2016 was a year of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir

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2016 saw Mehbooba Mufti taking over as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Army for the first time carrying out surgical strikes on militant camps in PoK while violent protests for months hit hard normal life and resulted in shutdown of schools and death of 86 people.

Mehbooba Mufti
A Kashmiri man walks past closed shops painted with graffiti during a curfew in central Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, July 11, 2016. Indian authorities are struggling to contain protests by tens of thousands of Kashmiris angry after 20 people were killed in weekend demonstrations called after troops killed a top anti-India rebel leader. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

The government had also to grapple with the NIT unrest, mysterious school burning incidents and blinding due to pellet gun firing issues.

The only silver lining during all this mayhem was that the annual Amarnath yatra to south Kashmir Himalayas went on, though with some interruptions due to authorities’ stopping the pilgrims from travelling during day to avoid any casualties.

In fact, local residents of Bijbehara town defied curfew to help a group of Amarnath pilgrims to hospital after their vehicle met with an accident.

The year, however, started with Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had cobbled up an unimaginable coalition government between his PDP and the BJP a year earlier, losing his battle against illness at AIIMS in Delhi on 7 January.

Following Saeed’s death, a smooth transition of power was expected to his daughter and political heir Mehbooba Mufti but the PDP president refused to take charge for over two and half months. As the days passed, it seemed increasingly difficult for the two parties to come together again with the PDP setting some conditions like initiation of the confidence building measures by the Centre.

Finally, Mehbooba was sworn in as the first woman chief minister of the state on 4 April.

No sooner had she assumed office, Mehbooba faced her first real test. An unrest began at NIT Srinagar where students from outside the Valley were accused of beating local students following a tiff over an India-Pakistan cricket match.

However, the outside students alleged they were tortured by police inside the campus, sparking off a massive crisis that hogged national headlines for several days. The authorities had to shut down the institute for some time to allow the frayed tempers to cool down.

The NIT dust was yet to settle down when Mehbooba’s government faced with two more controversies. The reported plans to set up Sainik colonies and exclusive colonies for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley drew severe criticism from mainstream Opposition parties as well as separatist groups, which threatened to launch an agitation over these issues.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Valley several times to assess the situation. In the month of September, Singh led an all-party delegation of national parties in an attempt to reach out to all sections of the society to end the street protests.

A splinter group of delegation including Sitaram Yechury and Assadudin Owaisi tried to meet the separatist leaders including Geelani but they shut their doors on them saying the visitors did not have the mandate to resolve Kashmir issue.

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha led a delegation of “concerned citizens of India” and met people from all sections of the society here. This time separatists met them and conveyed their viewpoint.

Curfew was lifted after the visit of the all-party delegation from many parts of Kashmir but the shutdown continued with no end in sight.

The shutdown not only affected the livelihood of the masses but also put a question mark on the future of the students.

The government announced that board examinations will be held in November but promised to make it easy for the students. The examinations were held in November with thousands of students appearing and the government keeping its word by giving 50 per cent relaxation in the syllabus.

While the unrest is dying out, the educational infrastructure suffered massive damage in the Valley as more than 32 schools were gutted in mysterious fire incidents.

The frequency of burning of schools prompted the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to take suo moto cognisance and initiate PIL proceedings, directing the state government to take steps for ensuring safety of the school buildings.

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