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Jammu and Kashmir needs a policy review

The central government needs to focus on a twin-track approach for the state. It needs to seriously address the political vacuum there

editorials Updated: Jun 19, 2019 20:09 IST
Hindustan Times
Conflict,Insurgency
There has to be sharper intelligence collection, more collaboration between all the security forces operating in the Valley, and a targeted crackdown on those who believe in and use the path of violence(AFP)

Over the past week, there has been a spike in violence in Jammu and Kashmir. To their credit, security forces were able to kill the Jaish-e-Mohammed operative whose van was used in the Pulwama attack in February. At the same time, the security situation is fragile. An Army major, two soldiers, five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, and a Jammu and Kashmir police official have died in separate incidents. Terrorists have also caused grievous injuries to civilians in a bomb attack. While the government has claimed that these attacks represent the desperation of terror groups, since they have been at the receiving end of a successful security offensive, the violence — and the larger political situation — in the state calls for a policy review.

The central government needs to focus on a twin-track approach for Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt that terror groups operating from Pakistani soil, with the support of the Pakistani establishment, are continuing to cause trouble in the Valley. For the past five years, another worrying trend has been the spurt in local radicalisation. Younger Kashmiris, swayed by radical Islamist ideology, have taken to violence in ever increasing numbers. All of this means that the government will have to maintain a strong security vigil. There has to be sharper intelligence collection, more collaboration between all the security forces operating in the Valley, and a targeted crackdown on those who believe in and use the path of violence. It would be better if the Army can keep the focus on the borders and stopping cross-border terror incursions, while paramilitary forces and the state police tackle the internal turmoil, particularly in South Kashmir.

At the same time, the government needs to seriously address the political vacuum in the state. Having a locally elected government in J&K may not have always led to peace; during the tenure of the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government, peace continued to be elusive. But not having a locally elected, legitimate government in the state is almost a guarantee for continued instability and unrest. J&K needs more democracy, not less. And the first step has to be the holding of elections as soon as possible. This will create a buffer; a rooted government will be able to tackle some local grievances. It can also, with the support of the central government, engage with diverse local stakeholders. The Bharatiya Janata Party would also be well advised to keep its key ideological issues vis-a-vis Kashmir — be it Article 35A or Article 370 — on the backburner for now, since any move to revoke these will only add to local alienation. With its strong mandate, the Narendra Modi government should focus on ensuring both peace and democracy in India’s most troubled state.

First Published: Jun 19, 2019 20:09 IST