Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister is a kind lady. There is no reason to doubt her expression of sorrow at the death of a 22-year-old young man from Chennai, R. Thirumani Selvan, at the hands of stone-pelting terrorists in the valley on Monday. She is remorseful and says that she is ashamed at the heart-breaking incident. It is a different matter though that this kindness leads the Chief Minister to believe that the perpetrators are misguided youth who will undergo a change of heart if—as she tweeted—“a sustained, meaningful dialogue and outreach” is initiated, not just by the government but by the entire country. It is in this same vein that she wants a cessation of action by the security forces during the month of Ramzan against inimical elements in the valley. It was presumably this same kindness that also guided her to give amnesty to over 9,000 stone-pelters who were in jail for crimes including causing serious bodily harm to the security forces. But then, of what use is such kindness when faced with mayhem?

The truth is, these young men are facilitating jihadis, who regularly unleash violence on not only the security forces but also on fellow Kashmiris, as was evident from the recent stone pelting of a school bus that injured Kashmiri children. They are street hoodlums, who are also over-ground workers of terrorist organisations. They are supporters of the dreaded ISIS and are imbued with Wahhabi ideology. It was in keeping with this ideology that they brutally killed a Kashmiri police officer, Mohammed Ayub Pandith, by inflicting the most beastly torture on him—torture that they would inflict on other security personnel as well if they got the slightest chance. It is these youths who give cover to murderous terrorists during gunfights with the security forces. There is the possibility that some of those whom Mehbooba Mufti released from prison were part of the gang that killed the innocent Thirumani. A government or a country cannot afford to try and cosset the angst of hardened criminals. To talk about dialogue and outreach not only betrays weakness on the part of Mehbooba Mufti, but also comes across as an apparent attempt to justify their crimes. They have gone too far down the path of violence for them to realise what is right or wrong. They have unwisely responded to their Pakistani-funded jihadi paymasters and are immune to any outreach. Instead, they must be dealt with an iron hand, for they have committed too many crimes.

If there has to be “outreach”, it is Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who should be asking the families of these criminal elements to rein in their children, for they are hurting Kashmir’s interests. Destroying the tourism industry, which is the main revenue generator for the state, is not going to hurt the rest of India or give Kashmir azaadi. But it will pauperise the valley. It is time for the CM to disabuse these youths and other such people of the notion that Kashmir will get azaadi. In fact the separatist elements trying to drive the Kashmir agenda at the bidding of Pakistan need to be told in no uncertain terms that India is too important a nation globally for any country to push the cause of azaadi. The security forces may take occasional hits in Kashmir, but the Indian Union is too powerful for it to be dislodged from Kashmir by Pakistan’s proxies.

Most Kashmiris want to lead their lives like any other Indian, in peace and prosperity, and as an integral part of the Indian Union. This is apparent from the way Kashmiri participation has been increasing in the civil services examinations, or from the way many are leaving the valley to pursue education or a career in other parts of the country. The J&K Chief Minister needs to realise that a handful of radicals cannot be allowed to dictate the narrative or be shown as representative sentiment. So the question of mollycoddling such elements does not arise. Instead, the CM needs to take back control of Kashmir’s streets, tell her police not to be bystanders, and de-radicalise the mosques that are disseminating anti India propaganda day in and day out, among other things. Playing footsie with radical elements, while mouthing platitudes about dialogue and peace will result in her government hitting the dead end sooner than later, apart from lighting another fire in the valley.

In this, the Bharatiya Janata Party must be held accountable for its inability to put a check on its ally Mufti’s tendency to turn a blind and benevolent eye on the activities of Kashmir’s agents of doom. Is the thirst of power so great that it should let the CM have a free run with policies such as amnesty to proved trouble-makers, lest trying to rein her in results in the fall of the government?

As for the latest demand for cessation of hostilities, can the PDP and its alliance partner, the BJP ensure that the radical elements will not attack the security forces if the latter are asked to declare a “ceasefire” during the period of Ramzan? What is the guarantee that this period of peace will not be used by elements hostile to India’s interests to revive themselves after the immense hit they took because of Army action in the last one year? Talking about dialogue is fine, but the situation on the ground has to be right for dialogue, which is not the case at present.

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