Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) chief minister Omar Abdullah has warned the Centre against imagining that the current peaceful situation in the valley was “permanent” and ignoring “people’s anger”. “Though the people have always chosen peace against disturbance, you cannot take them for granted forever,” he is reported to have said at a public rally in central Kashmir’s Chrar-e-Sharief town, 30 km from Srinagar. In the past one week, the chief minister has stepped up his attack on the army, blaming it for the troubled situation in the state and insisting on revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
At a time when there are distinct signs of a revival of militancy in J & K and Punjab such a diatribe from the chief minister of the state will only encourage separatist forces that are getting gradually alienated from the people and sidelined on the margins of the state politics. In a desperate bid to stir up trouble, Pakistan-based militant groups have intensified their infiltration attempts along the border, and intelligence agencies estimate that 300 terrorists continue to be active. Fanning sentiments over the execution of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru, militants have killed 16 security forces personnel since the onset of summer.
It is high time the UPA government asked Omar to be restrained in his outburst and let the army and security forces do their job. He may have a point when he asks New Delhi to engage in a political dialogue with the people of the state given the largely peaceful situation. As head of an elected state government, Omar cannot abdicate his responsibility to the people through loud recriminations against the Centre. Both the Union and state governments are being run by the Congress in coalition with National Conference. Instead of targeting security forces, they should concentrate on social and economic development of the region and ensure that issues like unemployment and poverty, which are the main cause of alienation, are addressed.