No short cuts to democratic process in Kashmir

Hari Jaisingh*

Amidst official claims of progress and developments, Kashmir has of late been witnessing increasing cases of violence, mainly led by Pakistan-sponsored militants. The Valley has witnessed numerous targeted killings, including those of police personnel, Hindu teachers, sarpanches, Kashmiri Pandit government employees, a TV artiste, a Hindu banker and a wine-shop staffer, since January this year. On May 31, a 36-year old Hindu school teacher, a resident of Samba in Jammu, was shot dead by militants as she was about to enter her school in Kulgam district.

Mainstream political parties of J&K have condemned the killings. However, mere condemnation cannot solve the problem of militancy in the Valley. What is urgently required is timely intelligence inputs and coordinated action on the part of the Police and the Army. It is clear that Central and State intelligence outfits have failed miserably in this primary task. J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha must be held answerable for the failures of the administration and intelligence agencies. He should either resign or be sacked by higher authorities in New Delhi.

The failures of the central establishment in Srinagar over the years have been numerous. During the governorship of Jagmohan, there was some glimmer of hope. However, some things retreated to square one with his exit from the Valley.

Looking back, we have been seeing for years concerted efforts to bring the Valley under the umbrella of pan-Islamism. It is important that we do not allow the jehadis to have their way. They ought to be dealt with ruthlessly. In this context, we should keep in mind the warning spelt out by the Israeli-American political scientist and expert on terrorism, Yossef Bodansky.

Bodansky had warned India that if for some reason, it decides to quit Kashmir, the State would be grabbed by Islamists. The jehadis have special interest in turning Kashmir into the hub of the revivalist Islamic bloc. Bodansky is also of the view that the Kashmiris can never enjoy independence as they will always have to obey orders from the fundamentalists. He also believes that the loss of Kashmir would have serious adverse consequences for India’s security.

It is often stated that the people of the Valley are alienated. Several Kashmiri leaders attribute the problems of Kashmir to the machinations of New Delhi. To some extent, they could be right. However, their alienation is not because of machinations of Delhi but because of the Centre’s lopsided policies and misplaced approach to men, matters and issues.

Those behind militancy in the Valley must know when and how to put a stop to the process of Islamisation in Kashmir. They apparently think that they can create a cent per cent Muslim society in the Valley. This is a mistaken belief. Islamisation of Kashmir cannot be allowed. It must also be ensured that Kashmiri Pandits must go back to homeland in the Valley. Their presence in Kashmir will be a constant reminder of the Valley’s multi-religious past. This memory of Kashmir’s past cannot be wiped out, even if that memory makes a section of the Valley’s population uncomfortable!

NO SHORT CUTS TO DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

In any case, the democratic process in Kashmir needs to be strengthened. Further, it needs to be appreciated that there can be no short-cuts to the process. Peaceful moves must be evolved in the Valley to silence the guns of the militants. There has to be a determined approach to face ground realities firmly. For this purpose, it is necessary to break the backbone of militancy in the Valley. Also, the fear of the gun has to be removed from the people.

Mere shadow-boxing cannot take India far. It is, therefore, necessary to adopt a tough stance towards the cult of the gun so that the people feel reassured about a safer and better tomorrow.

—*The Gurgoan (near Delhi) based writer is a veteran journalist and commentator.