Pointless violence   (11 Jul 2008)


When former governor of Jammu & Kashmir pushed the state government to transfer some of its forest land to the Amarnath shrine board, the government complied in good faith. This land had traditionally been used as the site of transit camp by the Amarnath pilgrims and the transfer was intended to allow Amarnath shrine board to build better resting facilities for the pilgrims. However, in his haste to get the land transferred, the governor, who was also the acting chairman of the shrine board, had overlooked the possible repercussions among the residents of the valley. When protests erupted over the land transfer, the government respected the local sentiments and revoked the order, but it simultaneously promised to take up the responsibility of providing better facilities and shelters to the Amarnath pilgrims as was the intention behind the land transfer.

The matter should have ended peacefully there and then – the pilgrims would have gotten much improved resting facilities instead of the temporary sheds earlier, while the land ownership would have remained with the government. After all, it could not possibly matter to the Amarnath pilgrims if the facilities offered to them were provided by the government or the shrine board. However, in stead of praising the government for fulfilling the long-standing demand of the pilgrims, the BJP saw a political opportunity in this non-issue and criticized the government for revocation of an order which was not executed in first place- no allotments of the land had been officially made and no money was transferred by the shrine board to the government.

Worse still, keeping an eye on the forthcoming elections in several states, BJP played the only card it knows best and unleashed a second wave of protests against the order revocation throughout the country. The protests turned violent and scores of people have lost their lives over such a non-issue. But the BJP leadership has been unwilling to put an end to the protests, smug as it sits in the anticipation of political gains.
Stoking communal fires with no regard for repercussions comes naturally to BJP and the party has time and again used this ploy to bolster its political relevance. The Amarnath land issue seems to have come as a worthy successor to Ayodhya, which the party milked well for over a decade. This time however, the repercussions of BJP’s actions threaten to disrupt the peace process in Jammu & Kashmir. As a country, we must not let a misguided political party jeopardize the peace and stability of a state that has shown signs of normalcy after years of disturbance.