Virendra Verma
(Former army officer and writes for peace with Pakistan and China, & RIEAS Member of International Advisors)

Copyright: Virendra Verma on line

India had vanished from the streets of Kashmir in July/August 2008. Thousands of Pakistan flags were seen fluttering over the city of Srinagar shouting anti-Indian and pro-azadi (independence) slogans. How this emerged so suddenly when Indian analysts had started believing of bonhomie with lasting comparable peace, even as late as June 2008, with tourists flocking the state where the nature has so been liberal in its bounties. 

Amarnath Cave has special significance for devoid Hindus as it was chosen by Lord Shiva, a perpetuator of good and destroyer of evil, to narrate the secrets of immortality and creation of universe to  Parvati, his consort. As per the legend the Holy Cave and Shiva Lingam were discovered by a Muslim shepherd Buta Malik. The image of Lord Shiva in the form of a Lingam is formed naturally of an ice stalagmite which waxes and waves with the moon’s cycle. The pilgrimage from Pahalgam to Holy Cave involving 315 Km by road and 42 Km by a three day track crossing over 14500 ft pass is organized by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on behalf of the Jammu & Kashmir Government. Hundred to hundred fifty thousand pilgrims visit the shrine during the month of July/August every year and the number is increasing every year.

Geniuses of the Issue

Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), similar to Vaishno Devi Board, shrine in Jammu region, was constituted to manage and provide facilities to the pilgrims of sacred lingam of Shiva. In 2005 Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha governor of Jammu and Kashmir and the Chairman of the Board, had asked the state Government to allot 40 acres of forest land near the shrine for the temporary use of creating temporary shelters for the pilgrims. At present pilgrims stay at Panchtarni which is six km away. In June 2008, after sitting on the file for three years,   the Congress led coalition state government of Gulam Nabi Azad approved the temporary transfer of land for raising prefabricated structures. The temporary transfer of land to the Shrine Board, which had as members all Hindus and many were from outside the state, was considered by the people of valley who by majority are Muslims as a cultural invasion.

The Hurriyat leaders (separatists), who have been asking for independence to Kashmir were being gradually being marginalized and were divided amongst themselves, were looking for such an opportunity. The moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and hard liner Syed Ali Shah Geelani met for the first time in June in last four years to resurrect their lost cause to whip up a dramatic upsurge in separatist across the valley. Sensing the public mood of defiance against the land transfer, coalition partner of PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti joined the tide which led to the fall of the weak coalition government of Gulam Nabi Azad. The Government bowed to the pressure and the government order was revoked. The temporary transfer of the land was cancelled to win the trust vote in Parliament where one vote of PDP and two votes of National Conference led by Omar Abdullah who had also opposed the land transfer.

The cancellation of land transfer to SASB was exploited by BJP led Sang harsh Semiti to arouse the masses against Muslim appeasement policy of central and state governments which they had been resenting for long. The economic blockage of Kashmir caused by stopping trucks movement to and from Srinagar by the Sangharsh Samiti at Jammu created shortage of essential commodities at Jammu. This is only link for trade and for freshly arrived apples in market of Sri Nagar a perishable commodity and one of the main livelihoods of the valley. This further infuriated the Kashmiris. The cry of Azadi was widespread in the funeral procession of Shiekh Abdul Aziz a senior Hurriyat leader who was killed by apparently excess use of force by the paramilitary troops to whom the responsibility of internal security was handed over by Indian Army few months earlier. As per media reports there were 300/400 thousand people carrying Hurriyat flags along with Pakistan flags and were marching towards Muzzarfarbad to open that route to trade apples, This was the traditional route to Kashmir state from Delhi and is now under Pakistan occupation since ceasefire after 1948 India Pakistan first war. Incidentally Government of India is keen to open this axis but Pakistan has been delaying the same.

The political leaders betrayed the nation for winning vote banks either to crucial no confidence vote in Parliament to Manmohan Singh government or for provincial elections due by end of the year. Union home minister considered the situation as a law and order problem till as late as 07 Aug when it had snowballed as a major issue affecting national sovereignty. The Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad failed to provide safe passage to trucks carrying essential supplies to the state.  The Muslim separatist leaders of Kashmir and Hindu chauvinists at Jammu infuriated the resentment by supplying the ammunition. The issue itself is not crucial as it involved right from its inception a temporary transfer for building prefabricated shelters during the period of pilgrimage.. The issue at least for now has been resolved by sustained negotiations between the Government emissaries and Sangharsh Samiti. The restoration of temporary shelters during the period of pilgrimage has been hailed by Sangharsh Samiti of Jammu as their victory. Till the time of writing this paper the reaction of Kashmiris has not been known. It is possible after the holy month of Ramzan is over we would be able to assess the situation the situation in Kashmir better.

It would be fair to mention that even at the height of the crisis the communication with hard liners was kept through by members of civil society from the valley and Delhi. Syed Mohammed Geelani ‘s suggestion, as explained to a group of Bhartiya Rachnatmak Samaj who had gone to meet him, to restrict the number of pilgrims due to fragile environment at that height and to have only residents of Jammu and Kashmir as member of SASB requires serious consideration by the Government.


The recent crisis has revealed the uncomfortable truth of deep resentment of Kashmiris for India. It has also brought in lime light the divide between Hindu majority Jammu and Muslim majority Srinagar regions of the state. There is need of dialogue between them. Though there may be calm on the surface, the Kashmir issue, needs to be resolved by India, Pakistan and Kashmiris   politically for a lasting peace in the subcontinent. India and Pakistan, nuclear armed rivals, have fought four wars on Kashmir and are in arms race with each other  are at bottom of health, education, shelter care for its citizens even after sixty years of independence.

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