The country is paying a very heavy price in Kashmir due to the Centre’s inability or unwillingness to find a political solution in the Valley and for its tactics of firing from the shoulder of the Army, in a manner of speaking. If the Narendra Modi government, in the nearly four years that it has been in office, had sought to prise open the political path and build on the goodwill it had when it came to office, it would have discovered that the people of Kashmir, by and large, don’t harbour sympathy for Pakistan.
“Kashmiri Muslim equals Pakistan” is simply not true, even if it’s part of the RSS-BJP mindset. Instead of seeking to consolidate the considerable majority that desires peace with Pakistan but no political truck with it, and isolate the tiny sliver of pro-Pakistan opinion through the deft use of politics, the Centre has played a provocative game that has made clashes between young civilians and the security forces, specially the Army, an everyday affair.
This, in turn, has provided room to the pro-extremist and pro-Pakistan elements to expand the scope of their activity and spread their influence, specially among the educated unemployed who have taken to stone-throwing as a means of protest. The considerable turmoil the Valley has been in for the past two and a half years is due to the Centre’s “no-reconciliation” policy. Young Army officers, and in order to protect themselves and the men under their command, have frequently been obliged to order troops to open fire on provocative crowds, leading to deaths.
The latest incident in a series of unfortunate episodes took place on Sunday night when at a checkpoint in Shopian district the Army retaliated when miscreants opened fire. A militant and several civilians were killed. Seizing the opportunity, separatist leaders gave a call for a shutdown the next day and incidents of violence were reported throughout the Valley. This is a matter of deep worry. Evidently, the Kashmir policy is to not take any pre-emptive political steps, and force soldiers into situations where they have no option but to open fire, letting the Valley remain on the boil. Only that would allow for the optics that our men in uniform are hyperactive against militants or presumed militants under this government. In the process we are alienating an entire generation, but that is evidently of no consequence.
The Supreme Court was right to say on Monday that the J&K authorities and state police shouldn’t treat Army personnel like “ordinary criminals” and take coercive steps against them. The court is clearly appreciative that the Army is placed in an impossible situation, which terrorists and their sympathisers easily exploit. Only the Centre can now break the pattern.