Anatomy of centre’s new approach to Kashmir

The Centre’s special representative Dineshwar Sharma is on his second visit to the state. And it is now becoming apparent what is his plan in Kashmir. For one, it is not a political-only initiative from New Delhi. His seems just one  part of a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the Kashmir turmoil. It goes alongside the ‘Operation All-out’ and the NIA investigation against Hurriyat leaders. It is a combined security, economic and political approach to tackling the situation in the state. While Operation All-out is about weakening militancy, the NIA investigation is about choking the alleged funding sources of the militancy. Sharma’s initiative is about the political outreach which necessarily doesn’t extend to the separatists. No invite will be extended to them for talks.  In fact, the onus for engagement will be on them. Should they be interested, they have to present themselves before the interlocutor rather than vice versa. This hardly leaves any scope for any contact with them.

To press this point further home, Sharma has made it clear that no political prisoners will be released as part of an effort to get the separatists on board.  Understandably, this will further harden the position of the separatists. But this isn’t what worries Sharma as his activities in the state have so far made it clear. His priority remains the outreach to people, the various social, business and cultural interests.  But preferably to youth themselves. In Jammu, he met Kashmiri Pandits and the West Pakistan Refugees both of whom sought their rehabilitation and special financial packages. Some groups even demanded the revocation of the Article 35A. However a five-member delegation of Gujjars and Bakerwal Tribal Community from Jammu led by Haji Mohammad Rafiq opposed  the abrogation of the Article 370 and 35A.

On Sunday he visited the troubled South Kashmir and met several delegations there. He has met more groups, all of this geared to create a direct rapport with the people. The attempt is to treat the ordinary people and the separatist leadership differently while going all out against militants. Even in security handling of the situation, the effort is to nuance it by reaching out to the local militants while giving no quarter to the foreign militants. This policy has met a modest success in the form of the arrests of several militants. Two of them including Majid Khan have quit militancy. More families have issued appeals to their respective sons to return – albeit with little success. Now the issue is whether the cumulative effect of these measures will bring some semblance of normalcy to the Valley. If we go by the state of the Valley  during this year, we have been witness to most violence in the past seven years. Despite killing of more than 190 militants, the number of the militants remains by and large same. Around 200 militants still roam the Valley. Same for the past 30 years. No military response or a political outreach has made a fundamental redeeming difference to the situation. Because all them were not intended to address the factors that breed and sustain the lingering conflict in the state. Unless, an initiative that addresses them comes along, little is going to change.  

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