The news from Kashmir has been dismal in recent days. A string of major incidents in south Kashmir districts — Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama — has seen the killings of commanders of key terrorist outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen as well as deaths of local civilians, who come to pelt stones and hamper operations, in cross-firing, besides soldiers. Tuesday also saw encounters between the security forces.
This is suggestive of the intensification of government action against terrorist outfits in areas of their concentration, but also gives us a measure of the spread and intensity of pro-terrorist sentiments that have grown very rapidly at the time of the PDP-BJP government in the state — which fell earlier in the summer — under Pakistan’s tutelage.
The scale of the problem is considerable, and the choices before the government can’t be easy. Seemingly conflicting courses of action have to be calibrated, reconciled, managed. For example, in the Valley, promoting conversations at the social level and with political actors of various types is vital, even as the necessity to quell the terrorism problem in some pockets looms large. Both objectives need attention.
That is no easy task. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq earlier this week called for a resumption of the pace of challenge to the Indian security forces and return to the “resistance” tempo of 2016, following the killing of a local terrorist commander that saw a sudden conflagration which brought back terrible memories of the first insurgency in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
Isn’t there a way to openly engage the Mirwaiz, the Valley’s chief priest? While the government hesitates and takes timid steps, a former Norwegian PM has done the rounds of meeting “resistance” leaders like the Mirwaiz, and has also been in contact with political leaders in Pakistan as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Have the governments of India and Pakistan sanctioned this process as a new channel of mediation? We don’t know, and not much has come out at the formal level. However, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has wondered how and why all this came about. What is the level of participation of J&K’s mainstream parties in this process, if indeed it is a process with which New Delhi has gone along.
It is axiomatic that conversations with Pakistan must go on, but in what way and from which forums, and within what framework? External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had decided not to go to Pakistan for the inauguration of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took the position that Pakistan had once again started promoting terrorist violence in his state, and had also been breaking the ceasefire on the border, killing our troops. The situation appears to be serious enough, and yet openings of conversations within Kashmir and with Pakistan have to be located....