Let stakeholders observe restraint

By K.N. Pandita

The prime minister has done a timely and successful damage controlling exercise about current Kashmir situation. Hopefully conditions will improve.

Frankly, for some time in recent past, leading mainstream political parties in the State have not been demonstrating a sense of responsibility. Their reaction to law and order situation has been immature and intemperate.

In this context separatists and secessionists in Kashmir merit no comment. Disrupting law and order and disturbing smooth civic life are their cherished plans. Conscientious governments cannot remain insensitive to sensitive situations that imperil the life of ordinary citizens.

But why should saner elements abandon restraint? Weeks ago some raised frantic cry – - – particularly the opposition – - – for government’s resignation. But they could not assign any convincing reason. Governments do not quilt on opposition’s tomfoolery and whims particularly when these are politically motivated and not spirited by advocacy of public good.

The question is not of individual cases and issues wherein a government may come in for censure. Political, economic and social construct of contemporary J&K State is one in which even the best of governance leaves much to be desired. Heterogeneity of society abhors bulldozing; unity in diversity is the benchmark of smooth sailing for such societies.  

The onus for what has befallen this border state in last three decades comes to the doorsteps of almost all mainstream political parties. Had thrust, methodology and honesty of purpose been the guiding principles of their philosophy of politics, neither religious extremism nor terrorism could have gained even a toehold in Kashmir.  One hopes political managers learn lessons from their own and others’ mistakes.

For a long period in the history of post-independence J&K, we were used to a despotic dispensation of sorts, namely majority-ism during democracy-in-making. But with much improved economy, political, social, cultural, ethnic and other identities began to surface. If the traditionally ruling majority party construed this awareness as encroachment on its monopoly of power and challenge to its authority, the opposition, too, in a state of euphoria lost the sight of dedicated service to public cause and remained bogged with self aggrandizement and lust for power.  Our state is in that situation and sensible leadership has to do the balancing act and not confrontation.

Opposition’s demand for withdrawing AFSPA and demilitarizing of the state are both understandable but ill-timed. This is closely lined up with national security, regional security and international security. If some groups, including those in opposition, make it a stick to beat the Omar Abdullah-led government with, they are mistaken. They make a very shabby display of their narrow political interests which will not work. When national interests were in jeopardy, tallest among the Kashmiri leaders could not escape the impact of reprisal and reaction. That is where the state ensures its sovereignty.

That militants are running out of steam is abundantly clear. When the PM announced on June 7 in Srinagar his government’s willingness to engage the neighbouring state on all bilateral issues, Washington sounded a note of caution that terrorism and not Kashmir is the real issue.

Separatists and secessionists got the message they never expected and hence a big shock to them.  No wonder there was rapid escalation in their effort of disrupting peace in Kashmir.

No government wants escalation in a volatile situation, much less a coalition government.  Human rights are universal and not specific. The thrust of opposition parties and its affiliates was only on the human rights of victims of militancy and counter militancy. It drew long list of “dos and not-dos” for the government; it had not a word for those who are wedded to the gun. How come human rights get violated by the reaction to an action that is grossly against human rights?

By strange coincidence, untoward happenings took place in the valley at a time when pilgrimage to the holy Amarnath cave was to commence. It would be unreasonable to tag the turmoil to the timing of the pilgrimage.

Given the construct of the State, there is no denying of the impact of happenings on other regions. Three regions of the State are connected by a million bonds. Blowing things beyond proportion and adducing far – fetched motives means escalating tension. This does not help anybody.

Elements sincerely caring for national interest should appreciate the timely steps taken by the Prime Minister to diffuse the situation. Had the Union government acted as fast in January 1990, situation in Kashmir Valley would not have deteriorated alarmingly and mass exodus of an entire religious minority would have been averted causing no hardships to them and no discomfiture to the union government?

In the aftermath of this sordid event, while our sympathies go to the bereaved families in the valley for the loss of precious youth, we do not see any wisdom in the government reacting with vengeance. Imposition of ban on some newspapers is not the way government can tackle the issue. Never has any government, even the most repressive one, been able to silence the voice of criticism raised by media. The State government did not ban Al-Safa in 1990 for publishing frightening warnings to the then religious minority community to leave Kashmir. The government has not banned any vernacular paper spitting venom against the Indian state.

The fourth estate is the protector of freedom of expression of a civil society. It is not an institution created to undermine the governments and their authority. Sealing some newspapers is indirect expression of weakness on the part of the government. If any paper has published wrong news of damage to a worshipping place, let the government come forth with latest situation by taking a joint group of representative of aggrieved community and press reporters and clarify the whole situation.

At the end, this situation of law and order should not be exploited by any party to wreck vengeance on its adversary. Nobody should be allowed to play with the sentiments of people. Above all, restraint is most urgently needed on all sides to bring situation back to normalcy.

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