Winning the mind game in Kashmir

Harsha Kakar
Kashmir remains quiet as against peaceful, while Imran continues threatening of mass violence from within the state. Imran’s rantings have been largely ignored by the world. In desperation, he hit back against his only ally, China, comparing Kashmir and Hong Kong in terms of global attention. With passage of time and partial restoration of mobile connectivity in the valley there have been no reports of major protests or violence, adding to Imran’s woes.
Imran had hoped that Kashmir would become the rallying point for Pakistani’s, making them forget their own internal sufferings.They did for some time however Kashmir has now become stale even for them. The reduction in tempo of Friday solidarity after just one week, indicated that there was no internal support too. A quiet as against a yet peaceful valley has dashed hopes of the Pakistani leadership and frustration has begun setting in.
The scenario within Pak remains so bleak that its ministers have begun announcing that the state can no longer provide employment and is itself downsizing.This is adding to difficulties faced by the local populace. Its remaining on the grey list of the FATF would add to its economic woes, while the government would celebrate claiming Indian intentions of blacklisting has failed. It would play this gimmick to enhance anti-India sentiments.
The meeting of Imran with Xi Jinping, just prior to the Modi-Xi summit was aimed at hoping that Kashmir is raised in Mamallapuram, however, it never found a mention. This made Pak realise that China is more interested in a separate relationship with India, ignoring Pak’s concerns, though internationally it would still back Pak interests.
Further desperation was evident when Pak attempted to enhance infiltration attempts, under cover of ceasefire violations. Strong India counters led to increased Pak casualties. With not much success, Pak was compelled to ask its cadre within the valley to attempt to enforce internal curfew, target civilians, mainly apple traders and outside workforce as alsoenforce shutdowns. This is a clear sign of desperation. With restoration of mobile connectivity, information on militants has begun to flow, leading to increased encounters.
With other trouble spots in the world gaining importance, mainly Syria and Turkey and Iran-Saudi conflict and tensions, Kashmir is ignored. Few comments at occasional intervals by some western politicians do flow, to which the India Government does not even deem fit to respond.
There have been incidents of stone throwing within the state, which was expected. These were contained locally and those inciting the public have been detained. While most restrictions have been lifted, detainees remain confined. The intention is to contain instigation, while the Government pushes forth the benefits of the merger of the state with the union. It may continue and should be accepted as a precautionary measure, aimed at saving lives.
Within the valley, schools and colleges have opened, with limited attendance due to local militant pressures. Exam schedules have also been announced, seeking to draw in students. Markets are open however shops are forced shut by terrorist sympathisers. Transport is free to run but forced off the streets only to convey a message of imposed restrictions. These are last ditch desperate measures by Pak supporters to display that all is not well in the region.
Tourist restrictions have been lifted and with opening of mobile communication, it is regaining momentum. Hospitals and other public utility services are functioning normally. There were problems of obtaining medical supplies and contacting hospitals initially, these have now been overcome with opening of communications.
This is the current environment within the state. There has been immense forward movement from the doubts which existed within Indian minds when Article 370 was abrogated on 05 Aug. There has not been a single incident of firing by security forces since then. There have been protests and stone throwing, but these have been limited in localities and contained.
Daily newspapers in the valley carry full page advertisements of the benefits which would accrue from the amalgamation of the state with the country. Governance has improved with state representatives travelling across the region seeking to resolve the woes of the public. Attendance in rallies for recruitment of soldiers has witnessed a quantum jump, even from areas which have remained hotbeds of militancy.
The Government has announced that elections to the Block Development Council will be held on 24th Oct. This will be conducted across the state, except Srinagar and Kulgam, where there are no elected Panchayats and Sarpanches. This must be done successfully as were the earlier elections. It would bring about democracy at the grassroots level in the state and enhance confidence of the public.
Kashmir is now at a turning point. The worst which was expected has possibly passed. It is now time for the Government to take forward steps and prove to critics of the abolition of article 370 that the decision taken was correct, actions to implement them were spot on and those who had predicted mass violence were wrong. For this to happen, the locals must continue to be convinced that the Government is acting for their benefit.
The state must pass on the benefits of various central schemes not implemented earlier in J and K, due to its special status,on priority. The public must witness the benefits which are flowing into the region and the fact that enhanced involvement at local levels will enable better development.
It was not an easy decision to change status quo after seventy years. It was also not easy to counter allegations at national and international levels against the decision. With local politicians threatening mass violence and disobedience while playing with religious and demography sentiments, the task was even more difficult. The credit for the same goes to the State Government and security forces that despite multiple challenges, they held their ground and slowly brought the situation under control. Not everything can be done by the state alone. Responsible citizens, who desire a different and more positive future for their wards must step forward in efforts leading to peace.They should be supported by the state and security forces. The youth, which was the most misguided, must be convinced that the future of Kashmir rests with India and those seeking to influence them are only intending harm and have vested interests. Positive actions by the state and security forces can change mindsets faster and these should be pushed forth.