There have been earlier crackdowns on terror suspects and lockdowns of the Kashmir valley but they have been half-hearted and consequently terror has returned every time with a vengeance with generous participation of elements in Pakistan, fuelled and egged on by the government there. This time, however, the Narendra Modi government seems determined to deal a lethal blow to militancy. That this is being done taking the risk of alienating the already-estranged average Kashmiri further in the short run for long-term goal of durable peace is a gamble that could well prove efficacious.
The past record of the Central government in tackling Kashmir has been patchy. At the very least this is a way for an alternate route. While in the past young, impressionable minds were incentivised from across the border to target the symbols of authority—the army and the police—with stone-pelting, among other forms of attack, this time around the army has ostensibly been empowered to hit back hard.
Most political leaders who would normally have fanned the flames are now behind bars. For years, separatists and secessionists within were used as conduits by Pakistan to fund subversive activities but this time they have been tracked and exposed for what they are and what they do. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that the war on terror and on subversion is being won. There is a long, hard road ahead and many challenges to be overcome.
After a long time there is real fear of authority in Kashmir and a realisation that there would be no compromise with subversives. This is not to say that it is all hunky dory. Far from it. But there is a new beginning. Lockdown cannot be a solution in the longer run. Ultimately, democracy has to return and rule of law has to be restored in letter and spirit. Since August 5 when Article 370 that granted Jammu and Kashmir special status was abrogated and the State was bifurcated into two Union territories, there is a plethora of habeas corpus petitions pending in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court with little sense of urgency to act on them, but this cannot go on indefinitely.
As anger wells up in the masses, it is vital that the Modi government takes measures on a war footing to inject a modicum of economic health and well-being which acts as a balm. The recent announcement that the investors meet to usher in greater investment into Kashmir may have to wait until next year contrary to earlier promises that it would happen this year and would bring with it jobs for the locals besides much else is a dampener. The Centre must act fast. Only a surge in employment opportunities and a conscious effort to cap corruption that negates the effect of such ops can gradually transform Kashmir and make it more India-friendly.
Simultaneous with measures for rapid developmental must come sustained measures to tighten control over terror. The youth in Kashmir must know the cost of conniving with terrorists and must be sensitised to the poor governance of the neighbouring country that has worsened the economic situation in that country. It is indeed important that jehadi propaganda of the Pakistanis be thwarted by development indicators on the Indian side. Indeed, while the carrot must be held out for law-abiding citizens, there is equal need for the stick against subversives. If this requires laws supporting more stringent punishment for anti-national elements so be it. The war against terror and its supporters has to be won and it is too early to say that the current assault on terror is stalemated.
It is a measure of India’s successes on the international stage and its better-oiled intelligence apparatus that the current round of measures has got favourable international response. Pakistan’s game of subversion has been exposed beyond doubt and there are only a handful of countries siding with the Pakis, with the main prop being China. It is now for India to hold its nerve. Slowly but surely, the authoritarian strand of the present regime in Kashmir must be replaced by a more liberal regime that at the same time gives the subversives no quarter.