January 10, 2011


Shaking the mountains: India’s response to an uprising in Kashmir has been, by turns, repressive and complacent. It is storing up trouble for the future (The Economist, Dec 29th 2010)

Officials in Delhi bristle at any comparison between the year’s events and Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland or the unrest in neighbouring Tibet. Kashmiris, they insist, have their own land and state, enjoy religious freedom, are by no means the poorest in India and take part in elections, most notably in 2008.

But there are severe limits to their democracy. Peaceful protests are prevented, jails are crammed with political detainees, detention without charge is common, phones are partially blocked, the press censored and reporters beaten, broadcasters muffled and curfews imposed. Those who complain too fiercely online are locked away. The authorities in Kashmir and Delhi say these measures are temporary. They say that to prevent abuses, the police are now being trained and re-equipped. (Soldiers, for the most part, have been kept away from street clashes.) Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Kashmir, says that police officers may even be prosecuted for misdeeds. But the repression persists, and risks causing ever greater resentment and instability.

Seen from Delhi the uprising appears manageable. Kashmiris have dropped their guns and shooed away Islamic insurgents who a decade or so ago skulked in the postcard-perfect mountains. The presence of a 350,000-strong Indian security force (some say the number is much higher), amid a population of just 11m, has also kept the armed militants at bay.

It helps India that Pakistan, the eternal trouble-stirrer in Kashmir, is in disarray. And India takes heart from the weakness and fractiousness of local leaders in Srinagar. Many have been bought off with well-paid posts, or jailed, or both. Moderates who attempt to reunite the parts have been locked up or worse (one was shot and paralysed by a mystery assailant). Some of the highest-profile ones, such as the stone-pelters’ elderly icon, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, are kept under house-arrest.

...it's just the pace that varies.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 10, 2011 6:02 AM
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