Don’t jeopardise peace process

By K.N. Pandita

The Chairman of Hurriyat moderate faction, Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq has lately expressed his unhappiness with the functioning of the State government. He was critical of its failure to manage the crisis caused by a spell of cold wave followed by heavy rains and snow in the valley last two weeks resulting in the disruption of normal life. Significantly, his ire was directed against the State and not the Union government this time.

Of late, a slight shift has been marked in the tone and tenor of the Hurriyat chief. Its first indication was noticed in his remarks at a press conference in Islamabad where he did some plain speaking. He asked what had the one and a half decade long jihd brought to the Kashmiris except the graveyards? Pakistani authorities, and much less its intelligence agencies, could ever be happy with this rather outlandish question. It must have served nothing less than a shock to the Kashmir Jihad Council in Muzaffarabad always profusely boastful of its military muscle.

Mirwaiz’s assertion is pregnant with meanings and can be interpreted severally. For example: India will not be intimidated by violence; Kashmir question cannot be solved by force of gun; it is not an issue to be subjected to religious frenzy or jihadism, and finally and indirectly, the use of gun is not only futile but also counter productive etc. These are not just far-fetched deductions and surmises but the harsh reality that we find on the ground. With this forthright exposition of the harsh reality, where do we go next?

Obviously, neither the people of Kashmir nor their government nor the Union government is happy withy the bloodshed let loose in Kashmir. They want an end of this tragic and sordid story. The precious lives should not be wantonly destroyed as is happening today. The sooner the gun is stopped the better.

Another more eloquent indication of a shift in tone and tenor has been found in the Mirwaiz’s Friday congregational sermon at Jamia’ Masjid. While expressing dissatisfaction with the functioning of the State government, he, without naming any particular person, took the coalition partners to task by remarking that they wanted to take political mileage from their slogan of “demilitarisation”. He said that they only concentrated on votes and grabbing political power but were incapable of looking beyond into the harsh realities of the situation in Kashmir.

It is curious that the PDP leadership has been almost making an issue of “demilitarisation” and has even indicated defiantly that it could bring out rallies in support of the demand. In the first place, the term “demilitarisation” is very inappropriate in the case of Kashmir situation. Usually the term applies to the deployment of forces in a particular region where a war between the two or more countries has been raging. In Kashmir, there is internal turmoil as in some eastern parts of the country. The Indian Constitution provides deployment of security forces in any part of the country where internal turmoil takes place and law and order or the security of life and property are threatened. On the request of the concerned state, the Union Home Ministry provides battalions of security forces needed to curb disruption of law and order. It can be any state of the Indian Union and not only necessarily Kashmir.

Secondly, neither the Union nor the State government would be happy to retain the operating security forces for more than a day than what is needed. Deployment is an expensive affair. It is the joint decision of the State and the Union governments to withdraw troops when conditions improve. The government reviews the ground situation every week and every fortnight. In fact, phased withdrawal has been a part of the entire exercise and that has been happening in Kashmir since 2004. Withdrawal of forces is dictated by the ground situation.

Keeping this in mind, one finds more truth in the statement of the Mirwaiz that the tantrum of “demilitarisation” is just an antics to play with the sentiments of the voters.

The time has come when political parties in Kashmir need to give up these pretentious exercises and play a fair game with the people at large. Irresponsible and short – sighted politics has been the bane of Kashmir political class. They should have no difficulty in understanding the havoc that this type of politicking has wrought. We need a far-sighted and dedicated leadership at this critical juncture of Kashmir’s political history. At a time when serious talks are in progress between the two countries for addressing half a century old Kashmir issue, the local political class must lend its full cooperation to the effort and not create situations that jeopardise the ongoing peace process.

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