Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning held a high-level meeting to discuss ways to check violence in Kashmir where protests over the killing of a young militant leader, Burhan Wani, have led to clashes in which 30 peopled have died in four days.
Formulating an immediate action plan to reach out to people and bring down tempers in Kashmir was high on the agenda at the meeting.
While there was no word about the specific decisions taken at the meeting, Kashmir experts and observers feel that the Centre and the state government have to go for a multi-pronged action.
According to Happymon Jacob, an expert on Kashmir who teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the government should send an all-party delegation to Kashmir. In 2010 when the Valley was witnessing violence over the alleged fake encounter of three young men, the UPA government sent a 39-member all-party delegation to visit the trouble-torn region and talk with stakeholders. The decision immediately reduced violence, says Kumar who believes that chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and MLAs of her People’s Democratic Party need to reach out to people immediately.
Another option is to reach out to dissidents like the Hurriyat Conference. “(AB) Vajpayee, (LK) Advani, Manmohan Singh--all met Hurriyat leaders. Do you find any attempt on the part of the Prime Minister or the Home Minister to meet Hurriyat leaders? Why is the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister not part of today’s meeting? Why not talk to Imams in Jammu & Kashmir?” says MM Ansari, one of the three interlocutors who was tasked by the UPA government to prepare a political roadmap for Jammu and Kashmir. The interlocutors submitted their report in 2011 but it has been gathering dust since.
Security forces have been instructed to exercise restraint, Army sources maintain that the solution to the unrest in Kashmir has to come from the political leadership. “We don’t change our strategy from one event to another. It’s the political leadership, which has to get its act together,” said an Army source.
The BJP and the PDP need to go back to their “agenda for alliance” that they entered into in May last year, especially in the context of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “The coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’. This, as a consequence, would enable the Union government to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in these areas,” said the two parties’ in their agenda for alliance.
It also stated that all lands, other than those given to the security forces on the basis of lease, licenses and acquisition under the provision of the Land Acquisition Act, shall be returned to the rightful legal owners, except in a situation where retaining the lands is absolutely imperative in view of a specific security requirement.
“There are actionable things mentioned in the agenda of alliance. The BJP needs to go back to it. The PDP has lost primarily because the BJP is not treating the coalition partner well,” says Jacob.
Army sources said the government had taken a firm stand in the Valley and it should not budge from it despite any kind of pressure. The sources also said more emphasis on psychological operations could also help.
Lieutenant General BS Jaswal, a former Northern Army commander, said the the Army should ensure people don’t gravitate from villages to towns in Kashmir to join protests against Wani’s killing.
Jaswal said it was critical for the political class to avoid appeasement as it would hurt national interest. He said the government should also make it clear that anyone who paralyses the integrity of the country from within would be dealt with a heavy hand.
A senior army officer said the army’s policy in Kashmir had evolved over a period of decades and there is no knee-jerk reaction to isolated cases.
“It is the outcome of our efforts that’s militancy has been wiped out outside the valley. The situation in the Valley too is very much in control,” he said.