The priority is to re-establish security and speed up development.
In these six weeks of Governor’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government has been trying to cope with the policy ambiguities created by the Mehbooba Mufti regime, as well as the vast deficit left behind by her administration on the development front. Ram Madhav’s strategy of installing the coalition of a national party and a regional political outfit to give a stable, people-oriented and development driven governance to J&K, although commendable, started running into problems because of Mehbooba Mufti’s persistent appeasement of the separatists and her collusion with the Hurriyat, all because of her desire to preserve her political standing as the head of a regional, valley-based party. She harped on the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, without condemning the infiltration of terrorists from across the Line of Control. She did not move to identify the Pakistani agents behind the organised stone-pelting and let development projects across the state go into a limbo. The Centre gave a fairly long rope to her, but when the coalition era started hurting India’s position on Kashmir, it moved swiftly to pull out of the government and hand over the rule to the Governor.
In a sensitive state like J&K, the Governor has to take care of the political situation, deliver in regard to development and handle the security scene—from law and order to the threat of cross border terrorism. It is a matter of great democratic significance that J&K saw an unbroken rule by elected leaders over the last two decades and that the BJP-PDP coalition did advance the democratic process in a situation where the polls had thrown up a hung Assembly. The same process can allow for a regrouped alliance within the democratic parameters if an earlier combination did not work. Governor’s Rule becomes permanent only when the House is dissolved after exhausting all options of installing a government of elected leaders.
This, however, does not come in the way of the Governor’s Rule working for developing the state as an integral part of India, reaching out to the people of all communities and regions and attempting to repair the serious damage caused to the value system of Kashmiriyat by Salafi extremism imported into the valley by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an outfit of Ahle Hadis. The pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami—sheet anchor of the Hurriyat—had to surrender its Hanafi content to the Lashkar under the orders of the Pak army, with the result that both Burhan Wani and Asiya Andrabi, leaders of the Jamaat’s militant fronts Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Millat, were taking orders from Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan over phone. The Mufti regime totally ignored this long range threat. The Governor’s Rule should find ways of halting this subversive exclusivism promoted at the cost of the long-standing syncretic belief system of Kashmiris that encouraged both Muslims and Hindus to honour the spiritual message of the “Saints” and “Pirs”.
During Governor’s Rule, re-establishing security and speeding up development are matters of priority. Intelligence-based operations against Pakistani terrorists on our side of the LOC and even beyond should be pursued relentlessly. If the armed collaborators of the infiltrated terrorists, present at the site of an encounter, get targeted, it cannot be helped. Separately, however, the administration should reach out to the families whose boys have drifted towards terrorism, to explore the possibilities of bringing them back to the mainstream. In the heydays of the Khalistan movement in Punjab this had worked. It would be prudent to assign the handling of the disorder created by stone-pelters to the state police-paramilitary combine. A prime duty of the Governor’s dispensation is to weed out the Pakistani agents hibernating in the administration and use Art 311(2)(c) of the Constitution in exceptional cases. The legal action belatedly initiated by the coalition government against the Pakistan-linked separatists, who created violence and indulged in illicit money transactions, must be pushed forth and wherever necessary the culprits taken out of the state for effective pursuit.
There should be major outreach to the youth all over the state through the district administration for listing out candidates for grant of financial support for start-ups, for skill training programmes within and outside the state, and for jobs in the police, military and public sector undertakings. Even a steady trickle of engagement and employment in these spheres will start making an impact on the internal atmosphere in the valley. There is no doubt that Governor’s Rule will succeed in achieving a turnaround in Kashmir for the simple reason that the government of Mehbooba Mufti did none of the things that it was expected to do and only encouraged the pro-Pakistan lobby of separatists for reasons of her own politics. She did not focus on the task of improving the human development index of the people of J&K.
There are two major challenges in Kashmir, that of eliminating the terrorists who have been sent to India by Pakistan—as well as their diehard local collaborators converted to LeT extremism—and speeding up development in all parts of the state. The first has to be left to the Army in the watch of the Unified High Command and the second has to be made the main business of the administration. The Governor’s role is of crucial importance in both. And finally, at the policy level, the Centre, through the Governor, needs to reiterate India’s stand on Kashmir and set at rest the ambiguities that Mehbooba Mufti on one side and the pro-Pak separatists on the other created on India’s Pakistan policy, the question of the resumption of India-Pakistan talks and the level of “alienation” in the Valley. It should be made clear that the function of holding talks with Pakistan is solely the Centre’s prerogative. The emergence of a new government in that country under Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is an occasion when India should find a way of reminding Pakistan that talks and terror do not go together. India’s stand had already secured endorsement of the democratic world including the United States. India has to closely watch the Kashmir front as Pakistan’s deep state will be tempted to step up its covert aggression there, notwithstanding the swearing in of a new Prime Minister in Islamabad.
D.C. Pathak is a former Director, Intelligence Bureau.