The outpouring of thousands of students onto streets in most parts of Kashmir on Monday is reflective of the grim situation the Valley has steadily stepped into. The events are unfolding in an uncanny manner, unprecedented for a longer period of Kashmir’s post armed insurgency history. Seemingly disconnected events are contributing to raise passions and push the circumstances to precipitate.

The student unrest began from government-run degree college in south Kashmir’s volatile Pulwama town where students were provoked by the presence of government forces in the vicinity of the college campus. Going by the recent events since the conduct of by-poll for the Srinagar parliamentary seat that led to spilling of a lot of blood, the government forces should have been extra vigilant to disallow more spillover of passions, especially in highly volatile areas.

Thousands of students took to streets from Anantnag to Handwara to protest against the brutal treatment of Pulwama students, many of who are still recuperating in hospitals. No doubt Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti issued a statement of condemnation with an ‘advice’ to the government forces to ‘exercise restraint in the highly provocative situations’, it clearly appears that her authority has been reduced to issuing a customary statement alone. The ‘establishment’ is running the actual show. Had it not been the case, the students would not have been treated the way they were in Handwara and Lal Chowk where they poured onto streets to exhibit resentment on the conduct of government forces.

The Pulwama incident is only a trigger for the student outpouring. There are more provocations appearing at regular intervals. These are coming in the shape of inflammatory statements from political helmsmen, ministers and leaders and troops operating across the length and breadth of Kashmir.

The deliberate leak of some videos through internet, ostensibly aimed at creating scare amongst the rebellious population, is another contributing factor. These videos show youngsters being publicly tortured by the uniformed personnel. But instead of creating scare, they are adding fuel to the fire. The comments posted on such videos offer a fair understanding of what impact it has on the public psyche. The unfolding events indicate to the grim reality that there exists utter lack of command and experience to tackle the situation on ground. The turn of events is, of course, embedded in the most complicated issue called the Kashmir problem, and would be resolved only when it is addressed politically, but administrative skillfulness has its own impact on the ground level.

If the incumbent chief minister’s conduct and performance is compared to her father’s management during his first bout of power in 2005, the difference can be thoroughly understood. It should be a matter of concern that the orders and advises of the chief minister, who is the chairperson of unified command headquarters, are observed more in breach than adherence. If that was not the case, the students across the valley should not have been subjected to more reactionary conduct on the streets. The delicate situation must be handled with utmost care if the authorities want to avoid the repetition of 2016. Time is fast running out.

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