Right from the day it was announced, the home minister Rajnath Singh's visit to J&K was going to be important. The unilateral ceasefire and talk about engagement with Hurriyat lent the visit a certain sense of possibility. Addressing a Sports Conclave at Sher-i-Kashmir Indoor Stadium in Srinagar, Rajnath said cases against minors and those misled into stone pelting will be withdrawn thereby reiterating what the Union Home Ministry late last year had already ordered. Singh appealed to the youth not to tread the path of destruction and said the Centre and the state government had initiated several schemes to help them secure their future. Later, talking to reporters, Rajnath urged separatist leaders to hold talks for peace in J&K, saying a dialogue needed "right-minded people" and not necessarily like-minded people to succeed.
The home minister's statements stay true to what he has been wont to say in the Valley. Rajnath has cultivated a moderate image for himself on Kashmir even as his party has been exceptionally hawkish in its stance. He has made most visits to the state and made right-sounding statements even though this hasn't made any redeeming difference to the centre's largely uni-dimensional policy on the state, relying exclusively on a muscular approach.
The centre is at a crossroads on Kashmir. More of the same policy would produce more of the same outcome. Trying to wipe militancy off by trying to kill all militants has turned out to be a chimera. Militancy has only gotten stronger. Even number of militants hasn't been dented. According to the new estimate, the latest number of militants is around 280, the same number that was there last year. This reveals the utter failure of the militaristic approach. But while the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire shows a belated realization of the pointlessness of a security-centric approach, there are little signs that an alternative policy is in works. Though the centre has started speaking in a more nuanced tone on Kashmir, there isn't much that gives an idea of what centre is upto. Whether ceasefire will be built upon with an engagement with Hurriyat is not clear. And an engagement to what end at a time when the BJP Government is in its last lap, soon to go into an election mould. Will the union government muster the time, will and seriousness to carry forward the dialogue? And whether dialogue with Hurriyat will be of any worth without the involvement of Pakistan currently going through its general election. All these loose ends remain untied which make any dialogue favouring statements or for that matter even an offer for it a hollow exercise. And Hurriyat is unlikely to fall for it. The union government had better speak in unambiguous terms. That is, say it wants a dialogue. Say, it wants it for the resolution of political issue in Kashmir. Adopts a more humane approach. Supplant it's rigidly ideological position on the state with an approach rooted in political realism. Things will soon start falling in place.
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