On his second visit to the state in a month, the home minister Rajnath Singh belied the expectations of a political initiative, desperately needed to tide over the deepening turmoil in Valley. He had little more than an appeal for the people of Kashmir for help in the restoration of peace. Eschewing once again the talk of a political solution, Singh instead sought to address the situation through some empathetic talk and assurances of administrative measures like the early review of the use of pellet guns and the appointment of a nodal officer who would look into the complaints of the Kashmiri youth studying or working in other parts of the country. He said the committee formed to look into the issue of pellet guns will submit its report within two to four days, and that the government hopes to soon find a substitute.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who was by his side reiterated her statement that only 5 percent people were protesting on the streets and that the government will deal sternly with them. However, she offered a minor modification: “I said that the rest of 95 percent population also wants a Kashmir resolution but they want to pursue it peacefully”. The CM triggered some more controversy by implying in response to a question that those who died had it coming. "Had a kid who attacked an Army camp gone there to buy a toffee? A 15-year-old boy who attacked a police station (in south Kashmir), had he gone to buy milk?," she said while drawing a comparison between the mass unrest in 2010 and now.
The home minister talked of sending an all-party delegation soon but again stayed short of specifying its mandate. However, Singh also didn’t extend an invite to the separatist groups, nor hinted at a plan to engage them. But he did indicate his readiness to talk to anybody who subscribed to the philosophy of “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat,” thus once again invoking Vajpayee to steer clear of New Delhi’s policy position that the talks would be held within the framework of the constitution. Singh, however, added little that could be construed as a serious outreach to the separatists, letting the question of a dialogue with Hurriyat hang in the air.
What this means is that the central government wants the situation to return to normal of its own and then put the Hurriyat at its own place. New Delhi, thus, continues to pursue a policy of the management of the conflict and deal militarily with the intermittent mass outpourings. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about a ‘permanent solution to Jammu and Kashmir,” centre, as usual, has baulked at fleshing out a roadmap for it. New Delhi has largely acted apathetic towards the turmoil in the state, a posture that has only exacerbated the situation. Its stance has teetered between a tough militaristic response to the protests to a casual admission of the need for dialogue, without specifying who to engage. As the situation stands, this kind of approach will hardly help end the crisis and instead fan more conflict and violence. New Delhi needs a complete overhaul and re-invention of its Kashmir strategy if it wants to make a redeeming and fundamental difference to the situation in the state.
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