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For peace to be restored in Kashmir

For peace to be restored in Kashmir

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir turned more volatile following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.

Given the present circumstances in which all the oppression of the security forces has failed to bring peace in the region, the Narendra Modi government has appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Dineshwar Sharma to hold a dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir for resolving the issues and submit a report to the central and state governments. The NDA government soon after coming to power, had stopped making efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue and have been adopting measures for suppressing the separatist and terrorist activities. Burhan Wani’s killing was a significant move which was part of these measures. However, Wani was not seen as an armed terrorist by the youth in the Valley. In their eyes he was a hero who fought for the ‘azadi’ of Kashmir. His death naturally provoked a widespread outrage which turned violent in no time. Even young children who hurled stones at the security forces led to severe violation of peace in the region. Over a hundred people were killed and about 19, 000 including 4, 000 soldiers were injured in the military operations.

When the army deployed pellet guns to reduce the death rate, about 3, 000 civilians were severely injured. More than a hundred people lost their eyes. The operation aggravated the public ire as well as the protest against the central and state governments. In the days that followed, restoration of peace remained a mere dream. A team led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who visited Jammu and Kashmir for assessing the situation and suggesting a solution to the issues, reported that the situation in Kashmir was extremely grave and uncontainable and therefore a solution should be found ‘at the earliest’. Modi government who refused all this time to acknowledge the issue has been until now with the calculation that the separatists and extremists could be contained using the soldiers deployed in the state. Given that the schools have been closed for months and years, the young children taking to the streets to hurl stones at the police and security forces has become an everyday affair. When things went out of control, even incidents that drew flak from all corners like the forces tying a civilian to a military jeep and using him as a human shield, took place.

Of late, the Modi government has been compelled to hold talks with all sections of people including the separatist leaders as well as the opposition parties for resolving the crisis similar to the times of the UPA regime. This is what can be comprehended from the appointment of the former Intelligence Bureau Chief by the Centre. How far Dineshwar Sharma, a 1979-batch IPS officer of Kerala cadre, will be able to fulfill his duties in the highly complex situation existing in Kashmir is yet to be seen. During the tenure of the UPA government, a team led by senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, in 2010 held talks with all sections of the people in Kashmir and submitted a report based on facts. The report is gathering dust with no further action taken.

What the people detest the most is the extreme step of making their normal lives miserable by cramming the valley with soldiers. When A K Antony was the Defence Minister, even his suggestion to limit the deployment of troops was rejected. The strong demand of curbing the special powers of the army was also rejected. Although it is the PDP-BJP coalition government that rules Jammu and Kashmir, the Kashmiris feel that the state government acts as a mere spectator. Only Rs 19, 000 crore of the Rs 80, 000 worth of development package has been spent so far. The jobless crowd of thousands of youth forms the asset of any ‘azadi’ movement. As made clear in the last assembly election, majority of the Kashmiris like to be a part of the democratic process.

Observers point out that there is only a 2-3 per cent of the population that favour Pakistan. A return to normalcy and restoration of peace could be expected only if those at the Centre allow autonomous status to the state as stated in Article 370 of the Constitution, by winning the trust of the majority that have faith in democracy. But will the hardcore Sangh Parivar nationalists who loathe even the very term religious minority, be able to digest it? Does the Modi government have the spine to move forward bypassing them if they did not agree? If the government continues to display the approach of wanting only Kashmir and not the Kashmiris, then this ‘paradise on Earth’ will soon go down in history drowned in blood.

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