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Paradise continues to crash and burn

A round-up of the issue of the week as reported in the media.

The crisis in Kashmir shows no sign of petering out any time soon. As the valley is gripped in a vicious circle of violence and retribution between stone-pelting local protestors and security forces, New Delhi and chief minister Omar Abdullah have quite a task at hand. Given the history and profile of the Kashmir conundrum, its not surprising that this wave of violence is generating much debate and comment across the world. The Economist, on August 5, called violence in Kashmir "A cyclical problem. " It went on to say, "What could break the cycle? The government sees the answer in better local services and more jobs. But it would, having long denied the great extent to which Kashmiris want rid of India. While the insurgency raged, backed by Pakistan, the government could blame its neighbour. But as fighting eased and protests rose, blaming Pakistan got much harder. Kashmiri separatist aspirations are the heart of the problem, as Mr Abdullah hinted in Delhi, by calling for a political solution to it. Short of separation, which would be impossible even if a third of Kashmir were not in Pakistan, it is hard to know what could satisfy Kashmiris. "

Meanwhile, Kuldip Nayar, writing in the Dawn on August 6 argued that "In fact, the reason behind such occurrences is the alienation of Kashmiris from India and New Delhi's assumption that the people will ultimately come round to accepting the status quo if they were to find the governance just, honest and working for the betterment of the state. The situation has gone beyond that. There is validity in the argument that the separatists are not allowing the situation to settle down. But the fact remains that people in Kashmir have given Srinagar and New Delhi many chances - the recent one being the year-old election in which they participated to the extent of 60 per cent - to sort out the problem of autonomy. But the two did not do so."

As trouble continues to brew everyday in the valley, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani - clearly fishing in troubled waters to galvanise the separatist movement - has appealed for peace. But there is much skepticism over his move. Mint's view on August 5 was: "In the end all it took was a month of stone pelting in Srinagar for the powers that be to appeal the top secessionist in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K ), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, for help. Geelani has obliged. [But] To permit Kashmir's top secessionist, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, political space is a dangerous move. It will re-legitimise secessionist politics at the cost of the mainstream. "
The Guardian's Jason Burke, also commenting on Gilani's intervention, wrote on August 4, "With a new generation of alienated youth increasingly rejecting the leadership of well-established separatist parties in Kashmir, disputed between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years, the call is a crucial test of the power of Gilani. Both he and the protesters are frequently accused by Indian government officials of being "agitators" organised and financed by Pakistan."

Christian Science Monitor's Ben Arnoldy on August 5 commented on the frustration among security forces in Kashmir: "Police leaders, none of whom could go on record, express frustration that they are being relied on solely to solve what they say is ultimately a political problem. "Our job is only to keep dealing with the situation but there is no solution coming, " says local cop Aijaz Ahmed."

Sheikh Mushtaq has complied a Q&A for Reuters on the crisis and one of the questions is "What do Kashmiris think of the crisis?" His answer: "In the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, between 75 percent and 95 percent support independence from both India and Pakistan, according to a recent poll by the think-tank Chatham House. Kashmiris say the latest protests are mostly spontaneous, led by disaffected young Muslims. The new generation of radicalised separatists may prove a big challenge to New Delhi. These young Kashmiris organise protests using the power of the Internet such as Facebook and YouTube. " Meanwhile, Anjana Pasricha of the Voice of America wrote on August 5 that "Kashmir has long demanded more autonomy, more development and the withdrawal of security forces from the region - but has seen little progress on those requests for decades."

There was also some flutter over the comments of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon's statement over Kashmir. Ameen Izzadin, writing for the Daily Mirror, on August 6, argued "Reports coming from the United Nations said UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, in fact, made some observations on the Kashmiri violence. His spokesman Farhan Haq vouched for it. But, apparently, due to pressure from India, Ban's chief spokesman Martin Nesirky denied Ban had made any observations on Kashmir. This, perhaps, speaks of the power India wields on the world's stage."

A lasting solution is not going to come easy, that's something all stakeholders know. That said, it is imperative that Srinagar and New Delhi get their act together fast to secure Kashmir's and India's interests.

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