, by DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI
The Congress-led UPA Government is not cocksure whether the UN Secretary-General has really asked India for “restraint” in Jammu & Kashmir. After checking and cross-checking the veracity of Mr Ban Ki-moon’s widely reported piece of advice, India would give its response, both in New Delhi and in New York.
But the damage has already been done as international attention has got focused on Kashmir and India’s inability to tackle the critical situation effectively. After ascertaining the veracity of the statement, New Delhi is likely to hit back hard.
The ground reality, however, is depressing. After 55 days of street protests by unarmed stone throwers, the casualty figure stands at 49 and more than a thousand injured. Tempers remain frayed as the State is on the boil. The latest development, in the backdrop of the MBBS and MBA stone-throwers, is the massive participation in protests of women and children, who are reported to have attacked police stations, police vehicles and ambulances. Livid protesters have shown scant regard for curfew orders and there seems no end to the vicious circle of protest-firing-killing-protest. Security forces have more than once expressed their displeasure over disappearance of elected representatives and politicians to pacify the crowds.
The Chief Minister has admitted that he alone cannot ameliorate the situation. Paradise on earth has turned into the Valley of death. Some local policemen, cornered by the irate mobs, are said to have participated in the leaderless marches. So have done sections of the State employees. That the state of the State is less than satisfactory looks understatement now.
The situation in J&K would not have been as regrettable as it is today had the State legislators from various political parties cared to talk to the community elders and tried to regain their lost confidence. Opportunists to the core, they were perhaps awaiting the situation to worsen further so that they could pass a stronger judgement on the incompetence of the State machinery headed by the Chief Minister, and the strongest aspect of his incompetence is that each and every activist of the National Conference has not been given a ministerial berth.
The strident Ms Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), refused to attend – despite Prime Minister’s request – an all-party meeting called by the Chief Minister to evolve a consensus to deal with the crisis. And so did several members of the National Conference, the party the Chief Minister heads. To cap it all, the Deputy Chief Minster, Mr Tara Chand, too did not attend the meeting. Has anybody in the Congress asked Chand to explain his conspicuous absence? Whether any Accountability Committee exists in the State is another question.
Let us recall here that the Holy Relic Crisis (December 1963-January 1964) in the Valley was less graver than the present one. The late Mr Jawaharlal Nehru, ailing at that time, dispatched Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri with the instruction: Stay at Srinagar till you succeed in restoring normalcy in the Valley. It is a fact that today the Congress has no leader of Nehru’s or Shastri’s stature, but is it not possible for it to learn a lesson from those great leaders?
The genesis of the current turmoil dates back to an accidental death in the backdrop of a fake encounter. To quote an eminent political commentator, Mr Siddhartha Vardarajan: “… it is also safe to say that young Tufail died as a direct result of Machhil. Though the Army has arrested the soldiers responsible for the fake encounter, the only reason they had the nerve to commit such a heinous crime was because they were confident they would get away with it. And at the root of that confidence is Pathribal, the notorious fake encounter of 2,000. The Army officers involved in the kidnapping and murder of five Kashmiri civilians there continue to be at liberty despite being charge-sheeted by the CBI. The Ministry of Defence has refused to grant sanction for their prosecution and has taken the matter all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to ensure its men do not face trial. What was the message that went out as a result?” (The Hindu, August 5, 2010)
One really fails to understand the mindset which refuses to honour the sanctity of common man’s life.
AMEND THE ACT
What, on popular demand, needs to be immediately done is an amendment in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act ensuring zero tolerance for human rights violations. Peace process has to be put in top gear and the Centre has to draft a new law, coupled with a political strategy, ensuring security for society that needs to be free from threats of militancy.
It is really strange rather revolting that in our country the police and paramilitary forces unhesitatingly use live cartridges to incapacitate offenders during political upheavals and communal riots while the world over the rough-necks are brought to senses through rubber bullets, water canons and teargas.
Teargas shells sometimes produce devastating results as happened in the case of 16-year-old Kashmiri boy Tufail Matto, who lost his life to a relentless teargas shell. Men-in-uniform must be equipped with latest non-lethal and non-fatal crowd control system. Moreover, steps must be taken to contain the trigger-happiness of some over enthusiastic jawans. Unless these measures are ensured at the highest level, there is little hope for a long-lasting solution of the problem.
The stage of economic packages and roundtable conferences has already passed. The time has come, first of all, for the confession of an age-old guilt perpetrated by the Indian leadership. This public apology, so rare in our times, is likely to assuage the lacerated feelings of Kashmir.
CORE OF THE PROBLEM
Shorn of frills, what has to be noted is that essentially the Kashmir problem neither is nor was a law-and-order problem. The entire state is neither in rebellion nor in revolt. The recurrent violence is not against the State as such but against repression and the security forces. The core of the problem has a political dimension. It is essentially a political problem and has to be solved as such. It is the crisis of confidence in the current political system that has to be ultimately addressed. The sooner it is done the better.
The rabble has been roused so much on the key question that perhaps no political party including the too-vocal Hindutva family can dare to take a bold, unpopular decision on the difficult subject. For that, those who really matter in the strife-torn State will have to be involved to make the idea of autonomy within the Indian Union workable. Let us admit, they are and were a factor in the Kashmir problem. We have ignored this factor at our own peril.
What goes without saying is that the UN Secretary-General has also asked India and Pakistan to return to the composite dialogue. If the excessive use of force had been a solution, the problem would have been solved decades ago.