Five months after the drastic changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir, slowly but certainly the Centre seems to be trying hard to restore normalcy in the Valley. Helped by a little nudge from the Supreme Court, the government has already begun restoring internet in designated hubs in the Valley before it can be restored fully in private homes and establishments. Security concerns will of course remain paramount in fully restoring the new-age tools of communication, which through apps like WhatsApp, facilitate subversive elements as much as they help the guardians of law and order in their diametrically opposite operations. It is better to be cautious in security matters than to rush headlong into a pre-August normalcy only to rue it later. For the jihadi elements have neither had a change of heart nor have they disappeared altogether. Waiting for an opportunity to strike, the authorities cannot lower their guard and risk loss of innocent lives. In the meantime, the Government has decided to directly reach out to the ordinary Kashmiris and explain the recent changes in the status of J and K and its bifurcation into two separate Union Territories. In an official circular, a senior Home Ministry functionary on Wednesday explained that as many as 36 members of the Council of Ministers are expected to visit Jammu and Kashmir in the coming week. They are expected to interact with various sections of the people, reaching out to all the districts in the Union Territory. While explaining the reasons for the change in the status of the State into two UTs, and highlighting the development works undertaken in various parts of the State, they would also get feedback from the people. What however struck as rather odd, though quite understandable, was that of the 59 places earmarked for ministerial visits as many as 51 are in Jammu while only eight are in Kashmir. Quite clearly, the authorities fear that the popular reception to the ministerial outreach might not be enthusiastic in Kashmir. This is not at all surprising. Meanwhile, the chance arrest of a Deputy Superintendent of J and K Police last week is turning out to be nightmare for the security establishment, exposing grave intelligence failure. Davinder Singh was caught while on the way from the Srinagar airport, ferrying two Hizbul Mujahideen militants to a safe house, before their onward journey to Delhi via Chandigarh. The two jihadis were planning an attack on the Republic Day and their ISI handler had allegedly paid Rs 12 lakhs to Singh for their safe conduct to Delhi. Interrogation of Singh threw up more sensational information, including his alleged role in facilitating the 2001 Parliament attack. That Singh was building himself a private house in the high security zone abutting the army base in Srinagar further underlines a flagrant breach of security. The failure of the intelligence agencies to guard against rogues within their own ranks is a comment on their own competence.
How much more the highly placed ISI mole compromised the security set-up will be known in the coming days from the intensive interrogation of the Dy S.P. who has now been stripped of the gallantry award given by the erstwhile J and K Government. Meanwhile, Pakistan faced another rebuff to keep the Kashmir pot boiling in the UN, when the Security Council rejected the Chinese bid to rake up the issue of recent changes in J and K’s status. Both France and US shot down the Chinese move thanks to some deft diplomacy by India. India has maintained that the August 5 changes in the status of J and K are its internal matter and concern no-one else. However, India will sound far more credible once it is able to restore fully the telecommunications networks in the Valley and allow the exercise of basic civic freedoms to all residents. Hopefully, the changes will bear fruit in freeing Kashmir from the cycle of deadly jihadi violence and the resulting security services’ tough response.