SRINAGAR 25 Feb 2011: The Indian central and state intelligence agencies are in a tizzy for the past one month trying to keep track of the mood on the street here. They are not taking any chances after what happened in Cairo. And their prognosis is grim: something is brewing.
The first sign of tension surfaced after a survey in January by separatists to prepare a list of the young men involved in stone pelting last summer. The initial apprehension within the administration was that these young men could be groomed to pick up the gun. But developments in Egypt changed that. “Militancy we can handle. After 9/11 (we’ve seen) it backfires on its promoters. People here are sick of violence. But our greatest fear is 50,000 people landing up at Lal Chowk for a dharna. How do you handle that?” said a top government source requesting not to be named.
Last summer, a section of moderate separatists had called for a Dharna but were over-ruled as being “impractical” by the hardliners. Post-Egypt uprising, things look different. A similar protest, in full glare of the international media, would put New Delhi and the state government in a spot. The police believe that for such a mass upsurge, all that the separatists needs is a spark. This is where stone pelters come in. One death could ignite a fire.
For the past one month, the police have been quietly picking up all known stone-pelters; even those released earlier. They are being summoned to the local thana every second day. “We want to keep the pressure. We want them to know that we know who they are. The message from the top is clear: last summer shall not be repeated,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
Many traders in downtown Srinagar are intrigued by the spurt in phone calls from the local thana in last week. “Sometimes I get three to four calls a one day asking me if I need help or if everything is alright in my area,” said Mohammed Ashfaq, a trader.
A source said keeping Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Delhi for interrogation in a hawala case is part of a carrot-and-stick policy. “Everybody knows the 20-year insurgency has been funded by hawala money,” said Ashraf Ansari who has business interests in Srinagar. “With this the government has an opportunity to lean on the separatists.”
The separatists normally begin their campaigning in summer. It’s also the tourist season with the Amarnath yatra ensuring maximum publicity. But this year, the panchayat elections, due in April, could bring the separatists campaign forward.
“A large turnout of voters will rubbish their claim of people rejecting the democratic option. Attempts by militants to force a boycott will bring negative publicity. Calls for boycott won’t work because here village-mohalla level interests will override that,” said a Congress political worker.
To further weaken the boycott call, the state government has announced that the panchayat elections will be held on a non-party basis. That’s why March will be crucial. A repeat of 2010 could force a postponement of panchayat elections.
Courtesy: Times of India