Renewed militancy on cards, clueless government fails to tackle unrest
That both the government of India and the Jammu and Kashmir remain clueless about how to deal with the present unrest in the Valley without engaging with the Separatists and Pakistan was evident during the recent press conference jointly held by Union home minister Rajnath Singh and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
While Singh frequently invoked former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s slogan of ‘Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat’, Mufti lost her cool at the persistent questioning by the local journalists. In response to a question on her changed behaviour from 2010 to the present, she retorted, “95 per cent people of the state don’t want violence. They want peace. We have to reach out to them.” Warning strong action against the trouble makers, she added that, “People who create trouble will be dealt as per the law. They will not be allowed to make life hell for the majority here.”
Justifying the killing of protesters in Kashmir during the last 50 days, she said, “Nearly 95 per cent of those killed, mostly youth, have died in retaliatory action while they were attacking the security establishments. When people came on the roads, we imposed curfew (to restrain them). Did the children go to the army camps to buy toffees (candies)? Was the 15-year-old boy, who attacked the police station at Damhal Hanjipora (in South Kashmir) going there to fetch milk?” Following the outburst, during which Singh tried to place a placating hand on her wrist to calm her down, Mufti stormed out of the press conference, forcing a hesitant Singh to follow suit.
Clearly, the Centre, as well as the state government, seem to have lost the plot and are clueless about tackling the unrest in the Valley that shows no sign of ebbing. Life has come to a standstill with curfews in some parts of Kashmir and shutdown in the rest for nearly past two months. As of now, no end seems to be in sight. The government machinery is completely paralysed. Sixty eight people including two policemen have been killed. Thousands are injured, some with permanent disabilities.
The government’s tough approach of using force to quell the protests has failed to bring results. It has only caused deaths, injuries and more alienation especially among youth. No effort has been made by the Bharatiya Janta Party led-NDA government at the Centre and Peoples Democratic Party led PDP-BJP government in the state to reach out to the Separatists.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh who has visited Kashmir twice since the outbreak of protests after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, met up with mainstream political parties like the National Conference, Congress, PDP in addition to some smaller groups during his recent visit. However, not only did he refrain from reaching out to the Separatists, he also did not meet the civil society members including traders, businessmen and peasants. Yet, he insisted during his press conference that, “We want to shape the future of India. If the future of Kashmir is not shaped, future of India cannot be shaped either.”
Given the ground situation, this sounds like empty rhetoric. No effort has been made to reach out to the Separatists who consider Kashmir a disputed territory and want a resolution outside the framework of the Indian Constitution. Unless the Separatists are engaged, the violence and unrest may linger on.
Though the unrest is not new to Kashmir, the government clearly has not learnt lessons from the events of 2008, 2009 and 2010. Not only is it repeating the mistakes of the past, it is making new ones, by simply reacting to the Separatists’ protest programmes which are being issued on a weekly basis. The only response so far has been firing of pellet guns and bullets on protesters perpetuating a cycle of violence. In the absence of a political process or initiative, the government has left it entirely to police and security forces to deal with the unrest. As a result, the common people are the worst sufferers.
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