TWO more policemen died in the Valley. This is not the first time that there is casualty in Kashmir. But the disconcerting aspect is that killings are taking place at regular intervals. New Delhi has not been able to quell violence. Probably, the cause is eluding the Narendra Modi government at the centre. That has to be tackled if violence has to be stopped. That at least two militants could sneak into the hospital complex to free the jailed terrorist is alarming, indeed. This means there is no safe place in the Valley. But the worst is the terrorists have no consideration for even the sick. At the same time, it also exposes our security set up when the 22-two year old Mohammad Naveed Jhutt, who was arrested in Kulgam in Kashmir in 2014, managed to escape with the assailants during broad daylight from outside the government-run hospital, where he had been taken for medical check-up.
The terrorists seemed to have had a foolproof setup working in the valley to know when and where Jhutt would be taken as they have been lying in wait in the hospital’s parking lot before opening fire when he was brought along with other prisoners. Jhutt is believed to have been involved in multiple attacks, including on some civilians and army personnel. In fact, every political party has someone to inform it about the arrival of any outsider in Srinagar. The terrorists and others line-up resistance according to the danger posed. The intelligence system of militants is too porous. The Mehbooba Mufti’s government admits to its failure. All the stone-pelters have been released apparently as a goodwill gesture. But the real reason behind the release is the popular support they have.
The situation is such that the old militants like Yasin Malik or Shabbir Shah have become irrelevant today. The youth is leading and making no secret of the fact that they want a separate country of their own. They are neither pro-Pakistan, nor pro-India. They are pro-themselves and have made it clear that their movement is to prepare for their own entity. New Delhi realises it but has no alternative to offer to them. Its answer seems to be security forces which are suffering more and more casualty. Strangely former chief minister Farooq Abdullah introduced religion by declaring that the youth is the new identity of Islam. They are Muslims he says. But thank God, he doesn’t question Srinagar’s accession to New Delhi.
Pakistan understands that the entire partition formula would come to be questioned if it underlines the entity factor. Therefore, it emphasizes that the two countries should sit across the table and find solution which is acceptable to both. That, in fact, means Islamabad does not want to face the fact. The reality is that the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is sought to be a separate country. New Delhi has made it clear that it would not have talks until it is assured that Pakistan would not give shelter to terrorists, nor would it be a party to militancy. But this is only a pipedream. True, Islamabad’s proxy war in the shape of mercenaries, saboteurs, Pakistan describes all this as ‘its moral and diplomatic support’ to the militants—has not allowed the state to settle down to normalcy for years. In last one decade, the interference from across the border has been colossal. Still, frankly speaking, India has had no policy on Kashmir and it has committed mistake after mistake.
One can go back to the time when Sheikh Abdullah, then Kashmir’s sole leader, was detained in 1952 because he wanted India to live up to its promise of autonomy. That meant transferring all powers to Srinagar except those relating to foreign affairs, defence and communications. Or to 1989, when the state assembly elections were rigged to force the Kashmir youth infer that the ballot box would not bring them power, but the bullet might. Pakistan was only looking for an opportunity when the angry young Kashmiris would cross the border to get training and arms. That it smuggled in some of its own armed men to guide them was natural because it had waited for nearly four decades to build an uprising in the valley. In the militancy and the state’s response that followed, a large number of Kashmiris and members of security forces lost their lives.
The Kashmiri leaders, particularly the younger lot, have to face the realities. An opportunity is coming their way in the shape of the Lok Sabha election next year. If they are in the same House, they can demand from the nation what has been denied to them even after the 1952 Delhi Agreement, that is, their special status. They can insist on all precautions for a fair election. But they cannot afford to miss the opportunity. By getting elected to Parliament, the Kashmiri leaders will have an opportunity for disproving the government allegation that their support was primarily because of fear and fundamentalism they have spread in the valley. They should understand this as the uncertain situation in Kashmir has led New Delhi to deny the state the liberal economic assistance which it should get. Many packages have been announced in the past decades. It was first Rajiv Gandhi who promised an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore.
The successive prime ministers after him have been raising the figure, but never allocating even a fraction of it. Delhi has also misread to some extent the reason for people’s sulkiness there. Had there been economic development in the state, the Kashmiri youth’s focus of attention would have been different. One has only to think of the days when they would look forward to the arrival of tourists. After going through intermittent violence, the Kashmiris have realized that there is no go from the tourists who come in large number and spend money. Today, people are sick of violence. The security forces and the terrorists from across the border have made them live on edge. Poor living conditions have deteriorated further. They want development, not politics, which the Mehbooba government has been lately selling to them vigorously. A responsive, clean and purposeful administration in the state would have lessened their and Delhi’s headaches.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.