J&K: Strategise to reinforce initial success

To cement the success in Kashmir, there is a dire need for a strategy with a clearly earmarked role for different organisations. None of this should be left to imagination 

Published: 10th August 2021 12:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th August 2021 12:10 AM   |  A+A-

India, politics

Express Illustration by Amit Bandre

As the nation marked the second anniversary of the constitutional decisions on Jammu & Kashmir taken on 5 August  2019, the debate on which way the situation had moved was largely uninformed. So hugely polarised are the narratives within India based upon political leanings that the worth of the decisions for national good is lost sight of. To imagine that the J&K issue has been resolved in our favour would be a folly and yet to say that the decisions were regressive would be an untruth too. There are miles to go and alienation continues to loom large, but a huge dent has been made into all that enabled separatist trends to flourish with impunity. The last two years have been partially consumed by post-decision management. The pandemic has taken its toll on the energy and commitment to recover from the surprise decision and the sudden new empowerment. As such, a pragmatic and balanced assessment of what has transpired in these two years can only be done peripherally. More important is to view the righting of many wrongs that were assisting the separatists and the Pakistani deep state to fight the proxy war with relative ease. Most of these existed in the non-military domain and appear well on the way to be corrected.

Two years into the process of attempting a comprehensive end to separatism, a change in sentiment has begun and will take further shape contingent upon our subsequent handling and the counter-narratives. Reforms, however, have been undertaken to the extent possible in the limited functional time and have begun to manifest results. The commerce and infrastructure sectors have found new energy. Recent media reports indicate that the new industrial policy announced four months ago has resulted in the investment of almost Rs 23,000 crore with a near-equitable distribution between the Jammu and the Kashmir segments. This reportedly is well past the MoU stage with actual transfer of funds. Steel, telecom, cyber optics and hosiery are the areas in which investments have been made. If further stabilisation is achieved in the security and political domains, state officials expect this figure to touch Rs 35,000 crore by the end of the financial year.

The expected anti-corruption drive has been undertaken and will progressively take more effective shape with greater oversight and accountability exercised by the Centre and the UT government, as the pandemic eases. Taxation laws have been streamlined; panchayats have received greater attention with more devolution of functions and funds. New laws of domicile have in no way opened the floodgates for people from all over India to settle in J&K or own property, but relevant empowerment of those denied property rights all these years has been achieved. The new laws have largely found support due to them setting right many of the existing laws on gender and rights of the weaker segments of society. This will correct the social deficit that existed all these years. Politically the importance of grassroots democracy was realised through the conduct of the first-ever District Development Council elections. While the delimitation exercise is on (the last one took place in 1995), there is every possibility of the Assembly elections taking place in 2022 or 2023, which will lead to the formation of an elected government. There is a popular groundswell in favour of Central rule among some segments of society fearing that Assembly elections may bring back much of the same politics back to J&K. However, there is no better step towards cementing a good and bold decision than re-introduction of all democratic norms.

The decision to keep the Jammu and the Kashmir divisions together as a UT is not fully supported by many, but in national interest was probably the most prudent option. However, more efforts are needed to remove antipathy between the two segments that has existed for long and especially got exacerbated after 1989. I have long advocated mutual adoption of cities and even districts to overcome bitterness. Greater interaction through sports, education, trade and culture exchanges will have a salutary effect over the bitterness of a couple of decades. Jammu has much to contribute to the nation through this act of outreach. No one understands the problems of J&K as well as the people of Jammu do.

There can be no denial of the fact that the one of the biggest obstacles to the success of further integration is the constant flow of propaganda from Pakistan through social media; much of it is also generated within Kashmir. While separatist leaders and political ideologues appear to have been marginalised and even neutralised to some extent, one cannot say the same of the religious rabble rousers. Undercurrents of radical religious thinking seem to continue although efforts to bring counter-narratives against radicalisation are being made by agencies. This is one field in which adversaries will wish to protect their turf and prevent dilution; after all a long campaign has been played out by them to bring more obscurantist theology to J&K to suppress the tolerant and middle path Sufi order. The social domain holds the key and it needs a huge amount of face-to-face engagement with the local people if we wish to make  further progress.

To cement the success and take the campaign of development, good governance and outreach to the people with integration as the aim, there is a dire need for a strategy with a clearly earmarked role for different organisations and entities. None of this should be left to imagination and self-perception. Let the prevailing peace never be mistaken for normalcy; a bounce back to negative days can always be triggered if networks are allowed to revive. Peace and stability are necessary for the administration to deliver on development. The Army must not dilute its grid for reinforcement of the northern borders. Holding the proverbial periphery is as essential as it is for the agencies and the local police to dismantle the numerous networks, work on which is in progress. Bold decisions such as those taken on 5 August 2019 require intense follow-up as the risks they run are high. The follow-up has to be strategised and way points carefully identified to determine the path forward. Left rudderless, such processes run the danger of calamitous failure, something that the nation just cannot afford.

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)
Former Commander, Srinagar-based 15 Corps. Now Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir


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  • Murthy

    1 year ago reply
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