After returning from a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week, Home Minister Shivraj Patil stated that he was “hopeful of a peaceful solution to the problem”. With police firing in the Valley resulting in deaths — including that of Hurriyat leader Shaikh Abdul Aziz — Mr Patil’s hopefulness flies in the face of all reason. In a telling comment, J&K Governor N.N. Vohra has pointed to the necessity of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti — which has been leading protests against the revocation of land allotments to the Amarnath Shrine Board — to stop stone-walling a genuine all-party meeting to resolve the spiralling situation. Till now, the Centre has been far from setting a table on which all parties involved in the controversy — including local Muslims from the Valley — can first air their views and then come to a tangible solution.
But if there is anything that highlights the Centre’s fiddling in the middle of a fire, it has to be its pusillanimous response to the ‘economic blockade’ of goods from the Valley imposed by politically-motivated protestors in Jammu. The traffic of goods is down to a third since the blockade began and it is a shame that New Delhi actually stirred from its slumber only after the people of the Valley started feeling the proverbial pinch and started their own protests. Once again, it is Governor Vohra who has put a figure of Rs 2,000-3,000 crore in losses incurred by the state due to the ongoing disruptions.
<b1>The last time we looked, Jammu was an integral part of the Union of India. So we assume that Mr Patil can make his writ run in the region if he really chooses to do so. At the other end of the stick, political forces — including mainstream parties like the PDP — have done little to keep the Valley from boiling over.
At the source of the turmoil lies the old business of Government of India-patented arrogance. Mr Patil need not feel slighted to talk to the locals of the Valley even if that means telling the Shrine Board authorities to get off their precious hobbyhorse. The issue at stake is not any more about whose face is saved, but how to rescue J&K.