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What Normal?

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The print media, TV news channels, et al, are asking when the situation in J&K would return to ‘normal’. A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court demanding the same. Quite obviously, security arrangements will remain tight till 15 August, as the immediate response of the separatists and their Pakistani backers is focused around protests planned for this period. Pakistan’s ‘Independence Day’ celebrations are held on 14 August (historically inaccurate but anything to stay ‘ahead’ of India) during which solidarity will be expressed with the people of Kashmir. India’s Independence Day will be observed as ‘black day’. This is about all that Pakistan has been able to manage against revocation of Article 370, having been rebuffed by all important players in the international community. One may ask, however, what is this much sought after ‘normalcy’ that everybody so eagerly awaits? Is it the encounters with terrorists every other day, followed by stone-pelting mobs and hysterical funerals afterwards? The terrorist affected districts of Kashmir weren’t exactly the models of a normal life if the usual parameters are to be applied. There would not have been any need to change the state’s constitutional status if that had been the case. It is true, however, that restrictions on movement, inability to access the internet and disrupted telephone connections are greatly inconveniencing the ordinary folk. It may be recalled how during the Uttarakhand statehood agitation days, the curfew imposed for a couple of days in Dehradun had made life difficult to the point that news reporters who had passes got involved in delivering food and other supplies wherever they could. In one case, a reporter transported oxygen cylinders needed for an urgent operation. Now, multiply this manifold to understand the plight of people in J&K. If nothing else, people in the rest of the country should empathise with their lot and do whatever they can to make things better. In some cases, this could even mean helping Kashmiris living in other states, while strictly keeping politics out of it. There is no doubt that things will get worse in Kashmir before they get better. Pakistan is already talking in terms of five, ten and fifteen year plans to achieve its objectives in that region. In the short term, the emphasis is on whipping up militancy by proxy groups, further radical Islamisation and generating false narratives on India’s ‘racist’ intent at demographic change. These moves have to be anticipated and countered. This will involve the hard measures being currently taken, but also more subtle moves on the perception front. India’s opposition parties, for one, could do well to cooperate in this if they really wish well for the Kashmiris.