The Centre seems to be blowing hot and cold on the Kashmir issue. No sooner than the Prime Minister offered fresh talks with Kashmiri separatists who have nothing to do with violence, a crackdown came on the use of pre-paid SIM cards in Jammu and Kashmir. This means that 3.8 million users will be put out of commission with the outside world and another 20,000 people will become jobless. It is significant that not only Chief Minister Omar Abdullah but also the opposition has expressed displeasure over this move.
The problem with Kashmir and the rest of India has been very much one of trust. It has also been one of the problems of unemployment, thanks to the security issue. The pre-paid SIM card business brought in as much as
Rs 10,000 a month for owners. Now that this has been taken away, there could be further unrest on the streets. This goes against the grain of the PM’s reconciliatory moves. This will also be a handle for the militants to question New Delhi’s intentions about a lasting resolution to the Kashmir problem. In addition, Pakistan, which has had nothing much to do in recent times, will get a fillip, perhaps to detract from its own internal situation. The Kashmir imbroglio can be resolved in a reasonable manner. The credentials of users can be verified and all cards can be security checked at the point of issue. This seemingly hostile move towards Kashmiris could set off a round of hostility at a time when a certain degree of calm had prevailed.
This has been a recurrent problem in New Delhi’s approach to Kashmir. This is a time when a dynamic and progressive CM, and one who has a degree of respectability among the people, is in charge. Such moves only make things more difficult for him. The Centre does not need to undertake such sweeping measures, ostensibly to reconcile security, as the Home Minister has put it. The interest of the country, as he so rightly said, lies in all its people feeling secure and having the right to livelihood. To start off another conflagration in Kashmir would be ruinous at a time when the government has to tackle numerous other security issues across the country. Better statesmanship at this time would have set the peace process in Kashmir on the way. Sadly, that has been set back once again.