the full term. The role of Sinha has only helped the fundamentalist and extremist forces like Syed Ali Geelani's Hurriyat, to exploit this issue. The Hindutva  forces are stoking feelings in Jammu and coming out in the streets.  

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims go to Kashmir for the Amarnath yatra. From the nineties, Hindutva organisations have mobilised people who shout provocative slogans during the yatra. The pilgrimage is sought to be used for communal designs. This is totally contrary to the traditions of religious harmony in Kashmir. The Muslim Maliks of Batagund, Pahalgam have been the virtual custodians of the Holy Cave. There is also the growing environmental pollution due to the large-scale use of plastics and the litter left behind. It is unfortunate that the pilgrimage is now becoming the focus of communal mobilisation and counter-mobilisation.

The decision to handover forest land to the Board in an ecologically fragile and sensitive area will cause further damage to the environment and the beautiful natural scenery. Given the conflicting statements and divisive stances taken by ministers in the coalition government and the repercussions among the people, the decision to transfer forest land should be reviewed.  All the secular parties and forces in Jammu & Kashmir should ensure that the yatra is not made hostage to communal politics.  

(June 26, 2008)