Kashmir insurgency : Need to win hearts and minds

Pulwama CRPF attack

One of
the most disturbing aspects of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama was
that the suicide bomber was a local, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived in a village
near the Jammu-Srinagar highway where the attack took place.

Column :
Political Circus By Amulya Ganguli

Although
indoctrinated as a fidayeen by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dar’s act
as a jehadi underlines the vulnerability of impressionable Kashmiri youths to
insidious anti-India propaganda by Pakistani terror groups nurtured by the Deep
State comprising the country’s army and an espionage agency.

In this
particular instance, Dar was apparently “inspired” to kill himself by
the Taliban’s “victory” signified by American withdrawal from
Afghanistan. If anything, the tragedy emphasises the inter-linked international
dimensions of Islamic terrorism.

From Syria
to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the
youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs
(infidels).

Unlike West
Asia and even in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian democracy provides a
safeguard against a Messianic struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority
of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the
democratic system.

As much is
evident from the recent panchayat and municipal elections in the state even if
the polling percentages in the Valley were low.

However, it
is undeniable that a section of Muslims in the valley continue to remain
alienated notwithstanding the government’s attempts to reach out to them via
the negotiations carried out by the Centre’s representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

But if his
efforts have failed to defuse the situation, the reason perhaps is the
government’s reluctance to implement some of the recommendations to improve the
conditions made by the Dileep Padgaonkar Committee.

These
included reducing the army’s visibility, addressing human rights violations,
reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and lifting the Disturbed
Areas Act.

In essence,
what these initiatives were expected to do was to reach out to the hearts and
minds of the ordinary people whose commitment to the Indian state cannot be
doubted as the continuing relevance of the mainstream parties like the National
Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party show.

What is
required to defang the terrorists and wean away the misguided youth from their
self-destructive path is a gesture which will have a major impact.

One of them
is to consider freezing the AFSPA (former Congress minister P. Chidambaram
wanted it to be scrapped altogether) and to give a cast-iron guarantee that
neither Article 370 nor Article 35A will be touched. The former confers a
special status on Kashmir and the latter relates to citizenship rights.

It is only
such “big ticket” reforms which can end the sense of alienation among
the youths who are cynically exploited by Pakistan’s Deep State.

An outreach
of this nature will confirm that the government does not regard Kashmir merely
as a law and order problem, where all that is needed is a harsh crackdown on
the malcontents.

Arguably,
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not find it easy to change its
longstanding stance favouring dispensing with Article 370. But it has to be
remembered that Atal Behari Vajpayee did put Article 370 in cold storage in
1996 along with his party’s demand for building a Ram temple and introducing a
uniform civil code when he was looking for allies to form a government.

Vajpayee had
also called for looking at the Kashmir issue within the parameters of insaniyat
(humanity) rather than of the Constitution.

Such
broadmindedness is the need of the hour to dissuade deluded young men like Dar
from the path of nihilism. Otherwise, more and more of such brainwashed youths
will leave their kith and kin to court untimely death.

Equally,
scores of security personnel will be in danger of losing their lives because
official policies have failed to assure the discontented people of a state with
a distinct cultural ambience that they are the nation’s cherished citizens.

It is only
when the Kashmiris are visibly mollified that Pakistan’s “isolation”,
which the Centre is currently seeking, will be complete, for a fully integrated
Kashmir will negate Pakistan’s hope of avenging its Bangladesh defeat and
recovering the “K” in the country’s name.

India has
dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the
Northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount
of success. There is no reason why it cannot achieve the same in Kashmir with a
patient understanding of the grievances affecting the state, especially when it
has national-level leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti
with their political and administrative experience.

True, the
jehadi factor makes it difficult for a government to adopt a sane attitude
because of the irrational pseudo-religious fervour of the militants. But an
overt demonstration of being sensitive can enable the government to enlist the
overall support of Kashmiri society and enable the elders to rein in the
rebels.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

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