Killing Kashmir militants is winning no wars for New Delhi, lack of political outreach is real problem

Almost every other day the government forces are killing militants in Kashmir. The latest gunfight left a Pakistani militant dead in south Kashmir’s Samboora village last night, taking the toll of militants killed so far in this year to 124. It is a remarkable number, even by the yardstick of what is happening in the troubled Valley. Such numbers are being recorded for the first time in seven years. This means the counterinsurgency operations will be bolstered in coming days and killings will continue unabated.

But the question one needs to ask is: If killing militants, jailing conflict managers, choking space of adversaries, house arresting and jailing separatist leaders, were the techniques of conflict resolution then New Delhi would have won the “battle of ideas” in Valley at the turn of the last century.

At the security front, the record of the government, while dealing with militancy, might look good. In just last two months, forces have eliminated five most wanted militant commanders operating in south Kashmir. Since the Amarnath Yatra attack on 10 July, at least 21 militants, including four commanders were gunned down, while four civilians and two soldiers have lost their lives in the mainland.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

But on the treacherous Line of Control, during the same time, the death toll of the forces seems to be too high with at least eight soldiers killed in different incidents of ceasefire violation and seven militants killed while trying to infiltrate into this side of Kashmir.

So, has this security centric approach changed anything on the ground for New Delhi. Rather, it has created more heroes, more icons, for the youngsters and an overwhelming support for militancy which had just few years back diminished to a large extent. Besides, there's the contempt for mainstream politics, whose space has shrunk like never before. The situation for the politicos is perhaps even worse than it was in early nineties.

And then there is the local population which stands harassed by security operations and feels completely alienated.

“The policy adapted by this government is that there is no policy. Everything is being viewed through the prism of security and with rabid nationalistic overtones. Even changing the Indian constitution for the want of hegemonic political supremacy seems to be a reality today by using the courts of the country,” Gul Mohammad Wani, a professor of political science, says.

As the government's security-oriented approach overtakes the political outreach, the biggest loser in this game, invariably, also is the Indian state in Kashmir. This policy of no policy has led to a situation where an elected head of the state, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, had to openly threaten a part of her own government that, if there is going to be any tinkering with the special status of the state, then there will be no one to hoist the tricolour in the Valley.

"Let me tell you that my party and other parties who carry the national flag there despite all risks... I have no doubt in saying that there will be no one to hold it (national flag) if Article 35 A is tinkered with," Mufti said at a seminar in New Delhi.

"Let me be very clear. By doing all this (challenging Article 35 A), you are not targeting the separatists. Their (separatists) agenda is different and it is totally secessionist. But, you are weakening those powers which are Indian and trust India and participate in elections and who fight to live a life honourably in Jammu and Kashmir," she said.

Mufti’s outburst came after her continuous lobbying with the central government for a dialogue with the Hurriyat failed. Instead of initiating a meaningful dialogue, the Center has exactly done the opposite by jailing second-rung separatist leadership, thus removing all the conflict mangers on the ground, leaving little scope for the situation to improve in coming months or years.

Mehbooba is also believed to have been kept out of loop when the NIA was mulling to arrest the separatist leadership. This has hurt the leaders of her party the most, who have been in favour of talks instead of jail for Hurriyat leaders.

The Peoples Democratic Party, of which Mehbooba is president, stands humiliated as the Center takes decisions, one after another, leaving the Chief Minister fuming. Almost all the polices her party had formulated previously, whether in Opposition or in government, stand trashed by its own alliance partner at the Centre.

The “Agenda of the Alliance" document has become a laughing stock. There is no reconciliation and confidence building within the state, leave aside across the Line of Control (LoC). The power projects have not been given back. Initiating a sustained and meaningful dialogue seems a remote possibility. And there is no talk of withdrawing some footprints of the forces almost half a million of whom are fighting less then 200 militants.

“There has never been a government both at the Center and the state which has been hated almost in equal measure by the very people it is supposed to represent,” Asif Ahmad Rishi, a businessmen in Srinagar Rajbagh area, says.

"PDP was voted into power to stop BJP. Instead it allied with it, on terms of a written agreement. Now the same BJP, which gave in writing to maintain the special status of the state, is trying to abrogate it. It will have dangerous consequences,” he adds.

Never before has there been so much of a threat mounting on the special status enjoyed by the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution, as it is today. Even the remenant of autonomy in the Article 370 — a shell which has nothing substantial left in it — is being debated in courts of the country.

The pressure on the mainstream politics is building up so much that Mehbooba Mufti, while speaking in a seminar in New Delhi, had to recently admit that there will be no one in Valley to hoist the tricolour if the Article 35 A is tinkered with.

Article 35 A gives special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and empowers its legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the right to equality of people from other states or any other right under the Indian Constitution. It was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order issued in 1954 under Article 370.

“If 35A is struck down it means an end to the special status of permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and would lead to a demographic change in the state which is what the right-wing ideologies of the country want,” Noor Mohammad Baba, a senior political analyst, said.

“The sad truth is there are people, particularly the younger generation in Valley, who want it to be removed so that they can fight an open war with New Delhi. That just doesn't include people who hold separatist ideology but mainstream politicians too. This will lead to death and destruction of collosal magnitude never seen before in the last twenty-seven years in Valley. The burden of defending article 35 A, by whichever means, rests solely on the shoulders of the mainstream — the National Conference (NC) and the PDP.”

The PDP has been all along advocating that a dialogue with separatists is the only way out. But it seems that the government at Centre is not ready for that. The crisis with Pakistan is far from over and with diplomacy at an all-time low, dialogue seems like a far-fetched option for now.


Published Date: Aug 07, 2017 01:52 pm | Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 02:00 pm


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