Why Kashmir is so quiet - for now
Smarter tactics by Indian police and a desire among Kashmiri businesses to make money are keeping a fragile peace in Kashmir a year after violent police crackdowns killed more than 100 people.
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Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says the business community is supportive and “we are understanding their difficulties and we are taking that into consideration” when deciding strike calls. He warns India, however, not to misread the calm - which he calls “the lull before the storm.”Skip to next paragraph
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India and Pakistan
Before that attack, the two countries had come close to striking an agreement on Kashmir, a region they both claim but only partially control. The deal reportedly would have granted autonomy to the region and moved toward demilitarizing and softening the de facto border in Kashmir between the two countries.
Separatist leaders were reportedly consulted at various points then, but now they are making it clear that they need to be formally involved in this round of talks.
For the time being, that looks unlikely. India criticized the new Pakistani foreign minister’s call on Mr. Geelani when she visited India for talks last week. At that meeting, Geelani said areas of Kashmir under Pakistani control should also get self-determination, a departure from his previous advocacy for all of Kashmir to join Pakistan, according to The Telegraph of Calcutta.
“The government of India has to realize the Hurriyat leaders need to be on board and the Pakistanis have to realize that Kashmiris have to be involved, not just the two of them,” says Mr. Trumboo.
Business leaders here cannot afford constant unrest, but without unrest New Delhi’s sense of urgency in reaching out to separatists diminishes. The Kashmir Economic Alliance is trying to deploy peaceful pressure for a lasting settlement by mustering the population behind them. The group claims to represent four million entrepreneurs and their dependents.
“It is high time. We just cannot keep hearing ‘Kashmir resolution’ and it never comes,” says Mr. Trumboo. “The pressure will be from the four million people.”
Kashmir's disgruntled youth
The youths who threw stones at police last summer, meanwhile, feel they have already achieved a crucial victory: Indian and world attention on the nearly-forgotten dispute. Conversations in recent weeks with four stone pelters revealed little concern about a loss of momentum this year.
“Maybe one year is up, one year is down, but it will continue until Kashmir gets freedom,” says Bilal. “Indians struggled for their freedom for 200 years and the pace was not continuous.”
Bilal uses a fake name for his safety. Aside from giving jobs, police have also rounded up thousands of youths and pressured their families before releasing them.
Another youth says the calm will disappear the moment security forces lose their restraint: “If any killings will happen today, things will erupt and it won’t stop,” he says.
Despite his long-term optimism, the CRPF chief Ramesh says he agrees, “Twenty years of poisoning won’t go away in a season.” He adds, “we also know one small mistake on our part will turn the thing tomorrow. It is like running a nuclear power station.”