Threats to peace in Kashmir

Brij Bhardwaj

With growing uncertainty in Pakistan in the wake of decision by the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualifying Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani from Parliament leading to his ouster from Prime Ministership there is growing apprehension that peace in Kashmir may be broken. In recent times there have been repeated violations of the cease fire line by Pakistan forces in their attempt to push in terrorists across the border.

The clashes on the cease fire line have also led to suspension of trade between Indian Kashmir and part of Kashmir under Pakistan occupation for few days and there has been growing tension on the border. It is also feared that attempts to send terrorists have also been intensified. At the same time other danger signals have also emerged. They include threats to leaders of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference like Abdul Gani Bhat and others.

Leader of the Hurriyat Conference Sayeed Ali Shah Gillani has also threatened that young people may take to arms again as they are not being allowed to carry on their struggle in a peaceful manner by imposing restrictions on movements of leaders like Mr Gillani. This is seen as an obvious signal that Mr Gillani is preparing ground to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the Valley which had led to record number of tourists visiting the Valley and development projects like Rail links getting a big boost.

Another ground for action by terrorists and Pro –Pak elements like Hurriyat leaders of faction led by Sayeed Ali Shah Gillani is their opposition to holding of Panchayat elections. Regular threats have also been issued to the leaders elected to panchayats in the State. Some of them have resigned under threats while few have become targets of militants. Under such circumstances one fears that unless State Administration takes active steps we may be heading for uneasy times in the Valley.

It is also necessary as Kashmir has long history where leaders advocating softer line or talks with the Government of India have been targets of Pro-Pak elements and terrorists sent into the State from across the line of ceasefire. Among the early victims of such violence was Mir Mustafa a popular young leader followed by assassination of Abdul Gani Lone and father of the present Mir Waiz of Kashmir and President of moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Molvi Farooq.

One can name many more who became victims of needless violence indulged by militants. The number killed run into thousands. Many were political workers who become victims as a part of campaign to terrorise people and to prevent mainline political parties from functioning. These campaigns, however, failed and when an opportunity was provided Kashmiri people turned out in large numbers to exercise their right to vote. The number of militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir at present is not very large and the support by locals is almost negligible.

This is a source of worry for their handlers in Pakistan and for leaders like Sayeed Ali Shah Gillani. Agreed that the State Government over the years has become more apt in handling agitators and people in general in the Valley are not prepared to have normal life disturbed but the administration has to be alert. Its ability to protect the leaders under threat also does not inspire confidence as many of them have been shot down in their homes and Mr Lone was killed while addressing a public meeting. Problem also gets complicated as most of these leaders refuse to accept official security and by and large rely on their own followers to protect them.

Indian Government at present is being cautious about the developments in Pakistan and is hoping that it would not impact Indo-Pak relations and the current process for normalisations of relations going on by working for improved trade, easy travel will continue by keeping ticklish issues like Kashmir on hold. There is, however, a danger that some rogue elements inside the establishment and some non-State actors who planned and executed attack on Mumbai could take advantage of the current situation in Pakistan.

Under the circumstances, there is need for keeping a careful watch on situation in Kashmir and in other sensitive areas as another act on the lines of Mumbai attack or resumed agitation in Kashmir can undo the gains made in the last few years in bringing about improvement in ties between India and Pakistan. Next few months require careful watch with large number of pilgrims visiting Kashmir for Amarnath Yatra.