Sacking Mehbooba Mufti and imposing Governor’s rule won’t resolve the security conundrum that’s Kashmir. The antidote lies in vesting in her some authority to make the coalition work administratively — and towards brokering dialogue with stakeholders including the agitating youth.
Though discredited in the eyes of the agitators, Mufti is the buffer the Centre needs to build ground for talks — as and when advisable or possible — without direct accountability for the risky proposition. That’s if the Narendra Modi dispensation is inclined to blend military action with political outreach.
No matter what the hawks in the security establishment think, New Delhi could end up spoiling its case in the Valley if regular dialogue, or at least a semblance of it, isn’t given a chance soon.
The unending cycle of violent protests and retributive security measures have stained our democracy, optically and politically, in the eyes of international opinion. The loss shouldn’t be weighed against electoral gains from Kashmir’s polarising effect elsewhere in the country.
The absence of a political initiative to break the impasse is also hurting India’s ideological positioning on Kashmir — that as a non-denominational secular State, it has space for a Muslim majority province. The army-versus-the-Kashmiri youth spectre strikes at the very roots of the lofty ideal. Each stone pelted or a bullet fired in the Valley is to the advantage of the adversary across the border.
Add to that the attacks by self-styled nationalists on Kashmiri students in colleges and universities in other states including those ruled by the BJP. Mere lip-service on this, as has been the Centre’s wont, wouldn’t help. The trend needs putting down with a heavy hand, detrimental as it is to the intent of promoting Kashmiri stakes in provinces outside their home State.
The fallout from such attacks could force Kashmiri Muslims to ghettoise in the Valley. In such an eventuality, the possibility of them being misled by foreign-inspired militant group could be real. It doesn’t take a shrink to understand that kind of psychological secession from mainland India.
The security czars in New Delhi should realise that armies are trained to fight enemies, not the citizenry. In that sense, the BJP’s Ram Madhav’s defence of a Kashmiri boy being used as a human shield by security-men against stone-pelters did more harm than a million words. His proverbial ‘all is fair in love and war’ comment had about it a ring of insensitivity.
The fuel of State extremism is what militancy seeks. It helps them recruit cadres, get public opinion on their side and showcase globally the cause. An illustration: The New York Times editorial criticising the security crackdown the newspaper felt would feed, not contain, militancy.
The NYT termed the human shield episode “a new low in the long history of alleged human rights abuses.” The perception it mirrored raises questions about Project Democracy in Kashmir that took a debilitating blow in the recent by-polls for the Srinagar parliamentary seat.
The 7.14% voter turnout in Srinagar this time was comparable with the worst since the 1989 upheaval. The constituency then was won uncontested. But the other two seats in the Valley, Anantnag and Baramullah witnessed a fraction above 5% vote.
Quite obviously, the gains of the elections since 1999 that helped India recoup the moral high ground as a vibrant democracy vis-à-vis Pakistan have dissipated. We’re back to square one with no signs of alarm at the Centre.
The need to chart a fresh course hasn’t in many years been more tangible. For at stake in the Valley is the very existence of regional pro-India voices represented by Mufti’s PDP and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference. The militancy’s new face has obliterated also the anti-India Hurriyat.
The Centre has to strengthen the political forces whose survival is crucial to the Indian campaign in Kashmir. If they’re shown as mere appendages of the Centre, Pakistani proxies that are already there will move in to fill the dangerous vacuum.