The parts of the sum have begun to add up just right in Jammu and Kashmir. But all calculations could go awry if the kind of attacks we are seeing, including the one on the state’s law and rural development minister and, earlier, on a member of the ruling National Conference, are harbingers of things to come. So, it becomes vital that the government seize the moment and build on the recent dip in militancy and the semblance of ‘normalcy’ and begin implementing a long-term solution for the fractious state.
While many challenges still remain, a good starting point for the government would be to begin implementing some of the recommendations of the interlocutors’ report. In fact, it is rather strange that the government did not have a draft blueprint ready since the interlocutors had been submitting periodic recommendations. It makes eminent sense to make the report public without delay. It may be just political scuttlebutt, but already rumours are afloat that the government is loath to do so on account of the impact it might have on the Uttar Pradesh elections. The signal that will be sent out if the report gathers any more dust is that politics is playing the spoiler as usual when it comes to Kashmir.
Some of the recommendations in the report are unexceptional — meaningful autonomy, speedy development and devolution of powers to the three regions and sub-regions. But what is a sticking point is the interlocutors’ suggestion that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) be withdrawn. This will — and already has — invoked strong resistance from the army. Undoubtedly, this is not an easy decision to make for the government.
And the Omar Abdullah government is bound to be sensitive to criticism of the sort made by his own politician-uncle Mustafa Kamal that the army may have a motive in creating disturbances in order to keep the Afspa in force. While this is clearly in the realm of speculation, what is not is the fact that the militants have got bold again, striking at high-profile targets. This suggests that they are emboldened by the inertia displayed by the government even when it seemingly holds most of the cards.
Home minister P Chidambaram had been unequivocal that he would carry the process forward after the interlocutors’ report was submitted. But speed is of the essence in such a volatile state as Kashmir where the tide could turn any minute. For the moment, the stone-pelters are off the streets and the militants are trying to signal that they are still very much a threat.
The only course of action that the government must take at the moment is to unveil the roadmap to implement the interlocutors’ report, after a time-bound dialogue with all political parties represented in Parliament. Now that temperatures have cooled in more ways than one, it is imperative that the government work out ways to put the spring back in the coming spring.