The irony of the Indian state is that the best of times often carry the weight of worst of times. But such is the buoyancy induced by a sense of well-being that the worst does not bear too heavily on either the common people or the government. Perhaps, it is a sign of times to come that the Sensex has become the barometer of the state of the nation. So as the sensex does its dare-devil somersaults, alternating between joy and grief, matters that cause constant consternation are viewed with dark glasses. The less you see, the better you feel, happy in the economy-induced stupor. Internal security issues, hence, are best left to the experts, and of course those who cannot help but get affected by them, for instance, people living in the insurgency or terrorism-affected states.
So while India aspires for the high seat, and might as well get it on sheer numerical and economical strength, various internal security threats and challenges pull at the frayed ends. Top of the list is Kashmir. Everyone claims that a sense of normalcy is clawing its way back in the state brutalised by nearly two decades of violence.
The signs are all there. As acts of violence have reduced in major towns, local people are cautiously learning to get used to a state of less violence. A new double-storied book-shop has come up in the busy Srinagar market. Its owner, a young man in his 20s gets excited even if he sells only two books in a day. “At least people are coming in to browse,” he says, offering sweetened tea to the visitors. “Sometimes even girls come. It pleases me that the last 20 years of violence have not robbed people of their love for books.” Reflecting similar pride, the taxi stand owner opposite his shop shows off his brand new SUV which comes with temperature control. “Since more tourists are coming in now, it will help if I have a better car,” he says, ignoring the gun-toting CRPF man in a bullet-proof jacket behind him who keeps glancing up and down the street. He does not have to look too far because a mere 100 metres away is his colleague, similarly attired and armed. The summer capital of Kashmir with a lovely boulevard flanked by grey- green mountains on one side and a now-shrunken Dal Lake on the other remains a fortified city despite relative calm as compared to the rest of the state.