Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have reminded Pakistan that it lives in a glass house, by raking up Balochistan, but it has done little to calm tempers that have been seething in Kashmir for forty days now. To the contrary, Delhi’s ‘Balochistan strategy’ has only added fuel to the fire and left Kashmiris wondering why they are being used as pawns in a game that New Delhi now wants to play with Pakistan. Modi mentioned Balochistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), not just in his Independence Day address but also referred to it at the all-party meeting which was called to specifically discuss the Kashmir unrest. Nothing concrete came out of the meeting and the two senior ministers of home and finance parried questions related to the possibility of a dialogue with the separatists.
The Modi government is showing little interest in the ground reality of Kashmir where the death toll has inched past sixty. Kashmir is angry, not only because militant commander Burhan Wani was eliminated in an encounter. The trust between the Valley and Delhi has been eroded over the years and has now reached break point. For too long, Kashmiris believed that the Centre would address its grievances politically. They believed that in 2008 when civilians were killed and again in 2010, when 116 youth were killed, one after the other. Delhi had tried to address the anger then by sending a team of interlocutors who painstakingly spoke to several stakeholders and turned in a report that referred to Kashmir as a ‘dispute.’ No one paid attention to these recommendations and this time, Delhi has responded, not by offering an olive branch but by raising Balochistan.
The state government, led by Mehbooba Mufti too has been unable to assuage the raw emotions of the stone-pelting youth, who are refusing to tire. The sentiment prevalent on the Kashmir street echoes an ‘it is a do or die battle’ attitude and is different from the previous cycles of violence. Ms Mufti’s signalling is all wrong. Keeping phone networks and broadband connections on the blink — in the hope that fewer youth will be able to mobilize themselves — has not worked. Instead, it has given rise to deep resentment that is only feeding the rage. A disturbing new reality is being scripted and both the state government and the Centre need to wake up to it. Up until Burhan Wani’s death, the number of local militants far outnumbered foreign terrorists but with increasing infiltration, the balance might change. The Valley — crippled by protests — is now also seeing militant attacks on the police, CRPF and the army. Pakistan will no doubt fish in muddied waters but Delhi will be guilty of muddying the waters in the first place. It must express remorse for civilian deaths and start a dialogue which is a part of the agenda of alliance that binds both, the PDP and the BJP. The Modi government can hardly claim to gain any moral position on Balochistan when its own house is on fire in Kashmir.