Parties’ task cut out on Kashmir: Measured use of force and language

  • Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2016 21:30 IST
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard during a curfew in downtown area of Srinagar. (Waseem Andrabi /HT Photo)

No government can afford to be acting under pressure — especially when the objective is to win back a citizenry acting under duress or the influence of an external power.

It isn’t surprising therefore that the Narendra Modi regime is inclined to limit its engagement in Kashmir with stakeholders rated as moderates. The decision against reaching out to separatists makes sense at the current juncture when nobody’s in control of the rebellious youth.

The tactic apparently is to co-opt hardliners in the Jammu region that’s the BJP’s political mainstay, while buying time to tire out the alienated protestors in the Valley. “It takes two to tango. One can talk only when the other side is willing,” reasoned a PDP leader.

From the standpoint of the Hurriyat — whose traction with new-age militancy is doubtful — time isn’t opportune to engage with New Delhi. They cannot annoy Islamabad when it has moved the United Nations citing ‘human rights violations’ in the Valley.

Pakistan approached the UN on August 9 — the day Modi broke his silence on Kashmir — with Nawaz Sharif writing to Secretary General Ban ki-moon and the UN high commissioner for Human Rights. In a replay of 1994 when Kashmir was the nightmare that it is today — and Parliament felt the need to reiterate the Indian claim on PoK — the Pak Premier harped on UN resolutions on Kashmir. He also sought an end to “persistent and egregious violations of basic human rights of the Kashmiri people.”

The broad canvas of the Centre’s Kashmir outreach might emerge at Friday’s all-party meeting. But to dent the Pakistani offensive there’ll have to be safeguards in place against excessive use of force. “The hawks will come on board when the fatigue factor sets in and back-channels are activated to reach them,” argued a former J&K top-cop. “Use of force is inevitable at times; but it can be measured to limit loss of limb and life. No dialogue will succeed without ending the specter of pellet ridden bodies,” he said.

Muzaffar Shah of Awami National Conference echoed the view in a different context: “A beginning has been made but it’s very late in the day. If parliamentarians are serious, they must visit hospitals in Srinagar to understand the sense of anger and alienation.”

The communal discourse the NDA allowed out of electoral expediency in the rest of India is seen by most experts as a major contributor to the radicalisation of Kashmiri Muslims to Pakistan’s advantage. Security analyst Kapil Kak proposed that parties take a firm view against use of communal lexicon to reduce the prevailing trust-deficit. “Otherwise, there won’t ever be an ambience for talks with the alienated groups.”

There was positive feedback from the Valley on the Rajya Sabha debate on Kashmir — despite the fiery response on Twitter to the home minister reply.

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