Time to move forward in J&K

Harsha Kakar
Despite claims of empty seats and invited guests, Adnan Sami’s concert in Srinagar was an indicator that threads of near normalcy are visible in the valley. There were no protests, no objections, no calls for boycott and no heightened militant activity, preceding the concert. The valley had witnessed an unprecedented elimination of militants, over one hundred and seventy, this year. Infiltration is controlled, with very few making their way in. Stone throwing incidents have dropped to below one-third levels as compared to the previous year. Calls for protests even on issues like braid chopping, by the Hurriyat, are being ignored.
The valley is moving towards normalcy. The combined efforts of the security forces, NIA, diplomatic push against Pakistan and even demonetization has made the Hurriyat into a spent force, demoralized the militants, choked entry of illegal money and gained the confidence of the public who have begun sharing information on movement of terrorists.
Without the cooperation of residents, there can never be such immense success in operations, implying that they too now feel that militancy and protests are detrimental for their society. For once, militants are forced to strike banks to obtain funds and change tactics to target weaker elements within the security forces, while continuing their charade on social media.
However, there are always disgruntled elements within the nation, including a group led by former minister, Yashwant Sinha with members of the Congress, who continue to claim support for the separatists, feel that the valley has lost confidence on the country and the present coalition in the state. These are desperate cries by a desperate group, whose demands based on select interactions have been ignored. Their words are quoted by Pak to indicate that all is not well. Similar has been an outburst by Arundhati Roy, who in her latest book criticizes the government and the army. These aberrations would remain in a democracy and should be rightfully ignored.
A visible change has been reduced  to negative comments by either Farooq Abdullah or his son Omar on the ongoing situation, simply because they have nothing to comment on. The sudden silence of the Hurriyat implies a fear within them of facing long terms behind bars for various illegal activities and financial crimes which they committed with impunity over the years. With some of them singing like canaries, the entire group is heading for the lock up. Thus, they would be seeking an agreement with the government to stop supporting anti-national activities to avoid spending their last few years behind bars.
The Hurriyat and their supporters always felt that Pak would continue raising its voice in international fora, thus ensuring that India is chastised for its actions in Kashmir and they remain relevant and above board. They have now realized that no one listens to Pak anymore. Kashmir has been ignored by the UN for decades, considering it a bilateral matter between the two nations. While Indian demand for POK being a part of Kashmir has been accepted, Pak’s demand for third party negotiation has been ignored. Hence, the Hurriyat realizes that they need to battle Indian investigative agencies themselves.
There are still increased ceasefire violations from Pak, targeting border villages, which despite strong retaliation and increased losses on their side, would continue. This would displace local villagers and impact their daily lives. The Pak army cannot change its spots, hence would continue with its infiltration attempts, despite high losses. Pak can only summon Indian diplomats and issue demarches, which are conveniently ignored, as India avoids ceasefire violations.
Within the state, the two main regions of Jammu and Srinagar continue to be locked in a battle over Article 35A and the illegal Rohingya immigrants issue, with no easy solution to either, both remaining sub-judice in the Supreme Court. Yet, on most other issues there is a common understanding.
Recently there were two teams which visited the valley and interacted with different subsections of society. While one was headed by the Home Minister, the other by the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. They would have returned with suggestions for inclusion of the valley into the mainstream.Normalcy in Kashmir is high on the list of India’s national interest.
An integrated Kashmir is essential for every political party, despite its different ideology. Hence, the government should consider forming an all-party group, amalgamating the suggestions and views obtained by both the groups, keeping party biases aside. These could then be considered and implemented.
Within the state, the present atmosphere is also an indicator for seeking a change in the outlook of security forces, including local police. From a highhanded approach, essential for handling a higher level of militancy, to a softer outlook in changing conditions is essential.
Security forces need to be briefed to display more patience and be more humane and understanding with the local populace. This is also the time for greater emphasis on ‘Sadbhavna Projects’, where moving groups of youngsters to cities in India to convey what Kashmir has lost by being locked up and secluded from the nation.
The PDP, which holds the mantle in the state must plan and move its cadre across the valley, seeking to interact with the masses, project the writ of the government and reclaim authority. It needs to push forth pending developmental projects and ensure clean governance. The bane of the region has been corruption, which if reduced, would win over the masses, change outlook and enhance trust. While summer tourism took a beating, the winter tourism should be made a resounding success.
Central agencies have worked overtime, in a coordinated manner, to create a situation of near normalcy. Despite differences, the coalition government in the state, which most considered unsuitable, has stood the test of time and remained together during the critical phase and now it is time to dream ahead. The governments at the state and centre should grab this opportunity and seek a lasting solution. Ignoring this moment would be detrimental to national interest.
(The author is a retired Major General of the Indian Army)
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