Conflict & Justice

Indian hearts and minds campaign kept Kashmir quiet this summer--until last week


An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard during a strike in Srinagar on August 3,2011. A one-day general strike called in Indian Kashmir by separatists to protest the death of a shopkeeper in police custody closed down shops, schools and offices.



Kashmir was mostly quiet this summer, thanks to a well-designed hearts and minds campaign led by the new head of the police force, B.N. Ramesh, reports the Christian Science Monitor

Sadly, the death of a young man in police custody last week threatens to derail any progress that Ramesh may have made.

Following a summer of bloody battles with stone throwing protesters, Ramesh convinced the Central Reserve Police Force in Kashmir (CRPF) to begin organizing sports teams for young men. The paramilitary force hired discontented youth from 70 villages, gave away computers, and set up medical camps to offer free health care, too.

But it all seems to have come to nought in the final days of summer, as separatist leaders called for a complete shutdown of the Srinagar valley in protest over the death of a shopkeeper while being held in police custody last Sunday.

With tourism on an all-time high, thanks to a return of domestic tourists, Srinagar planning its first literary festival in September, and an increasing number of optimistic young people returning from Delhi and further afield to try to rekindle hope in the valley, it had seemed (as always) that Kashmir was about to open a new chapter.

But once again it appears that in this troubled region, the more things change, the more they stay the same.