Herald View: Little Manoj Sinha can do in Kashmir to put gloss on Amit Shah's failures
Abrogation of Article 370 and New Delhi's hard security approach to Kashmir have failed to pay off. Policy makers need to get back to the drawing board and engage with people and stakeholders
"We are left on our own to be killed in the valley.”
There could be no more piteous statement than that one made by a Kashmiri Pandit to underline the rank failure of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre in restoring peace and normalcy to the Valley. We were told, with much misplaced hype, when Article 370 was revoked that this was the definitive solution to mainstreaming Kashmir, to the reverse exodus of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes and to the end of militancy and terrorism in the sensitive border state. Yet three years down the line none of those things have happened.
The recent targeted killings of not just Kashmiri Pandit civilians but also those belonging to the Muslim community, including some police officers and government employees, clearly accentuates the failure of the so-called “dabangg” Home Minister of India in understanding Kashmir or even controlling the militancy. Putting a few pacifist leaders like Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti behind bars was clearly no solution and since their release the government has also grossly failed in making use of their good offices to calm the Valley.
We always knew the government, for its own part, was targeting Muslims by revoking Article 370 and locking down Kashmir that completely destroyed its exportoriented and import-dependent agricultural economy. So, of course, Kashmiris were indeed left alone to bear the consequences of the government’s mishandling of their state. But now that statement by a Kashmiri Pandit after the targeted killing of a Hindu female school teacher in Kulgam all the more spotlights the government’s failure in addressing even its so-called core base of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. Militants are actually picking out people in shops, offices, schools, roads and other places to make examples of them. The incidents -- seven in all in recent weeks – reek of not just the central government’s delinquency and dereliction of duty in this regard but also a kind of criminality of their own in deliberately shaking up a state where normalcy had been restored and terrorism had been controlled to a large extent during the UPA years. But now it is not just the Valley which is troubled. Huge protests have also broken out in the Jammu region over the killing of the Hindu teacher. While Narendra Modi has been largely silent about these developments, Amit Shah‘s action in merely seeking an explanation from the Lieutenant Governor falls far short of the requirement of a so-called heavy-weight home minister and belies the expectations the people in the state might have had of the duo.
What, after all, can a Lieutenant Governor do to combat the failure of the central government -- including multiple intelligence failures --in the state? Moreover, the completely flippant reaction of the state’s top cop that they had eliminated all the militants involved in the latest targeted killing as a measure of their accomplishment in controlling militancy should really bring some cold comfort to the families of the victims and others who fear they might be next. No wonder people believe they have been abandoned and set up as targets and that plaintive cry is likely to haunt this government and dog its footsteps for along time to come.
What the Centre needs to do now is to get back to the drawing board and re-examine their self-defeating policies in Kashmir. And to admit that their iron fist policies are proving catastrophic and sinking the ship not just in Kashmir but the entire nation. Perhaps a velvet glove might have worked better. It is time to own up to the mistake and course-correct.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)