Just when it appeared the Amarnath Yatra this year would be the safest in current memory, the security establishment began shooing yatris and tourists out of Kashmir, triggering massive scare in the Valley. This is the first time the yatra is being truncated due to security concerns.
In another unprecedented directive, students from other states in Srinagar’s NIT have been directed to clear the Valley, adding to the heightened confusion. Speculation is rife as part of the space so vacated would be occupied by over 35,000 additional troops flown into the state at very short notice. Rumours range from abrogation of Article 370 that provides special status to J&K, to the nixing of Article 35A that denies property rights to Kashmiri women who marry out of the community; and from trifurcating the state to delimitation of constituencies ahead of Assembly polls. This has led to panic buying of a range of essentials from flour to fuel. While Governor Satya Pal Malik sought to allay fears, saying emergency steps were taken because of a possible terror strike, the Centre is yet to clear the air.
The change in situation in the Valley comes amid US President Donald Trump’s perceived interest in playing honest broker in Kashmir. Twice in the space of few weeks, he expressed his willingness to mediate if requested by both India and Pakistan, the first time during his summit meeting with Pakistani PM Imran Khan. While Islamabad was understandably elated, New Delhi immediately told Trump off saying Kashmir was a bilateral issue. One theory is Imran and his generals want to build on the US mediation idea by contriving a scenario for Trump to step in.
They hope to create another Pulwama-Balakot situation. Two nuclear-armed nations at the brink of war could internationalise Kashmir enough for Trump to play peace maker, Pakistan reckons. Whatever the reason, the Centre ought to take the nation into confidence and explain the ground reality. Needless lack of communication—like the finance ministry shutting out journalists—only deepens mistrust.