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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014
Time to grasp the nettle
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 13, 2013
First Published: 21:16 IST(13/3/2013)
Last Updated: 21:20 IST(13/3/2013)

Terror is never far from the picture postcard perfection of tourists and tulips in Kashmir. And this was proved yet again by the horrendous attack on a CRPF camp near a school leaving five jawans and two militants dead.

This is the first such major attack in three years, and according to experts, bears the imprint of a group like the Pakistan-sponsored Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In recent days, the Valley has been in a state of ferment first over the hanging of Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru and then the killing of a young man during a demonstration in Baramullah.

The chief minister Omar Abdullah has seemed overwrought and emotional in both cases, even demanding that Guru's body be returned to his family in the state.

That the terrorists apparently dressed as cricketers were able to get so close to a CRPF camp suggests a grave breach of security. With this hopes of some semblance of peace returning to the troubled state have been dashed.

The issue of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which the chief minister wants revoked, as also many others, will be raised once again. But while that can be debated the real issue is that terror from across the border has once again unsettled the state and the government seems caught on the wrong foot.

That Pakistan will continue to play its deadly games in the Valley is a given, especially in the light of its own precipitate slide into chaos.

This is one way to detract attention from its own failings while at the same time signalling that militancy is alive and well and capable of striking at will in India. There can be no military solution to this problem.

The only viable way out is to strengthen democracy, something the militants and their sponsors are loathe to see. The attacks on sarpanches in the state were a strike at the democratic process.

Several lukewarm attempts at giving the democratic process a much needed push have been undertaken by the government. But it would seem that all the recommendations made by various committees were just futile exercises.

The report of the three interlocutors was thought of earlier as a possible starting point to widen democracy in the state. The report is not even being talked about today.

While it is too early to revoke AFSPA, the state has to make some concessions, howsoever painful they may be. Setting up more committees and coming up with more reports is clearly a fruitless exercise.

The first thing that will boost public morale in the Valley is if the chief minister and the central government are seen to be on the same page, something which is not evident at the moment.

There is no choice but to grasp the nettle, even in the face of such provocation as the killing of the CRPF jawans, and push forward for greater, not less democracy.


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