It was winter- of 1963 when the holy relic at the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar went missing. News spread like wild fire and a crowd of more than quarter of a million assembled in Srinagar town. A police station, tehsil headquarters and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed’s hotel, then under construction, were set on fire. So also the fire fighting vehicles that were called to the scene. We sent military’s firefighting vehicles accompanied by a fully armed platoon. Civil administration simply panicked and handed over the city of Srinagar to the army.
We moved two battalions from Baramullah and made them camp in the centre of the town. The three hundred odd vehicles which had only recently completed stocking of Ladakh were moved at mid night towards Baramullah and then brought back at day break giving the impression that the whole division had been moved to Srinagar.
Poor, as the Indian intelligence invariably has been, it failed to gather information concerning this new form of protest of stone pelting, involving young boys and the elements behind this nefarious activity. There are reports of regular payments being made to stone pelters.
While the crowds, in increasing numbers, gathered in the town for the next couple of days no untoward incident took place. Troops with their officers were out day and night to show their presence and appeared determined to take firm action to deal with any mischief. Till then military’s presence had a salutary effect on the mobs, which unfortunately has been eroded due to excessive use of military for such tasks. Since then much water has flowed down the Jhelum, the political scene too has undergone a sea change, crowds have become more restive and hardliners multiplied.. Politics in the valley has become of the very base variety.
There is no apparent reason or rationale to the present turmoil in the valley. There is a functional government, as caring and efficient as any in the country. Unemployment is a feature all across India, more in many other parts of the country. Employment opportunities everywhere could not keep pace with population explosion. Two decades of violence is not state’s doing but that of Pakistan and the hard liners. Frustration of some political parties now out of power and others who stoke fires of discontent at every turn of event, aided and abetted by Pakistan, is the cause of ongoing trouble.
In crowd control, when all others means fail and fire has to be opened as a last resort, the governing principal is to shoot, not to kill, but incapacitate. How then has the police and CRPF been shooting to kill. This form of fire has been leading to a cascading cycle of protests and more killings. Police officers ( IPS officers ) who should be there to ensure policemen exercise restrain are not to be seen and have left the field to havaldars and inspectors.
Poor, as the Indian intelligence invariably has been, it failed to gather information concerning this new form of protest of stone pelting, involving young boys and the elements behind this nefarious activity. There are reports of regular payments being made to stone pelters. It is likely that quite a few killings is the result of fire from terrorists hiding in the surrounding buildings. Ingenious are the ways of the mischief makers.