Engage with prime stakeholders in J&K

B L Saraf
Chief Of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande , while addressing the 76th Army Day parade in Lucknow, on 15 instant said, ” The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is under control. But in the past few months, there has been an increase in terrorist activities in southern region of Pir Panchal and Rajouri -Poonch.” General Pande stated that due to the continuous efforts of the security forces there has been a significant drop in the terror activities in the interior areas of Jammu and Kashmir. He disclosed that “We are working with all the stakeholders in a committed manner to uproot the terror network from the country.”
When the Army Chief says that things are under control we have every reason to feel assured of our own and the nation’s security. Not that there was any doubt about it, but when the demon is raising its ugly head again, in certain areas, this timely reassurance is very comforting. It has been the untiring work of the Army and security forces, braving hostilities of the neighboring country and inhospitable weather and terrain, which made J&K almost terror free. And, they did so at the heavy cost of blood and sweat.
We are not told who are the stakeholders the security forces are engaged with to counter the insurgency. Granted, the security imperatives may deter them from disclosing too much. However, it has to be borne in mind that there can be no effective stakeholder than the people of the erstwhile state who need to be taken on board if the exercise has to achieve any success. Stating at the cost of repetition, Army and the security forces have played a substantial role in combating the scourge of the terrorism by eliminating hard core terrorists. Neutralizing a terrorist may work to some extent but it will be too much of a self assurance if things are left at that. All security experts and those who have been watching such situations , keenly, are agreed that permanent peace and tranquility can never be achieved by means of single policy of killing a terrorist. In the final analysis, killing armed mercenaries could make only a count .The main objective should be to weed out terrorism from the soil, for which public support is an indispensable ingredient. In this regard, engaging with the people and taking them in confidence will help to the maximum levels.
In his column published in a National Daily News Paper, same day when the Army Chief addressed the Army , a retired Indian Army Officer , having experience of working with the counter -insurgency agency in Rajouri- Poonch region as part of the Rashtriya Rifles formations, wrote that the counter insurgency and tactical level operations – backed by psychological operations-have to be public – centric. Engaging with the populace is an essential ingredient. The “performance imperatives “shouldn’t outweigh perseverance to address the people’s aspirations. “Winning hearts and minds of the people “can’t be an overlooked dictum: it has to be put in the practice.
For quite a time now, Jammu and Kashmir – particularly the Valley – has been witnessing the jamboree of sponsored Yatras, showcasing progress and development that has happened here. People are lined up to see them in the biting cold, with no means offered to assess their response. If the exercise has to have a purpose, those who come to witness the show must be provided with an opportunity to communicate back as to how much they are benefitted. Along with the economic development a raise in a “Democracy Quotient” in the matters of State governance is a highly desired element . Not all the people – for not all the times – can be bamboozled by the state managed celebratory processions denied of say in the matters of governance. To them a “procession of democracy” is long overdue. Let them have a chance to participate in it rather than stand on the sidelines of the ‘yatras’. Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected Assembly and a popular Government since 2018. The much touted grass root democracy- elected Panchayats and the Municipal bodies – too has vanished, after 8th Jan 2024.
Regarding elections to the Panchayats and municipal bodies, L G Manoj Sinha made a significant announcement that these elections will be held soon after provision is made in the relevant law for reservation of seats for the OBCs and other reserved classes. But, to the dismay of many, no such assurance came forth about holding elections to the Assembly.
Some days back former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, while raising a demand for an early Assembly elections in J&K, made an interesting observation in his address to the NC cadres in Jammu. He added a new dimension to the matter. Omar said that Assembly elections should be held simultaneously with the upcoming Lok- Sabha elections in the month of May. In addition to providing a democratic forum to the people of J &K and a way to the formation of poplar Government , he said , it will lend good merit to the PM Narendra Modi’s slogan of ” One Nation One Election .”
With Article 370 done away with and Lord Ram to His home, it is time to recall Ram the ideal ruler who imparted righteousness to his rule, ensured for all his subjects justice, protection and welfare. He respected people’s voice to the extent of parting company with his consort, Matta Sita -who in trying times of exile stood shoulder to shoulder to him. Let this message resonate in the hearts and minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir. Give them an opportunity to raise the voice and then respect it. That will be the true service to the Lord Rama.
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)