Over the last few months Kashmir is in national focus for reasons of a continuing attempt of Pakistan to infiltrate armed terrorists into the valley from across the LOC, failure of the Mahbooba Mufti government to uphold the role of our army in neutralising these alien militants in counter-insurgency operations that were carried out with minimal collateral damage and the concerted campaign of the opposition to question the Centre’s policy on Pakistan that says ‘talks and terror’ could not go together. When BJP’s Ram Madhav pieced together the coalition whereby PDP would get the chief ministership of the state and share power with BJP, it seemed to be an excellent idea that enabled a nationalist party to establish a firm hold in the sensitive state important from the angle of national security and prevented a regional player like PDP from surrendering to the separatist lobbies there. It was also expected that the known presence of anti- India elements in the J&K state administration would be prudently but firmly dealt with taking the help of central and state intelligence agencies and that Mahbooba Mufti would consciously use her leadership to protect the law abiding Kashmiris from the extremist influences beamed from across our border by Pakistan.
None of this seems to be coming through in a manner that would fulfill the Centre’s vision for Kashmir and the people of India are beginning to seek answers on the government’s Kashmir policy. Kashmir is the focal point of India's external and internal security threats as it is the target of Sino-Pak axis on one hand and an index of how our domestic politics is increasingly getting anchored on minority appeasement, on the other. There is need to examine what planks of the ‘Governance Alliance’ for Kashmir symbolised by PDP-BJP coalition have failed to deliver and what course corrections need to be applied. There has to be a complete convergence on both political and security considerations in Delhi and Srinagar.
Three specific points of concern are attracting the attention of impartial observers in regard to the situation in Kashmir. First of all, since J&K has seen an uninterrupted rule by democratically elected governments for decades it was expected that the PDP- BJP coalition would embrace the entire population of the state across regions and communities and get the people to place before it their demands and grievances as citizens to seek an uplift of the human development index. The alliance aimed at seeking a 'national reconciliation on J&K for all round economic development of the state' and it should have accordingly made adequate arrangements at the state headquarters and in the districts for citizens to interact with higher authorities as well as with the deputy commissioners for resolution of their collective difficulties relating to public services, infrastructure and day to day life. Mahbooba Mufti does not seem to have found time to give the state the quality of administration that should have been in place. It is not too late to reinstate affective administrative systems for the good of the people and also to get on with the unfinished task of weeding out subversive elements and enemy agents from the state machinery. It would be a good practice to send out government personnel to serve in different regions of the integral J&K state in keeping with the spirit of the coalition agreement.
The second point of concern is that Mehbooba Mufti has apparently been complicit in propping up the separatists in the valley even when it had become clear that the Hurriyat leadership was completely sold out to the Pak ISI and that the Jamaat-Islami chieftain Syed Shah Gilani and his fronts - Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Millat -had totally surrendered to Lashkar-e-Toiba’s leader Hafiz Sayeed. The earlier claim of the Jamaat of being an indigenous organisation of the valley turned out to be a falsehood and Mehbooba Mufti who knew this all along, chose to uphold Gilani and other separatist colleagues of his for her selfish political interest. The PDP-BJP coalition had envisaged a dialogue with 'all internal stake holders’ including the Hurriyat to build consensus within the state for resolution of all its outstanding issues but the Centre had to justifiably refuse any truck with the Hurriyat leadership when the latter emerged as a stake holder of Pakistan not India. The chief minister not only defied the Centre’s security policy but went ahead to join the chorus of the separatists against the counter- terror operations of the Army. She even deprecated action taken by the law & order authorities to put down Pak -sponsored stone pelting on security forces. The ultimate result is that J&K, which had shown an improvement last year seems to be on the path of decline of governance and Pakistan is taking full advantage of this situation. Mehbooba Mufti’s conduct was sending out a wrong signal to the world community on Kashmir.
The course correction in this regard warrants that senior officers of trusted ability are posted at the apex of the state administration and the Police. It should be re-emphasised by the state government that while the Army will concentrate on counter- terrorism operations against alien terrorists and their close collaborators in the state, all civilian law & order situations including the violence by stone pelting mobs would be put down by J&K Police with direct support of Para Military forces made available to the state. These forces have all the arms and skills to handle a civil disturbance. The protocol of Magisterial Enquiry into any casualty in a situation of mob control by civilian law& order authorities was in place. However, as far as Army is concerned it has the justifiable protection under AFSPA and even without AFPSA had the benefit of the law of the land that gave the Soldiers the right to save their lives in an unprovoked attack on them by miscreants who used rocks as fatal missiles. In such a situation even ordinary citizens had the right to put down the attackers with force. An 'investigation' in such an event must be directed against the miscreants. Further, mass release of stone pelters should happen only after the ‘masterminds’ behind the anarchy had been identified and detained for legal action.
Lastly, what has gone wrong in J&K is that the Centre’s Kashmir policy which is inextricably linked with India’s approach to Pakistan has been allowed by the Chief Minister to become a captive of separatists and Pak proxies who were propagating that ‘all Kashmiris had turned against India’. Mehbooba Mufti is surrendering to Pak-sponsored terrorism by advocating unconditional resumption of talks and thus causing embarrassment to India. The chief minister must come forward to make a clear statement that J&K was an integral part of India and that the effort of Pakistan to use terror as an instrument of its India policy would be met with strong counter measures.
The matter of having talks with Pakistan on Kashmir is exclusively in the domain of the Centre and the agenda and the timing for any resumption of dialogue will be decided by the latter. In an absurd stand responsible-looking politicians in the opposition had last year suggested that talks with Pakistan were the only solution of the disturbances created by stone pelters. They were quietened only when NIA established that paid agents of Hurriyat and pro-Pak goons were behind the stone pelting episodes. It is essential that anti-national elements are legally pursued with vigour and detained outside the state if necessary. J&K needs an active governor who would, within his constitutional orbit, help the state government in the areas of peace, security and development. He should be a person of experience, maturity and an in-depth knowledge of the faith-militancy that Pakistan is fostering in the state to achieve its aim.
(The writer is the former director of Intelligence Bureau)