Prime Minister Modi once again spent Diwali with our Army Jawans in Jammu & Kashmir — at Rajauri — acknowledging the role of the army in keeping the threat of cross border terrorism in check and sending out the message that Kashmir was now fully integrated with the country. The abrogation of Art 370 by Indian Parliament on August 5 last, with a simultaneous clampdown on the assembly of people throughout the state of J&K, has over these three months not altered the tenor of response from the world community that had shown, from India’s point of view, a considerable degree of understanding of the compelling reasons behind the move of the Modi regime.
There is, however, a gathering chorus of voices at home and abroad demanding an expeditious return to normalcy of civil life in the state. It is hoped the Centre and the state administrations together are succeeding in effectively neutralising the militants and pro- Pak elements in J&K who had had a free run of the place earlier and who basically provided the raison detre for the Indian move. The dilemma for the government in Kashmir is that unless the externally aided trouble makers were rendered ineffective, they would continue to keep the Kashmiris under a cloak of fear by carrying out stray acts of violence and prevent normalisation of business, educational and health-related activities.
It is not yet clear if the state administration and police — the collector and the station house officers in particular — had started reaching out to the people on the ground to build their morale as free citizens and get them to respond to the calibrated steps of the government to lift prohibitory orders. If local militants could still appear in mohallas and lanes to warn the people to do just their ”minimal” chores and not cooperate in the wider process of normalisation then it is evident that a lot more had to be done.
The army has to focus on eliminating the mujahideen, foreign or local, but the state administration must fulfil its primary responsibility of helping the citizens to feel normal about running their lives. Illicit guns and explosives had to be neutralised through a sustained flow of Intelligence from below — the state Intelligence machinery had to produce more. If Pak agents had to be rounded up even in hundreds and moved out of the state, if necessary, this would be an acceptable part of the process of restoring normalcy. It is the detention of political leaders of the Valley, however, that has led the Human Rights advocates to set off the false narrative of ”suppression of the people”. The government could consider progressively setting them free of any restraint on the condition that they would not indulge in ”political activity” — as mandated by the Supreme Court itself. Senior officers of the state should make this position clear to the leaders of the Valley parties and should let the country know about the reasonableness of the government stand.
The handling of the Kashmir situation has a macro perspective and a more important micro dimension — the former has worked out extremely well but the latter is the ongoing challenge facing the state administration. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).