Of Kashmir and killing spree

Yoginder Kandhari
A spate of recent reprehensible killing of innocents in Srinagar surprised none, not even the State Administration. Unfortunately for the grieving families, the State stood by shamelessly though forewarned through numerous written communications. After the unfortunate blood spilt on roads, the Government woke up to these warnings. It is the bureaucrats’ writ that runs the administration reducing the Lieutenant Governor to a titular head. Ever since his investiture in the seat of power, the LG was not allowed to meet a delegation of local Kashmiri Pandits (KP). They wished to apprise him precisely about the realities that unfolded to tragic consequences now. Alas! The bureaucrats always stood in the way.
India can’t afford a repeat of the 1990s in the Valley. Rhetorically, the then squabbling Central Government, supported by the party in absolute power today, may be blamed for the lack of strategic and nationalistic vision. Theoretically, one can’t similarly accuse the present dispensation. History would neither spare those at the helm in the 1990s nor absolve those charged with the delicate responsibility now. True, insurgents hold the initiative in a conflict situation. Yet, the administration, security setup, including the intelligence mandarins, can’t be absolved of the blame for not pursuing the credible trails to the lurking threats.
Further, counter-insurgency is a battle of wits and not about interpreting the law in the offices. Split-second decisions on the spot are crucial to success in this fight, and for that, officers of JKP must work more on the ground than to superintendent fight from their plush offices. It is time some heads roll to ensure accountability for the dereliction. Thundering press statements scare none, insurgents the least.
Political executive in New Delhi is under the spell of the mojo stories narrated by their newfound party cadres in the Valley. A Union Minister from JKUT, post abrogation of Article 370, when questioned about the rehabilitation of KPs in the Valley, betrayed a confused understanding of the situation in the Valley. Another Union Minister’s comments comparing the abandoned KPs to migrant labour elsewhere reinforces this disdain. KP cadres in the ruling party kept mum for fear of losing the chance to make a fortune.
A handful of left-over KPs in the Valley, spread over 272 locations, repeatedly requested the Union and the State Governments for secure accommodation at respective district headquarters only to be rejected offhand. On the other hand, similar privilege is allowed to the newly recruited political carders from the majority community. Why is the most vulnerable section of the society in the Valley denied this fundamental right to life? Those KPs who wear lifetime ‘leadership’ headgears in community assemblages remain least interested in these issues of grave concern to the Community. Post recent killings, shamefully, even the migrant KPs posted invectives against the non-migrants. Do they wish to justify their cowardice by the use of such language? KP Community must learn to square up to its tormentors and not take pride in running away. This behaviour is despicable.
While BJP-RSS milked the KP plight to the last drop during elections nationwide, neither the Government nor these organizations are serious about addressing their concerns. The neglect of this minuscule ethnic minority’s rights and aspirations has been absolute during the current regime’s tenure thus far. Hoodwinking the Community by creating an online portal to reclaim left-over properties is a gimmick to keep the people busy in futility.
Why can’t the Government provide secure accommodation to those who seek it? An audit of the available Government accommodation or JK Police resources frittered away on non-essentials would spare enough of these to house and secure the harried lot in the Valley. The establishment would never undertake such an exercise, for, in a feudal structure, none wishes to part with privileges enjoyed on taxpayers’ money. It is a deep-rooted nexus where the in-service benefits extend into retirement.
Lastly, mainstream political parties and civil society in Kashmir has not risen to the occasion in this hour of tragedy. One can always throw a counter-argument. But the truth needs to be told. The social and professional profile of those killed would put even barbarians to shame. Remember, rearing a snake in the backyard is always a dangerous proposition. Afghanistan is a case in point.
Would the Government ever rise above petty political considerations to care for the ordinary people? I have my doubts.
(The author is a retired Army Officer)