When Omar Abdullah became Kashmir’s Chief Minister last year, his roadmap for the troubled state seemed crystal clear. A year down the line, it appears confused and opaque. The recent killing of two protestors has aggravated the situation in a state where trigger-happy securitymen and an infusion of militants from Pakistan have together put paid to all peace strategies so far. Mr Abdullah may have a point in saying that the stone-pelters on whom the securitymen fired could have been motivated by militant ideology and wherewithal.
But he has to be seen to act before the crisis that is upon the state now gets out of hand. To blame the Amarnath agitation of 2008 for the current problems as well as the depredations from across the border do not show him to be as much in control of the situation as he claims to be. That Pakistan will seek to exploit any resentment in Kashmir to justify its cross-border terrorism is now a given. What Mr Abdullah must work for in concert with the Centre is to ensure that such incidents are resolved as quickly as possible. That the Shopian incident is still unresolved rankles on the streets of Srinagar. When he came to power, Mr Abdullah had promised to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that has long been a sore point in the state. Today, and perhaps with some justification, he says this cannot be done in the light of increased infiltration. Without boxing himself into a definite timeframe, it would not hurt if he began the review process while undertaking measures to address local grievances. No amount of cross-border terrorism can be successful indefinitely unless it feeds on local grievances.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram has struck the right note in saying that there will be zero tolerance towards any human rights violations in the state. Mr Abdullah was also on the same page with the home minister, though in recent times his posture has been more defensive than necessary. This explains why he, somewhat inexplicably, attributed the violence both to Pakistan and to those ideologically opposed to his family. At a time when terrorists like Hafiz Saeed are trying to bring Kashmir back to centrestage as the core dispute between India and Pakistan, the state government, like Caesar’s wife, must be beyond reproach. Not an easy task but one in which Mr Abdullah cannot fail.