The death of two youths and a third woman, in the Handwara firing incident can potentially trigger widespread outrage in the entire Kashmir Valley. In the coming days the separatists will try to make the most of the incident without a doubt and as a result more precious human lives can be lost.
The Valley already was on the boil as events at National Institute of Technology (NIT) went haywire. The highly unfortunate Handwara incident can prove to be the the second spark. Together, they can be a very incendiary mixture, and a very tough test for newly-sworn in Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti.
For too long, she has been on the other side of the fence: Leading and planning protests.
It will soon be her turn now to face the music, and face protests against her government. In the past, whenever an incident like this happened, she was at the forefront. Visiting families losing their dear ones and making tough statements.
It remains to be seen how she will handle the issue now when she is in the same situation . The buck stops at her now that she is the Chief Minister. Of course, it is going to be tough days ahead for her as she comes to grips with administering the highly volatile state.
It has barely been a week that Ms Mehbooba has been in command, and does not know closely the officials she has to work with first hand, fully well that is! She does not know the weaknesses, as also strengths of the bureaucrats she has to rely upon.
The same applies to the officials as they hardly know her, in that they are not too sure of her reactions to a given situation. Because of this unfamiliarity, the officials too would take some time to synchronise themselves with her working style.
Some time after Omar Abdullah was sworn in as CM, in 2009, Ms Mehbooba had led massive demonstrations in the alleged Shopian rape-cum-murder case. Tuesday’s killings remind one of that case. Is this case going to be her Shopian moment?
Is the National Conference (NC) going to act in the same manner in which she had led the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the infamous Shopian case? Will it be the same strident manner, or less, than she used to be?
Coming back to Tuesday’s events at Handwara. As it is, the toll has a risen, with one woman also succumbing to her injuries. So, there are three deaths now, all resulting from a firing by the Army on protesters.
With the entire nation already keenly watching the unfolding NIT case, it will be a very difficult time ahead. Since stray incidents of beating up Kashmiri students have already been reported, tension can only rise in the Kashmir Valley.
Not a very auspicious beginning for the new CM, one can say.