KO News Service from Srinagar

From Kashmir Observer: “Republic of Suspects faces Jan 26 Heat

“The long shadow of January 26 security has already settled over Kashmir like the cold and clammy blanket of winter, turning an entire people into a massive camp of suspects that needs to be checked, frisked and questioned for days to avert an affront to ceremonial pageants.

The day India celebrates its republic, Kashmir remains a sullen valley, shuttered and deserted, after having been put through an intrusive process of verifying the antecedents of its denizens virtually at gun point.

There is no saying whether the general calm usually witnessed on the big day for 20 long years or more – except for some rare and stray incident – owes itself to the disinclination of quarters usually attributed with designs to make a symbolic statement, or to the exertions of the tens of thousands of police and paramilitary men who undertake an enormous sanitizing exercise for weeks in advance.

These are times when Kashmiris are asked to be extremely careful about who they are – commuters were better not found without identity cards, motorists not without driving licences, and the common pedestrian not without good reason for where he was coming from and wither going.

It is not clear whether the forces mean to look upon Kashmiris as potential suspects or want them to reaffirm their identity by the constant nitpicking about their antecedents

Due to an induced sense of siege in the run-up to the day, the security apparatus has a comparatively easy time in monitoring life on January 26, partly because apprehensions caused by the sight of streets teeming with uniformed armed personnel keeps people at home, and partly because leaders of a particular ilk have ordained a voluntary incarceration to highlight the unresolved status of Kashmiris.

But this year, a qualitative change has been introduced by the azadi camp whose reigning patriarch has exempted public transport from the customary strike, queering the pitch for the security agencies, who, otherwise, had a markedly simple task of securing the parade venues and keeping an eye on the rare individual or vehicle that ventured out.

The transport ploy could well be a political masterstroke to give the jitters to the BJP which must have been banking on a deserted, shutdown Lal  Chowk to facilitate its flag hoisting on the clock tower”…

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