Normalcy still eludes Kashmir. Several weeks after the death of Burhan Wani, the local commander of a terrorist outfit, in an encounter with the security forces, locals continue to target police and other security personnel.
On the night of August-16-17, three security personnel were killed after militants ambushed the army convoy in Baramulla. A police station was also attacked around the same time. Stone-throwing protesters pelt the security personnel and disappear into gullies and by-lanes when challenged by teargas shells and lathis by policemen. These scenes have been repeated multiple times in various places since the eruption of trouble in the second week of last month.
Sixty people, including a number of security personnel, have been killed in the latest phase of unrest. Following the 15th August address of the Prime Minister from the ramparts of Red Fort, where he referred to the barbaric suppression in Baluchistan, Gilgit and other regions in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Sayeed threatened to step up terror export to the Valley.
Notably, the Pakistani authorities lifted the ban on Sayeed’s appearance on private television channels a day later. Clearly, Islamabad has even given up the pretence that the man who is globally branded a terrorist does not enjoy its protection and encouragement. He does. Surprisingly, while openly fomenting trouble in Kashmir, lauding Wani a martyr and passing a resolution hailing his so-called sacrifice in the national assembly, Islamabad proposed the resumption of talks on Kashmir. It did not take any time for India to reject the suggestion.
A day later, India Invited Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury for talks, but only on the cross border terror in Kashmir. Though Pakistan was yet to respond, it is highly unlikely that it would accept the Indian offer when the subject-matter is limited to only `cross border terrorism’ alone. In other words, no progress is likely to break the current logjam.
For, Pakistan as the exporter of terrorism to Kashmir cannot countenance a situation where it is to be made accountable for its perfidious conduct. It would rather discuss the status of Kashmir and not cross-border terrorism. Do whatever anyone will, Pakistan is determined not to embrace the path of reason and good neighbourliness until it is able to realize its dream of grabbing Kashmir.
Those who seek a resumption of dialogue seem to easily forget a series of goodwill gestures Modi has made in the last two years. Only when these were spurned, and when Pakistan stepped up militancy in Kashmir, did the Government harden its stand. Modi’s reference to Baluchistan and Gilgit from the ramparts of the Red Fort was a reflection of the change in the approach towards Pakistan. Whether the tit-for-tat threat can translate into reality remains to be seen, but it is clear that relations with Pakistan are unlikely to normalize for some time.
Meanwhile, domestic critics of Modi need to exercise restraint and caution when it comes to the handling of Kashmir. P. Chidambaram, whose own party has distanced itself from his public outpourings for the second time in a couple of weeks, exposes his own hypocrisy while speaking on Kashmir. Someone who was Home Minister in the UPA Government is expected to know the difficulties of dealing with Kashmir.
To suggest that the Congress together with National Conference and PDP can do wonders, which it had failed to do while in power for decades, is truly extraordinary. Only the self-absorbed Chidambaram can come up with such gems. Also, all those who are pressing for talks with the stakeholders in Kashmir owe it to themselves to spell out as to what should be the agenda of the proposed talks. Having tried everything possible short of giving them ‘azaadi’ in the past, the Indian State may have run out of options. The only option left is to first quell the militancy with a firm hand.
Yes, a political solution ought to be found, and found within the ambit of the Constitution. But the search for a political settlement with the trouble-makers in Kashmir should in no way compromise the effort to enforce order in the State. Those throwing stones and targeting security forces might be ‘our’ people alright, but when a son goes astray it is the obligation of the parents to do everything possible to bring him on the path of sanity. The goody-goody talk of `our people’ while they seek to break India only emboldens them. Normalcy must return before the Government can begin to talk with `our’ people.