Time to Change the Tack

THE exodus of Biharis following the killings of non-locals, two Kashmiri Pandits and one Sikh woman has created a sense of de javu in Kashmir. For some, it has transported us back to the early nineties when Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley following killings of the members of the community by the militants. But for others, the prevailing dire situation is still retrievable. The truth is, no matter, how you look at it, the situation is very tricky and it could go either way. The killings, which include those of the Muslim civilians too, have certainly pushed the situation to the brink. And God forbid if the situation isn’t reigned in quickly, we could be in for very difficult times ahead. So the government needs to take pro-active steps to pre-empt further killings. And the majority community, on their part, needs to assure the minorities, despite the fact that they are as helpless as the minorities in the existing state of affairs in the former state.

The responsibility, thus, squarely rests with both the central and the UT governments. It is time for them to nuance their approach to Jammu and Kashmir. An exclusively security-driven policy was expected to bring the militancy under control and also reign in the youthful protesters, leading to a realization that the resistance was futile. This, in turn, was expected to force people to settle for accommodation with New Delhi.

But as the last three years of BJP rule have proven, the policy has done little to bring peace to Kashmir. Instead, the situation has only gotten worse. The alienation is unprecedented. Far from ending the militancy, the last three years seem to have revived it. What is more, the security estimate puts the number of militants at around 200, the same it has been over the last five years.

True three years is not a long time for a policy to bear fruit. But if we go by the current situation, the existing policy has only ended up deepening the alienation in Kashmir. Hence the need to change the tack. If any policy has made a redeeming difference in Kashmir, it was a policy of reconciliation and engagement pursued by New Delhi from 2002 onwards to 2007. Ironically, the policy was begun by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a BJP leader, and taken forward by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through his first term. The policy had greatly reduced militancy in the Valley and helped build momentum towards the redressal of the problems and issues in Kashmir. If anything is urgently needed to address today’s Kashmir situation, it is to return to the same processes and policies.

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