Emily Wax in Srinagar

From The Washington Post: “Letter from Kashmir

“A third-generation scion of Kashmir’s most famous political family, Abdullah became an icon of a new breed of young and dynamic leadership, a symbol of hope in the troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir after his party won the most seats in the 2008 elections here.”

“But this summer, Abdullah has faced his toughest political test as the state’s chief minister after simmering public protests exploded.”

“Abdullah had faced criticism before. But suddenly he was in the hot seat, accused of being an aloof puppet of India, out of touch with Kashmiris’ deep mistrust of the army and the young people’s dream of freedom from India.”

“Blocking text messages was not a violation of free speech, Abdullah said, but an important tool in controlling the cycle of protests, killings and counterprotests in Kashmir. “Democracy has responsibilities. It gives you rights, but how you use it also has repercussions in Kashmir that can be deadly,” said Abdullah, wearing a gray suit with a pink tie and jabbing at his BlackBerry.”

“In June, Abdullah was riding high on popular support. Before a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Abdullah spoke out about allegations that the army had killed three innocent youngsters and passed them off as militants. The army ended up suspending a major.”

“Almost every encounter now has a question mark,” Abdullah said before Singh’s visit. “Army is the judge, jury and the hangman. There’s absence of transparency, as a result of which people have lost faith in the system.”

“The irony, many here say, is that just a few weeks later Abdullah had to turn to that same army when the protests turned into a deadly cycle.”


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