Let us be clear. The lock-in in Kashmir cannot go on indefinitely. Curfews, suspension of telephone and internet services, ban on free media, etc., if prolonged any further will become an international liability and a huge domestic embarrassment. Yes, the abrogation of Article 370 was long overdue.
It was conceived to be a temporary measure, to begin with. Since it did not help in quelling the ISI-inspired insurrection, and had actually become a mental and physical block in the integration of Kashmir in the Indian Union, its going is welcome.
But the denial of basic freedoms of the people can itself now become counterproductive. With the annual UN General Assembly meeting slated to begin later this month, Pakistan and its two allies, Turkey and Iran, are bound to embarrass India unless we put in place steps to restore a semblance of normalcy by then in the troubled Valley.
It should be understood that the pent-up anger of those opposed to the abrogation of Article 370 needs to find a release. So long as the eruption does not breach the bounds of law, and remains by and large peaceful, the authorities must begin graded restoration of communications and freedom of movement to the people in the locked-down Valley.
People need a release. The sooner they are allowed to come out and express their anger peacefully, the better it would be for the Government. Pakistani propaganda will lose its sting once the peaceful protests are allowed to take place under the watchful eyes of the security forces.
It does not help the Centre’s cause to try and present a picture of normalcy when everyone knows that the people in Kashmir are without their basic freedoms since August 5.
Hand-picked representatives of Kashmiris mouthing official lines court further unpopularity and derision with the ordinary people. Running away from tackling frontally any eruption that might happen in the immediacy of the clamps on freedoms being lifted is futile. The authorities would do well to open up Kashmir as early as possible.
Even friendly nations who have stood by India against the Pak diplomatic onslaught might find it hard to come to the rescue of India in global forums should the lock-in continue any longer.
We admit that that handling a situation where locals, instigated by ISI funds, arms and propaganda, can create untold mayhem requires tact and patience, besides forward strategic planning.
But the time to bite the bullet may have come now. Any delay will do no credit to the Modi Government and, in fact, might prove costly in the global forums.