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No looking back now

The Kashmir package will be opposed by many but the Centre should stay the course.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2010 23:29 IST

It is still a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, but the fact that schools and colleges have opened in Kashmir after three months suggests that people are willing to explore alternatives to the continuing violence in the state. The government has held out an olive branch in the form of an eight-point package and the promise of one or more interlocutors who will be acceptable all round. Though curfew has been reimposed in Baramulla, Sopore, Srinagar and Kupwara, Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s appeal to parents to end the disruption of education has been heeded to, even though partially. Part of the reason for students staying away from schools and colleges is the constant calls for strikes by hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani who seem to have a single-point agenda — to oppose any move that could bring peace and normalcy to the troubled state.

The Centre, to its credit, has gone the extra mile in asking the state government to release students and youths arrested for stone-pelting. This with development funds, ex-gratia payments to the kin of those killed in civil disturbances and the appointment of task forces, among other things, should serve to cool temperatures for the moment. Even though Kashmiri leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik are sceptical about how much the package will address the grievances of the people, unlike Mr Geelani, they are willing to consider the possibility of a dialogue. The government’s accommodation may be interpreted by the likes of Mr Geelani and his supporters to suggest weakness. And this will encourage them to up the ante and try and create further disruptions to discredit the package and other efforts to calm the volatile state down. This is not unexpected. Given the sensitivities involved in the conduct of the security forces, the government, both at the Centre and state, has to ensure that they behave with utmost restraint.

The Opposition People’s Democratic Party should also keep in mind that it is an elected representative of the people and should put the interest of the younger generation first instead of being the perennial one-trick pony demanding the ouster of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. It seems to have realised this in its guarded but positive response to the package. True, many mistakes have been made by the government. But, if with the package as a starting point, there is a chance to go beyond this mindless violence, it should be seized by all those with the interest of Kashmir at heart. Cynicism is healthy, but pragmatism is not such a bad option either.