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An early spring in the Valley

An Eid gift with several caveats, but this latest move is something that must have taken quite some courage for Kashmir's chief minister Omar Abdullah.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2011 21:46 IST

An Eid gift with several caveats, but this latest move is something that must have taken quite some courage for Kashmir's chief minister Omar Abdullah. A one time amnesty for stone-pelters with the rider that they should not be taken in by the honeyed words of those who egged them on and have now forgotten them may well be one more step towards a safer and more peaceful future in the state. Mr Abdullah has also grasped the nettle that few predecessors have in saying that he will address the issue of unidentified bodies and unmarked graves which the State Human Rights Commission had brought up. He has gone as far as saying that he is in favour of a truth and reconciliation commission on the lines of the one set up in South Africa. Predictably, this has been rubbished by hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but then this is not surprising given his uniformly negative stance to any move that might ease tensions in the state.

For years, we have seen grieving families in Kashmir who have had no closure on the subject of family members who have disappeared. It has been no secret that the special powers that the security agencies have in the state have enabled them to pick up at random people suspected of militancy and other violations.

Mr Abdullah has taken the first step towards healing these festering wounds. A very significant proposal that he has made, and has not perhaps got the attention it should have, is to transfer more power to the panchayats. This will go a long way towards empowering the people who have had to live in the shadow of militancy and oppressive security for decades. Mr Abdullah's idea of a truth and reconciliation commission should be taken up as the first step towards an acceptable peaceful settlement to the many issues that are still up in the air in the state. The final report from the three interlocutors may also be helpful in this process. All three have been unequivocal in their findings that the state needs a more inclusive governance system.

Mr Abdullah has often been accused of being less than proactive on the human rights problem that has plagued the state. He is clearly trying to make amends with his efforts to address the issue of missing persons. The post-Eid period has always been troubled and tense in the state. Mr Abdullah is trying to pre-empt this and all those who have a stake in maintaining normalcy in the state should help him along. The situation on the ground is the best we have had in a long time, and Mr Abdullah can really build on this. We have so often written on the winter of discontent in the Valley, but as of now the thaw holds out hope for a prolonged spring.