The two-day visit of an all-party delegation to Srinagar under the leadership of Home Minister Rajnath Singh may not have produced an immediate calming effect on the restive scene in the Valley, but it has exposed the game of the shrinking minority of pro-Pak separatists there and helped the Centre to reset its Kashmir policy on a grid of realism. This has happened not a day too soon. The cluster of self-seeking Hurriyat leaders, who had long been appeased by the Valley-based political parties and some of the parties now in the opposition at the Centre for reasons of tactical expediency, needed to be shown their place.
The Government of India and state government did not specifically invite Hurriyat leaders for talks with the delegation, in line with the stance adopted by Singh during his earlier visit to Srinagar, where he made it an open house for discussion with all those who wanted to present their views but had not taken any special notice of Hurriyat. The all-party delegation was planned after PM Narendra Modi made it clear that apart from administrative measures, talking to ‘our own people’ including the misguided youth who had taken to guns and stones, was in order. The Hurriyat leaders, having realised that the government did not recognise them as ‘stakeholders’ in the peace process anymore, declined to meet the delegation.
The recent events in Kashmir portray a last-ditch attempt of the marginalised separatists and their Pak mentors to push the clock back in the region. This is being done in reply to India’s policy of firm reciprocity that talks and cross-border terrorism can’t go together.
The joint press conference by the Home Minister and J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti presented a welcome grid of understanding between the Centre and the state on the prognosis of developments in Kashmir and the contours of a firm handling of the same. The chief minister declared that a marginal group of separatists and other pro- Pak elements had lured teenagers and kids to take to stone pelting on security and police personnel to further their own agenda. She was unambiguous about justifying the use of force against mobs who tried to burn down a police station or made a murderous assault on Policemen on duty.
Handling of J&K should keep to a matrix of firmness against the apologists for Pakistan on one hand and empathy towards the youth belonging to law-abiding families, on the other. It needs to be reiterated that since the state is an integral part of India, talks with Pakistan fall within the exclusive domain of the Centre. Pakistan is pursuing a plan of replicating Afghan jihad in the Valley and the Jamaat-e-Islami, which once projected itself as an indigenous organisation, has seen its militant wing, Hizbul Mujahideen, become a Pak-controlled terrorist outfit at par with LeT and JeM.
The Valley should be helped to reassert ‘Kashmiriyat’ that brought Muslims and Hindus together in the veneration of Sufi saints. The exclusivism of Sunni extremists should be opposed by all people in J&K. The state must get down to the business of reaching out to the youth and recommend measures to redress their difficulties. It should also improve delivery on development projects and eliminate corruption. Probe should be made into the funding of separatists and their subversive activities—this should cover the elements in the administration mixed up with outfits like HuM for action under the Constitution.
Finally, there should be clarity about the AFSPA being in use only for strengthening border security and conducting intelligence-based counter-terrorism operations while law and order enforcement remained the sole responsibility of police reinforced by para-military.
D C Pathak
Former director, Intelligence Bureau