Restraint, caution and moderation have become casualties in Kashmir today as the law and order situation spins almost out of control. The latest provocation is the inexplicable killing by the army of two schoolboys who did not stop at an army checkpost.
They were ostensibly out to buy curtains for a family hall and drove past an army post in order to outspeed a tipper truck driver against whose vehicle they had apparently brushed.
In what seems, prima facie, to be a grossly exaggerated response, the army shot the two boys dead when it could well have shot at the windows or tyres if the aim was to stop the vehicle.
Naturally, the Valley is up in arms against this brutality, something which is not unexpected, given the army’s record. But what needs to be done now is to have a transparent enquiry and make sure that the culprits are brought to book.
The experience with earlier outrages involving civilians has been that the army tries to brush things under the carpet, raising excuses from security concerns to troop morale. The state, reeling from the havoc caused by the floods, is preparing for elections.
The silver lining in this very dark cloud is that militancy is at a low, but that again is something that cannot be taken for granted. The killing of the two boys is perhaps an occasion for the new government at the Centre to review the role of the army in the state. Successive state governments have raised the issue of excesses by the army.
But for the people of the state, the reality of the army being in their face and often trigger-happy has not changed. The Modi government is in a position to take positive steps that could bring about some sort of semblance of order to the state.
The army will be on high alert as the elections draw near and both the state and Centre have to exercise great vigil to ensure that the people are not in the firing line. The temptation to engage in polarising politics must be resisted by all parties in the fray.
Pakistan’s attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue are failing. This should be an occasion to step up confidence-building measures. The state government must push to see that justice is done to the two young boys.
Otherwise, the situation could snowball into an uncontrollable crisis.