As the success of the recent recruitment drive for the uniformed services in the Kashmir Valley shows, neither the separatist Hurriyat leadership nor the younger and relatively obscure pro-Pakistan elements who orchestrated and led the protests in the past two months are in a position to go on commandeering Kashmiri youth in the direction that Pakistan dictates. Earlier this week, some 10,000 young men responded to an advertisement for appointment as special police officers (SPOs). About half were from the South Kashmir districts where the recent disturbances have been the most severe. This is the part of Kashmir where a police station was burned down by pro-Pakistan elements.
The Hurriyat leaders and their cohorts issued threats that serving policemen should resign or face harm. Clearly, the youngsters have paid no heed. It’s not just the police. A recruitment rally for the Army in Srinagar that ended on Thursday drew 12,000 young men. This shows up Pakistani propaganda that the Indian forces in the Valley are an army of “occupation”. Protest marches have been held across rural Kashmir in recent weeks and thousands were bulldozed into participating. By now the people are fed up and appear keen to return to normal life. Of course, this should not blindside us. Economic opportunities and employment are key issues. But there’s a political dimension too in Kashmir. The terms of J&K’s accession to India have been made to erode and this hurts Kashmiri sentiment.