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Agitational Terrorism
Is Kashmir nearly lost?
By Poonam I Kaushish
Knots and crosses. Everybody seems to be busy playing this game when it comes to Kashmir. The Centre and State have been tied up in disentangling the knots. Partly succeeding and most of the time failing. For problems are not easy to cross. Despite the solutions being wrapped in syrupy overtures. Which, often lead to indigestion!

Raising a moot point: Is Kashmir nearly lost for India? The portends over the last six months, attack on the Pulwana Army base, death sentence to ex-Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, beheading of two Indian soldiers culminating in the murder of young 22-years Lt Ummer Fayaz point to the situation fast hitting rock bottom, worse than the nineties. Make no mistake, it's a war-like situation.

Undoubtedly the Valley has been restive for more than a year now. Ever since the killing of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander. While eventually the protests subsided, anger persisted among the Kashmiris, who felt increasingly alienated from India and frustrated with the tactics New Delhi used to deal with their political demands, primarily, revocation of the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act.

With both the Centre and State using the coercion-package paradigm to quell the uprising by the Kashmiris the protest-killing-protest cycle continues. Forgetting that the problem was not created in a day and nor will it end by applying the balm of populism and gimmicks to extract an extra mile. Never mind if in the process it creates more problems than it solves!

Bluntly, the Administration failed miserably in controlling what is essentially political mobilization and winning the hearts and mind of the people. How bad things the anger and hostility was could be gauged from the 7.15 percent voter turnout in the by-polls for the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency on 9 April. Alongside, lack of any forward movement on the political front has not only left the people dejected but has also raised the alienation to its highest level.

More so, after the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP coalition seems to have backtracked from some crucial points of agenda of alliance like partial or complete revocation of the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act and revival of power projects and reopening channels of dialogue with Pakistan.

Add to this Army Chief Bipin Rawat's statement that anyone who interfered with defense operations would be treated as "anti-national" and the security forces would come down hard on them. Many perceive this as the last straw wherein people have lost faith in the political system a long time ago.

Undeniably, the failure to control the Pakistan-sponsored mobs rests partly with the Mehbooba Government as the divergent coalition partners PDP-BJP do not agree on how to deal with the stone pelters. While Mufti favours an accommodative line, the BJP hoots for tougher measures. Yet both are trapped in a quagmire of knee-jerk reactions thanks to a lack of vision to shape better responses.

Politically speaking, it would not be long before the inherent ideological contradictions between the ruling partners comes to the fore. The PDP has always been a soft pro-separatist party, in sharp contrast to its Saffron ally who touts nationalism and muscular Hindutva. It is working towards the return of the Kashmiri Pandits displaced since 1989, a steep uphill task to say the least and possible only when the Valley's creeping Islamisation is reversed. Consequently, in this milieu, their alliance is an oddity in governing a complex State like J&K.

Moreover, the Centre has not learnt any lessons from the violence in the Valley over decades. Times out of number, the Administration's tough iron hand tactics has fueled another cycle of protests, attracting more impressionable and aggrieved youngsters to attack symbols of authority.

Alas, we continue to treat Kashmir as a real estate problem experimenting with various permutations and combinations by wielding the big stick against trigger-happy militants. In the hope that it's policy of more of the same, more Rashtriya Rifles, more BSF, CRPF, more money and material etc would somehow yield dividends. Little effort is, however being made to see whether the policy is getting us anywhere.

Think. We can keep the land, but how are we going to keep the people? Prevent innocents caught in this conflict from being killed? The crux? While not a few Kashmiri seeks exclusion from India, New Delhi insists on inclusion leading to violence. No effort is made to instill a sense of security among people. A vicious circle leading to disillusionment and alienation.

True, the Central and State Governments have reached out to the Opposition and separatist leaders to dissuade young Kashmiris from street violence. Fully aware that this cycle of violence cannot be broken by brute force. Worse, even after three decades New Delhi has failed in evolving a military doctrine to deter Pakistan from indulging in cross border terrorism and nor has a macho-muscular foreign policy got New Delhi far,.

What next? The Government needs to realise that when young children and women hit the streets and indulge in stone-pelting and violence they represent a political opinion. Certainly, they can be dispersed with pellets but if the State and mainstream politicians do not speak to them, if their arguments are not heard sympathetically and countered patiently there can be no calm, only a mirage that all will be well which would dissipate fast.

Clearly both the Centre and State appeals for calm must be strengthened with a demonstrable capacity for a political conversation. It is imperative New Delhi comprehend that any response should be measured and not disproportionate to the cause of action.

Efforts need to be made to take the administration closer to the people. Work on development projects should be intensified. The sense of alienation among the youth needs to be addressed with newer employment avenues being made available. A senior Home Ministry official averred: "It is vital the State Government tackles these problems immediately. Until the people are with you, nothing can make Kashmir militancy free."

The time has come for Modi to think "out of the box" and address Kashmir's political aspirations. The locals are no longer enamoured by promises of basics like roads, electricity, and water. They need to securitize their future. Simultaneously, New Delhi needs to have a tight-knitted coherent security policy. Tall talk is no substitute for tough action.

Time to give sharp teeth to our anti-terror laws. The only way forward is for our security agencies to be one step ahead of the jihadis, strike back and carry the fight into the militants' camps in Pakistan effectively. It is not enough to assert "we have might and muscle." One has to display that power.

NaMo needs to address real political, economic, social and security issues along-with the mainstream politicians. Make an honest attempt to instill faith and hope in the people, take the bull by the horns and address the question of Kashmiris' right to self-determination and embark on a new track.

The time is ripe to heal wounds. The Prime Minister must take the leap of faith and try to connect with Kashmiris. The question he needs to answer: Does he have the political will to cut through the welter of vested interests that arrest purposeful action?


News Updated at : Monday, May 15, 2017
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