Another Tihar hanging after 29 yrs, Valley faces uncertainty

FP

When Maqbool Bhat was hanged on February 11, 1984, the news shocked people across the Valley, there were a few protests and calm returned soon. Though Bhat was a top leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, he became a household name in Kashmir only after his hanging in Tihar. Bhat's body was never returned to his family. The anger triggered by the hanging may not have surfaced immediately but it certainly led to a simmering rebellion. Five years later, when an armed movement broke out in Kashmir, Bhat, his story and politics had already become its rallying motif. The first grave in Srinagar's 'martyr's graveyard' was kept vacant, waiting for Bhat's mortal remains.

Afzal Guru's hanging today comes at a crucial juncture of Kashmir's history. This measure may come to show the "iron fist'' of the Congress-led UPA and a political move that would outsmart the BJP's poll calculations. For Kashmir, it is going to be the beginning of another volatile era. Though there is no way to foresee the exact intensity of the ramifications of Afzal's hanging in the Valley, there is no doubt that the attempt to build a fragile bridge of dialogue between Delhi and Srinagar has been hit.

While the hanging has brought every section of separatist politics together, its fallout is also clear in the shaky words and subdued body language of the pro-India politicians in Kashmir. The larger public opinion in Kashmir, too, has been further marked by a sense of hopelessness. Each time when a crisis broke out in Kashmir especially after militancy had decreased substantially, the Centre promised to start unconditional talks, appointed several sets of interlocutors and constituted committees to look into the demands for revocation of draconian laws and human rights violations. But each time when the Centre extended an "olive branch'', it was used only as a temporary measure to avoid a crisis situation and calm tempers on the ground.

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