A multi-prong, concerted effort is needed to restore normalcy in Kashmir
The aftermath of liquidation of three terrorists in Kokernag last month has seen violent mobs clashing with security forces, indulging in arson and vandalism and paralysing south Kashmir in particular. The initial turnout could be spontaneous to participate in the last rites of the slain militants; but subsequent stone pelting spree and clashes with the law enforcement agencies over the last one month appear orchestrated and controlled by a new youth leadership and the Separatists acting at the behest of ISI and Islamabad.
The mob violence and the state response have so far accounted for 50 lives mostly civilians misguided by the hatemongers who incite them from the safe confines of their plush abodes. Thousands of civilians and more security personnel have sustained injuries, some debilitating, during these clashes. The Central government has formed a committee to make recommendations about the efficacy of the non-lethal pellet guns which are claimed to have caused irreversible damage to the eyes of several protesters.
In a turnaround from the earlier claims by the security forces, the state chief minister has now stated that the police party assisted by SOG and Rashtriya Rifles did not know about the presence of Burhan Wani in that house and the operation was carried out just like any other. Whatever be the facts, the state police needs to be complimented for developing intelligence on the whereabouts of the terrorists and then taking them out in a surgical operation. The state police, Special Operations Group (SOG) and Rashtriya Rifles (RR) carried out their assigned roles with perfection to neutralise the terrorists without any civilian casualties.
Allegations of failure of intelligence to predict large scale public turn out, stone pelting and mob violence are levelled by those having the benefit of hind-sight. The officers on the spot have done well to confine the protests, demonstrations, stone pelting, arson and mob frenzy to south Kashmir only. Predicting people’s reaction and mob response is a difficult task and even more difficult is protecting every street and chowk in the Valley. The security forces and local intelligence have been able to avert larger waves of violence that could cause irreparable economic, political and psychological loss to the state and the country. The restraint displayed by the security forces is also laudable which the local population may appreciate once the situation improves and tempers calm down.
One thing that was missed during the initial protests was timely and truthful briefing of the media by the local police. While clamp down on internet and mobile fixed phone services may be justified as a precaution to avert ‘flash mobs’, the media gag was most ill-timed and ill-advised. Most of the initial claims about the operation came from the Army formations. If ‘Army Occupation’ of Kashmir is an issue, then it may be a good strategy to let a civil or police officers do all the briefing. The competition to hog credit for operations must stop. Let the local deputy commissioner or sub-divisional magistrate do the talking while police and security forces go about their business without any distraction. The visuals of clashes post-funeral of the terrorists did not show too many senior police and SF officers on the ground. It may be better and reassuring for the masses to see these officers not shadowing the chief minister but taking stock of the situation where one has developed.
It is good that after initial divided voices from main political parties, the message for maintaining peace and calm in the Valley is now loud and clear. Maturity can be seen in the statements of all shades of politicians barring a lone discordant note. Maximum responsibility for maintenance of peace and dialogue with the masses rests with the political parties of J&K. It is a matter of concern that despite winning elections, no party has been able to represent local sentiments and work as a bridge between the state and the centre. Had all political parties propagated peace and dialogue as the means to resolve the problems and rise up to the aspirations of the Kashmiris, this situation of mistrust and angst would not have prevailed.
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